About the Book

Drawn from the secret, never-before-seen diaries, journals, and sexual records of the novelist, poet, and university professor Samuel M. Steward, Secret Historian is a sensational reconstruction of one of the more extraordinary hidden lives of the twentieth century. An intimate friend of Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, and Thornton Wilder, Steward maintained a secret sex life from childhood on, and documented these experiences in brilliantly vivid (and often very funny) detail.

After leaving the world of academe to become Phil Sparrow, a tattoo artist on Chicago’s notorious South State Street, Steward worked closely with Alfred Kinsey on his landmark sex research. During the early 1960s, Steward changed his name and identity once again, this time to write exceptionally literate, upbeat pro-homosexual pornography under the name of Phil Andros.

Until today he has been known only as Phil Sparrow—but an extraordinary archive of his papers, lost since his death in 1993, has provided Justin Spring with the material for an exceptionally compassionate and brilliantly illuminating life-and-times biography. More than merely the story of one remarkable man, Secret Historian is a moving portrait of homosexual life long before Stonewall and gay liberation.

Get a head start on Secret Historian. Read an excerpt from Secret Historian.

Author Bio

Justin Spring is the author of two previous biographies: Fairfield Porter: A Life in Art (Yale, 1999) and Secret Historian: The Life and Times of Samuel Steward (Farrar, Straus, 2011). Secret Historianwas the recipient of many prizes and honors, and was a finalist for the National Book Award.  Spring’s other writing on 20th century American visual art and culture includes many monographs and museum catalogues. His independent, interdisciplinary work has been supported by a Guggenheim Fellowship in General Non-Fiction and a Leon Levy Center Fellowship in Biography.

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New York Times

Review: Secret Historian

“Given that Steward lived in an era in which so much of gay history was hidden under mattresses, shoved in the backs of bureau drawers, burnt up in ashtrays and wished away in confessional booths, his desire to document and preserve is in itself as moving as it is rare.”