Robert W. Fieseler
ALA would like to honor our host city by featuring a local author.
Robert W. Fieseler is a journalist and essayist who graduated co-valedictorian from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and received the Pulitzer Traveling Fellowship and the Lynton Fellowship in Book Writing.
When the editor-in-chief of Liveright Publishing approached Fieseler to write a book about the 1973 arson of a gay nightclub, Fieseler enthusiastically welcomed the challenge despite thus far only writing short pieces. “I always had a dream to write a book that mattered, that dealt with civil rights, gay rights, and human rights. One email changed my life and it was like placing a hand into a glove,” Fieseler said.
Tinderbox: The Untold Story of the Up Stairs Lounge Fire and the Rise of Gay Liberation, available in June 2018, is an essential work of American civil rights history. It mesmerizingly reconstructs the fire that devasted New Orleans’s subterranean gay community. The book chronicles the tragic event that claimed the lives of thirty-one men and one woman at a New Orleans bar, the largest mass murder of gays until the Pulse tragedy in 2016. Relying on unprecedented access to survivors and archives, Fieseler creates an indelible portrait of a closeted, blue-collar, gay world. The aftermath of the fire, which saw families ashamed to claim their loved ones, the city impervious to the survivors’ needs, and almost zero media coverage, is considered an even more woeful part of the story.
His work has appeared in the Big Roundtable, the Brooklyn Ink, and The Week.