Joseph Asten, a handsome, 23-year-old farmer living in the Allegheny River Valley shortly after the Civil War, secretly longed for intimacy and love with other men. He devised a misguided plan to marry a woman who knew of his “dual nature” then his life took some unexpected, fateful turns.
Bayard Taylor’s Joseph and His Friend: A Pennsylvania Story is considered the first American Gay novel. Originally published in 1869 as a serial in The Atlantic, the author could not relate the story openly and had to use suggestive ways to describe his characters’ activities and motivations. In Better Angels, Goodman retells the tale frankly and candidly, free from antiquated 19th Century cultural restraints. This is the author’s second book revivifying forgotten, historically-significant Queer stories. Previously, in Vanya Says, “Go!,” Goodman updated the first Russian-language Gay novel Wings, by Silver-Age poet Mikhail Kuzmin.