Cruising by Alex Espinoza
Reviewed by Billy Minshall
Cruising takes time. A person might spend hours in a department store bathroom looking for sex, just waiting for something to happen. Why? According to Alex Espinoza, “When your identity is forbidden, there is a need beyond physical desire, a human need to be who we truly are, if only for a moment.” Cruising examines this idea by way of historical examples, one-on-one interviews, and personal memoir.
At its core, this book is a coming-of-age story about a young, gay Latino man in early 1990’s Los Angeles. His identity is, of course, at odds with the machismo culture prevalent in his family. Yet Espinoza first mentions cruising while observing his brothers and cousins as they prepare to go out on the town. For them, cruising is defined as driving along the boulevard and picking up girls. For the author, it means searching Griffith Park or adult bookstores to hook up with other men. These two opposing interpretations of the same word illuminates how one is sanctioned by society while the other is unmentionable, abhorrent, and even criminal. The book expands on the latter, offering compelling snapshots of how multiple societies throughout history have tried to curb “deviant” behavior, namely gay sex in public spaces.
Cruising is an important work because Espinoza doesn’t leave any detail to the imagination. The subject matter leaves no room for heteronormative ideas of what being gay should look like. Here, the narrative is not “we’re just like you.” Instead, this book defiantly and proudly proclaims that we’re not all just like you. Cruising might be uncomfortable for certain readers, and that’s okay. Espinoza’s unflinching prose makes no apologies for its subject, which is precisely what makes it essential.
Billy Minshall earned his undergraduate degree from Northwestern University, and his MFA in Creative Writing & Writing for the Performing Arts from UCR Palm Desert. Billy’s autobiographical column, “Hunt & Peck,” appeared monthly in Gay Chicago Magazine, and his fictional short story, “Big in Japan,” was published by The Coachella Review. As an actor, Mr. Minshall’s work includes the award-winning film, Tom of Your Life. Billy lives in Los Angeles and is working on a novel.