John Rechy

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John Rechy
BornJohn Francisco Rechy
(1931-03-10) March 10, 1931 (age 91)
El Paso, Texas, U.S.
OccupationNovelist, essayist
Alma materTexas Western College
Notable worksCity of Night
The Sexual Outlaw
The Miraculous Day of Amalia Gomez
Military career
AllegianceUnited States
Service/branch United States Army

John Francisco Rechy (born March 10, 1931) is a Mexican-American novelist and essayist.[1] In his novels, he has written extensively about gay culture in Los Angeles and wider America, among other subject matter, and is among the pioneers of modern LGBT literature. City of Night, his debut novel published in 1963, was a best seller. Drawing on his own background, he has contributed to Chicano literature, notably with his novel The Miraculous Day of Amalia Gomez, which has been taught in several Chicano literature courses throughout the United States.


Rechy was born Juan Francisco Flores Rechy [2]March 10, 1931, in El Paso, Texas.[3][4][5] He was the youngest of five children born to Guadalupe (née Flores) and Roberto Sixto Rechy.[6] Both of Rechy's parents were natives of Mexico; his father was of Scottish lineage.[4][7][8]

He earned a B.A. in English from Texas Western College (now University of Texas at El Paso), where he served as editor of the college newspaper.[6]

Following graduation from college, Rechy enlisted in the U.S. Army. He was granted early release from the Army to enroll as a graduate student at Columbia University.[9] He applied for admission to a creative writing class taught by novelist Pearl S. Buck by submitting an unpublished novel he had written titled Pablo! [10] While his application to Buck's class was not accepted, Rechy was admitted into the writing classes of Hiram Haydn, a senior editor at Random House, at the New School for Social Research.[10]

The Cooper Do-nuts Riot happened in 1959 in Los Angeles, when the lesbians, gay men, transgender people, and drag queens who hung out at Cooper Do-nuts and who were frequently harassed by the LAPD fought back after police arrested three people, including Rechy. Patrons began pelting the police with donuts and coffee cups. The LAPD called for back-up and arrested a number of rioters. Rechy and the other two original detainees were able to escape.[11] He later wrote about it in City of Night.

Literary career[edit]

Rechy is considered one of Mexican American Literature's founding authors, based his early writings on Mexican values and cultural problems that were available to him in Mexican Films.[12]

While Rechy was working on his first novel, installments began to appear in 1958 in literary magazines such as Evergreen Review, Big Table, Nugget, and The London Magazine. These excerpts were fictitious recreations of his life working as a hustler in New York, Los Angeles and New Orleans and appeared alongside writers like Christopher Isherwood, Jack Kerouac and Jean Genet.[13] The largely autobiographical novel City of Night, debuted in October 1963. Despite the predominantly negative reviews the book received at the time of its publication, City of Night became an international bestseller.[6][14][15]

In addition to the dozen novels he has written to date, Rechy has contributed numerous essays and literary reviews to various publications including The Nation, The New York Review of Books, Los Angeles Times, L.A. Weekly, The Village Voice, The New York Times, Evergreen Review and Saturday Review.[6][7] Many of these writings were anthologized in his 2004 publication Beneath the Skin. He has written three plays, Tigers Wild (first performed as The Fourth Angel and based on Rechy's novel of that title), Rushes (based on his novel of the same title), and Momma as She Became—Not as She Was, a one-act play.[6]

Rechy was cited by journalist Amy Harmon in a 2004 New York Times article that reported about a computer glitch on that suddenly revealed the identities of thousands of people who had anonymously posted book reviews. It was revealed that Rechy, among several other authors, had "pseudonymously written themselves five-star reviews, Amazon's highest rating". Amazon stopped accepting anonymous reviews as a result of this finding.[16]

In 2021 Rechy was at work on a new novel entitled Beautiful People at the End of the Line, inspired by "comic books and celebrity culture."

Awards, honors and recognition[edit]

Rechy is the first novelist to receive PEN-USA-West's Lifetime Achievement Award (1997); he is the recipient of the Bill Whitehead Award for Lifetime Achievement from Publishing Triangle (1999)[9][17][18] and an NEA fellow. He is a faculty member at the Master of Professional Writing Program at the University of Southern California. He is the first recipient of ONE Magazine Culture Hero Award.[19]

In 2016, he won the first annual Los Angeles Review of Books/UCR Creative Writing Lifetime Achievement Award.[20]

At the 30th Lambda Literary Awards in 2018, he won the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Fiction for After the Blue Hour.[21]

In 2018, Rechy was also awarded with the Robert Kirsch Award for lifetime achievement noting that he is "a major figure in Mexican, LGBTQ and Los Angeles literary communities."[citation needed]

In 2020 The Texas Institute of Letters honored Rechy with its Lon Tinkle Lifetime Achievement Award. TIL President Carmen Tafolla called Rechy's work "a significant turning point in modern American literature, and a prose so poetically crafted it sharpens our perception of both the beauty and the ache of the human experience."[citation needed]


Writers Michael Cunningham,[22] Kate Braverman, Sandra Tsing Loh, and Gina Nahai were students of Rechy's creative writing classes before becoming published authors.[15]

English pop artist David Hockney's painting Building, Pershing Square, Los Angeles was inspired by a passage in City of Night.[23]

The 1983 song "Numbers" by the English synth-pop duo Soft Cell was inspired by Rechy's 1967 novel of the same title.[24]

A CD-ROM of Rechy's life and work was produced by the Annenberg Center of Communications and is titled Mysteries and Desire: Searching the Worlds of John Rechy.[25]

In 2019 the Wittliff Collection at Texas State University acquired Rechy's complete archive stating, "This treasure trove of letters serves as a virtual diary of one of the most significant periods in Rechy's personal and literary life"

Other artists who have acknowledged Rechy's influence include David Bowie,[26] Jim Morrison, Bob Dylan and Tom Waits.



  • City of Night (Grove Press, 1963)
  • Numbers (Grove Press, 1967)
  • This Day's Death (Grove Press, 1969)
  • The Vampires (Grove Press, 1971)
  • The Fourth Angel (Viking, 1972)
  • Rushes (Grove Press, 1979
  • Bodies and Souls (Carroll & Graf, 1983)
  • Marilyn's Daughter (Carroll & Graf, 1988)
  • The Miraculous Day of Amalia Gomez (Arcade, 1991)
  • Our Lady of Babylon (Arcade, 1996)
  • The Coming of the Night (Grove Press, 1999)
  • The Life and Adventures of Lyle Clemens (Grove Press, 2003)[27]
  • After the Blue Hour (Grove Press, 2017)
  • Pablo! (Arte Público Press, 2018)


  • The Sexual Outlaw (Grove Press, 1977)
  • Beneath the Skin (Carroll & Graf, 2004)
  • About My Life and the Kept Woman (Grove Press, 2008) (memoir)


  1. ^ The Aztlan Mexican Studies Reader 1974-2016 (2018 Chicano studies text book) by Hector Calderon, founding Chair of the Cesar E. Chavez Dept of Chicana/o Studies at UCLA. Page 20.
  2. ^ The Aztlan Mexican Studies Reader 1974-2016 by Hector Calderon
  3. ^ "EL PASO COUNTY, TEXAS - BIRTHS 1931, N-R". USGenWeb Archives. Retrieved April 18, 2014. NOTE: Although many literary encyclopedias and biographies published in the 1960s through the 1990s list Rechy's year of birth as 1934, most such publications released since that period list the birth year as 1931. The latter is consistent with the year stated in the official Texas birth records, and Rechy himself has acknowledged 1931 as his birth year Archived April 16, 2014, at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ a b White, Edmund (April 3, 2008). "The Making of John Rechy". The New York Review of Books. Retrieved April 18, 2014.
  5. ^ Andrews-Katz, Eric (July 12, 2013). "John Rechy: From bedsheets to printed sheets". Seattle Gay News. Archived from the original on April 16, 2014. Retrieved April 18, 2014.
  6. ^ a b c d e Wood, Jamie Martinez (2007). Latino Writers and Journalists: A to Z of Latino Americans. Infobase Publishing. pp. 192–93. ISBN 9781438107851.
  7. ^ a b Contemporary Authors. New Revision Series. Volume 6. Gale Research Company. 1982. pp. 408–412. ISBN 0-8103-1935-7.
  8. ^ Contemporary Authors. Autobiography Series. Volume 4. Gale Research Company. 1986. pp. 253–266. ISBN 0-8103-4503-X.
  9. ^ a b Contemporary Authors. New Revision Series. Volume 188. Gale Research Company. 2009. pp. 352–357. ISBN 978-1-4144-5669-0.
  10. ^ a b Barrios, Gregg (September 7, 1988). "Taming of the Sexual Outlaw : 25 Years After 'City of Night,' John Rechy Searches for a New Recognition With a Novel About Monroe". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 31, 2014.
  11. ^ Faderman, Lillian and Stuart Timmons (2006). Gay L.A.: A History of Sexual Outlaws, Power Politics, and Lipstick Lesbians. Basic Books. pp. 1–2. ISBN 0-465-02288-X
  12. ^ The Aztlan Mexican Studies Reader 1974-2016 (2018 Chicano studies text book) by Hector Calderon, founding Chair of the Cesar E. Chavez Dept of Chicana/o Studies at UCLA. Quote on page 20.
  13. ^ Outlaw: The Lives and Careers of John Rechy Advocate Books 2002
  14. ^ Seed, David (2010). A Companion to Twentieth-Century United States Fiction. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 155–56. ISBN 9781444310115.
  15. ^ a b Timberg, Scott (April 5, 2000). "The Romantic Egotist". SF Weekly. Retrieved March 31, 2014.
  16. ^ Harmon, Amy "Amazon Glitch Unmasks War of Reviewers", The New York Times, February 14, 2004. Retrieved March 31, 2014.
  17. ^ "Awards". Retrieved June 8, 2011.
  18. ^ Warrick, Pamela (October 26, 1997). "Credit Where It's Overdue; His writing began with controversy. Now John Rechy's life work is saluted". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 31, 2014.
  19. ^ "Culture Hero Award 2006—John Rechy". ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives. Retrieved June 8, 2011.
  20. ^ "Contests & Awards".
  21. ^ "Lambda Literary awardees include Carmen Maria Machado, John Rechy, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor". Windy City Times, June 5, 2018.
  22. ^ Nelson, Steffie (February 17, 2008). "John Rechy's intensified reality". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 18, 2014.
  23. ^ Drohojowska-Philp, Hunter (2011). Rebels in Paradise: The Los Angeles Art Scene and the 1960s. Macmillan. p. 119. ISBN 9781429958998.
  24. ^ "Featured Song – Day 27". Polari Magazine. February 27, 2012. Retrieved July 31, 2014.
  25. ^ Candelaria, Cordelia Chávez; Garcâia, Peter J.; Aldama, Arturo J. (2004). Encyclopedia of Latino popular culture. 2. M - Z. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 667–69. ISBN 9780313332111.
  26. ^ "In Memoriam: David Bowie's Top 100 Favorite Books". The New York Public Library. Retrieved March 28, 2022.
  27. ^ Hall, J. S. (December 26, 2003). "Rechy's big adventure". Washington Blade. Archived from the original on January 3, 2004.

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