The University of Wisconsin Press

Gay & Lesbian Interest


Secret Places
My Life in New York and New Guinea
Tobias Schneebaum

Living Out: Gay and Lesbian Autobiographies

"Schneebaum offers an entirely new and fresh form of ethnography–poetic, passionate, and personal. Secret Places distills his life's work into a compelling narrative and celebrates his love affair with Asmat."
–Nick Stanley, Birmingham Institute of Art and Design, University of Central England

In the swamps of Asmat in West New Guinea, Tobias Schneebaum—traveler, writer, painter, explorer—finds the way of life that suits him best. Secret Places reels readers into a world of storytellers and sorcerers, cannibals and carvers, a place where Schneebaum discovers his soulmates and his own soul.

Looking back at a life of wild adventure, Schneebaum seeks in Secret Places to intertwine the varied strands of his experience, pondering the parallel universes of his experience as a gay Jewish New Yorker and his years among the Asmat. The result illuminates both worlds—as when he juxtaposes the Asmat celebration of the spirits of the dead with a New York City plagued by AIDS and its own sad spirits.

Tobias Schneebaum is the author of Where the Spirits Dwell, Wild Man, and Keep the River on Your Right. From 1973 to 1983 he was assistant to the curator of the Asmat Museum of Culture and Progress in Irian Jaya, Indonesia. Since then he has lectured widely and curated several exhibitions on Asmat art. Schneebaum is the subject of a documentary film, Keep the River on Your Right: A Modern Cannibal Tale, by siblings Laurie and David Shapiro. It premiered at the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival in April 2000, where it received the Critic’s Choice Award.

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My Life in New York and New Guinea

Fall 2002

168 pp.

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Cloth $24.95 t
ISBN 978-0-299-16990-9
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