Autobiography of a man who chose to be who he was, and to live his life without shame or apology

Each day leading up to the April 16 announcement of the Minnesota Book Awards, we highlight one of the thirty-two finalists. Today, we feature 2011 Memoir & Creative Nonfiction finalist:

Crossing the Barriers: The Autobiography of Allan H. Spear
Allan H. Spear
University of Minnesota Press


An excerpt from Crossing the Barriers: The Autobiography of Allan H. Spear:

My mother adored me and I doted on her.  Yet she told me once later in her life, “Allan, you know you were a very difficult child to raise.” It wasn’t that I was a troublemaker. To the contrary, I was a little mama’s boy who had a hard time cutting the apron strings.  I did well in school, was the teacher’s pet and did not have the physical prowess to get into fights with other children.  What made me difficult was that I didn’t fit the mold.

Allan Spear had a lengthy and acclaimed career as a Minnesota state senator and historian. Well known for coming out as openly gay during his first term in the Minnesota Senate, he was also an organizer against the war in Vietnam, a key proponent for the establishment of the African-American studies department at the University of Minnesota and a leader of Eugene McCarthy’s run for the presidency.


He passed away on October 11, 2008, leaving his memoir slightly incomplete. A stirring afterword by John Milton completes the story of Spear’s life, chronicling the recognition of his accomplishments as a politician and activist. Spear was associate professor of history at the University of Minnesota from 1964 to 2000. The Minnesota Historical Society named him one of 150 Minnesotans who shaped the state.


“Allan H. Spear brings humility and humor to his story of becoming one of the country’s most famous openly gay senators.  This is the story of a man, a movement, and a time in history.” – Minnesota Book Awards Preliminary Judge

“Spear’s autobiography is a must-read for anyone interested in Minnesota politics, civil rights, and the gay rights movement. Vivid imagery and remarkable detail bring the story of this iconic man and his times alive. The book also holds a few surprises, especially for those who remember Spear primarily as a politically savvy state senator and gay rights icon. The reader is left wanting to hear more.” – Minnesota Magazine

“Crossing the Barriers reveals in intimate detail the social, political, and personal evolution of an exceptional man in transformative times. Allan Spear’s autobiography paints a vivid picture of the history he lived…and the history he made. Allan was a devoted son and partner, a gifted teacher, astute politician, skillful legislator, cherished friend and mentor, and a role model for all of us who wish to pursue the career of our dreams and be honest about who we are.” – U.S. Representative Tammy Baldwin

“I join with all Minnesotans who mourn the loss of Allan Spear. His evenhandedness, command of the issues, and ability to reach across the aisle and work with colleagues of both parties were legendary and should inspire us all. He was a man of great courage who served as one of this nation’s first openly gay legislators.” – Barack Obama, October 2008


Minnesota’s Senate remembers and offers a moment of silence for Allan Spear and six other former Senators who have died recently. Senate Resolution 193 honors the lives and work of Otto Bang, Jerome Blatz, John Brandl, Edward Gearty, James Lord, Harmon Ogdahl, and Allan Spear.

Want more? Read two hefty excerpts on, including the Afterword, by John Milton, a former Senate colleague of Spear.


Award winners will be announced at the 23rd Annual Minnesota Book Awards Gala on Saturday, April 16, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, in downtown Saint Paul. The opening reception begins at 6:30 p.m.; followed by the awards ceremony at 8 p.m. Tickets are $45 and are available by clicking here or calling 651-222-3242.

Have you read Crossing the Barriers? What are your thoughts? We welcome your comments!

Tagged with: , , , , , , ,
Posted in Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: