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Southern Spaces
A journal about real and imagined spaces and places of the US South and their global connections

The Same Language: A Memoir by Ben Duncan

King's College London
Published December 22, 2005


Ben Duncan, far right, soon after placement in first foster home, with neighborhood boys who were, he writes, "unfailingly kind and friendly." West End, Birmingham, Alabama, c. 1939.
Ben Duncan, far right, soon after placement in first foster home. West End, Birmingham, Alabama, c. 1939.

On November 2, 2005, John Howard spoke at Outwrite Books in Atlanta about the new edition of The Same Language, a memoir written by Alabama native Ben Duncan. First published in England in 1962, The Same Language chronicled Duncan's life from his birth in Birmingham through his experiences as an orphan in Depression-era foster homes, his military service, his education at Oxford University, and his career as a writer and commentator in England. As a gay man living in Great Britain at a time when homosexuality was aggressively prosecuted in the courts, Duncan was unable to tell his whole story when his memoir first appeared. Prof. Howard, who edited the new edition (University of Alabama Press, 2005), and wrote the Afterword, talks of working with Duncan on this project and reads excerpts from the memoir. Shifting from past to present and using italicized passages to indicate new additions, The Same Language now includes Duncan's account of his evolving sexuality, the many masks he was forced to contrive for survival and acceptance, and a vivid rendering of the underground world of gay life in 1950s and 1960s Britain.


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