'Before Summer' illustrates growing up gay in Iowa

  • February 20, 2014

By Riley Cosgrove
Staff Writer
Cedars Falls Northern Iowan

H. Arlo Nimmo cultivated his passion for writing at the Iowa State Teachers College, or the University of Northern Iowa as it was called over 50 years ago when he attended.  Nimmo has published 10 books, and his most recent, “Before Summer,” was published Jan.15. 

Told in a collection of 16 short stories, the book follows Lach McLennan, and those around him, from the time he is 7 years old until he graduates college. It focuses on his experiences and how he copes with the pressure and fears of being homosexual in 1950s rural Iowa. 

Nimmo’s own experiences helped shape his new book. He grew up in Monroe and said he came to Cedar Falls in 1954 to discover himself. 

“I knew I was different and my time spent in Cedar Falls was both enjoyable and educational,” Nimmo said. While at UNI, Nimmo experienced his first sexual encounter with another man, his first relationship and his first break up. 

If readers are familiar with UNI, they will recognize descriptions of the college Lach attends. Lach’s classes and even his first job are also directly related to Nimmo’s experiences while attending the Iowa State Teachers College. 

Lach gets a job his second week on campus as a proofreader at the college’s student newspaper. Nimmo, on the other hand, was managing editor of the Iowa State Teachers College’s student newspaper. 

After Nimmo graduated, he spent a year  studying anthropology at the University of Iowa. He then received his Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Hawaii. 

Now 77, Nimmo resides in San Francisco and is currently professor emeritus of anthropology at California State University East Bay.

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