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Living in the snug enclave of the coastal media, it’s easy to forget that in some not-so-distant realms, Americans still face a massive cultural stigma against coming out as gay. A reminder of this reality comes from Crisis, a new book published by Mitchell Gold, one half of the high-end furniture retailer Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams. The book collects stories about growing up gay written by a few dozen ordinary and prominent Americans. Gold managed to gather an impressive group of contributors, including James McGreevey, Martina Navratilova and Gene Robinson (the first openly gay Episcopal bishop). The stories aren’t great examples of memoir—they’re simple essays with very personal messages. Candace Gingrich (Newt’s sister)  writes about the moment when a reporter’s discovery of her sexuality thrust her into her own political career. She nudged her brother behind the scenes, while her mother urged her not to drag his name “through the mud.” An EMS tech from South Carolina writes about coming out to his family after his step brother was murdered in  their hometown because he had been openly gay.

Gold had a party for the book at his 14th Street store last week, and brought out several of the contributors, and a few other notables, like Tipper Gore (beautiful in a blue and green peacock dress). He said he wanted Crisis to change minds, and that the minds in need of changing belonged to good people. “My factory [in North Carolina] is surrounded by those good people,” he said. “I don’t want anyone to hate them.” He told the audience to send the book to Wasilla.