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Born and raised in a Mexican family that had settled in El Paso, Rechy served in the army before living in New York and Los Angeles, where he made his living in part as a sex worker. This experience formed the basis for his first novel, City of Night (1963), which became an international best seller and pushed the limits of the times in its non-condemnatory and explicit description of a homosexual underworld. Other books by Rechy include Numbers (1967), another novel of gay male sexual life; The Sexual Outlaw (1977), a non-fiction defense of gay life; and About My Life and the Kept Woman (2008), a memoir. Considered one of the major pioneers of an open and unapologetic gay literature, Rechy has received two prestigious lifetime achievement awards, one from PEN-USA and the other from the Publishing Triangle, an association of gays and lesbians in publishing. For a number of years he has been a faculty member in film and writing at the University of Southern California.