A Writer’s Fresh Look at Aging

Considering the “young-old” stage of the life cycle
“Man in an Arctic Cap,” a Robert Giard photograph, shows Jonathan Silin in 1981.

If Jonathan Silin is reading from new work at Canio’s Books in Sag Harbor on Saturday, it might make sense first to type his last name into the search box on the homepage of The Star’s website. Two entries down will be his essay from April on the subject matter — the “young-old” stage of the life cycle, “the period between 60 and 80,” he said in a recent email, “when so many of us are now challenged to live fully engaged lives.”

Bringing the point home, the Amagansett part-timer added, “The East End has more than its share of young-old.”

Throat cleared, settled in at the chockablock bookshop for the appointed 5 o’clock hour, the spine he’ll be cracking belongs to a slim but hardbacked volume in the Critical Cultural Studies of Childhood series from Palgrave Macmillan, titled “Early Childhood, Aging, and the Life Cycle: Mapping Common Ground.”

All of which sounds (and looks) rather academic — Mr. Silin is a fellow at the Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies at the University of Toronto, after all — but it’s in fact personal, a memoir, lessons and study from a lifelong educator imparted through storytelling, the essay mentioned above being just one example.

About that “lifelong,” South Forkers of long tenure and a lefty bent might recall his early-1970s time with the young ’uns and occasional wandering goat at the old Hampton Day School. He went on to join the faculty of the Bank Street College of Education in New York, teaching there for 17 years, and he remains the editor in chief of its Occasional Paper Series.

“Regarding the book,” he said of the business of promoting it, “I do my best to summon up whatever bit of Zen I can find inside of me, most likely left from a prior incarnation — certainly nothing from my New York Jewish heritage applies.”

There’s more to the man, of course. For 30 years, he lived here with Robert Giard, the photographer known for his portraits of gay and lesbian writers (Edward Albee and Lanford Wilson, to name just two out of the nearly 600), a series he began at the height of the AIDS crisis in the mid-1980s. After Giard’s death in 2002, Mr. Silin started the Robert Giard Foundation, which awards filmmakers, photographers, and videographers with $7,500 fellowships yearly to support their work on matters of gender identity, sexuality, and the L.G.B.T.Q. experience generally.

“It’s a commitment to making gay lives visible,” Mr. Silin once said. As of 2014, Girard’s archive is part of Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.