A Queer History of the United States
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A Queer History of the United States

3.63 of 5 stars 3.63  ·  rating details  ·  222 ratings  ·  42 reviews
Winner of a 2012 Stonewall Book Award in nonfiction

A Queer History of the United States is more than a “who’s who” of queer history: it is a book that radically challenges how we understand American history. Drawing upon primary-source documents, literature, and cultural histories, scholar and activist Michael Bronski charts the breadth of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and tran...more
Paperback, 312 pages
Published May 15th 2012 by Beacon Press (first published January 1st 2011)
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V. Briceland
A Queer History of the United States takes the Schoolhouse Rock approach to surveying queer culture in America. It's fast-moving, it hits all the expected high and low points, it's affirming, and it never explores its subject beyond cartoon depth. All it really lacks is a catchy tune.

Though the book alleges to cover a period of time spanning from before 1492 to the present, its pre-colonial and colonial history is at best sketchy—in fact, just about anything before the turn of the twentieth cen...more
Cody VC
Would be five stars if not for some significant flaws. I would recommend this for any introductory course on US history, as long as it was supplemented with other texts such as The Transgender Studies Reader.

Bronski does a fair job including gender variance in the beginning, but peters out somewhere around the 1940s and never adequately recovers (not even a mention of Christine Jorgensen? Really?). Yet even the early mentions could have been handled better; for instance, Bronski says in the text...more
Laura
I picked this book up because I am always interested in the erased parts of my nation's culture- the side of things that we don't learn about in school, or anywhere else.
So you can imagine my disappointment when I found that same erasure happening here. In a book claiming to show the "queer" voices in American history, the voices of the trans*, bi*, intersex, asexual, and really any identity NOT lesbian, gay, or occasionally transvestite, were oddly silent. Not once was the word "asexual" used....more
Haven
A Queer History of the United States is useful only for gaining a brief outline of how the homosexual culture has affected the country as a whole. The research is shoddy and often uses accepted 'facts' that are actually false or at the least unprovable - James Dean was a homosexual, Eleanor Roosevelt had lesbian affairs. The writing itself is dry and finishing the book was a chore. I recommend the book only to those who are interested in using it to further research the homosexual culture - if y...more
Scott
Early in my coming out I read Michael Bronski's The Pleasure Principle. I purchased it at Half Price Books. At the time I was trying to learn as much as a I could about gay culture and history. The Pleasure Principle was probably the first book of queer thought I read, arguing against conformity and for the more radical liberation perspective. It deeply influenced my thinking. Despite living a rather conservative lifestyle, my views, writings, and public advocacy have encouraged more radical lib...more
Tex Reader
3.5 stars
What a fine compilation of the LGBTQ story over the last FIVE CENTURIES. Bronski does a good job of taking a high-level, broad-brush approach to the historical, sociological, cultural evolution of the LGBTQ experience. Even so, I also feel he could have related even more of the underlying individual psychological factors and more intense emotions and motivations that might connect readers to the times, which may be why this seemed more academic and intellectual.

One reason I like history...more
Emily
I read this book on the recommendation of two colleagues in the welcoming church movement, and I'm very happy I did. It's easy to feel disconnected from a historical movement and community when doing LGBT activism, especially as a young person, but Bronski's book aligns what's happening now with people living their lives differently from the heterosexual, cisgender norm across nearly 500 years of American history.

I very much appreciate that he keeps figures within their historical context- he d...more
Mark
Totally engrossing overview of American history with a queer reference point. Bronski covers 500 in in 240 pages so the pace is brisk but the coverage never seems slight, nor does it ever bog down. I especially appreciated his use of more detail in eras where there seems to be less written about (i.e. queer presence in colonial times, frontier times etc.) than in more modern more documented eras. His use of individual stories keeps the work personal and helps it avoid a textbookish tone. A great...more
Savannah
I have been looking for a book treating of the queer rights/queer movement that focuses a lot pre-Stonewall for a couple of years, and a friend recommended it to me. Ze sang its praises, and they were not misplaced. This is a comprehensive summary of the attitudes and stigma towards the gender, sexual, and romantic minority communities from colonial times all the way up until the 1990s, with the vast majority of the book focused pre-Stonewall, which has been written about to death with the rise...more
Emma Christen
In general, the book provides very interesting and in-depth stories of queer people throughout America's history. However, the author's interpretations were at times narrow and close-minded, seemingly endeavoring to prove a point which necessitated simplifying complex experiences of figures discussed in the book. For example, Walt Whitman is portrayed mainly as a gay man who had occasional opposite-sex experiences, when in his writing he portrays himself more accurately as a bisexual man whose a...more
Grace
With a look at the facts laid out plainly, A Queer History of the United States revealed to me to the fallacy of state-sanctioned, monogamous gay marriage as ultimate goal for the queer-rights movement. Especially in his discussion of the radical gay organization in the 60-80s, Bronski illustrates just *how* far off assimilation was from the radar. That's something I really need to keep a critical eye on, before aligning myself with the mainstream LGBT movement.
My biggest critique about the book...more
J.C.
This is the textbook for my gay/lesbian literature class. I found this book a very wonderful "history book" style story of the queer community. At times its more about the events and the order of history, but putting about 500 years in context really put in perspective for me the struggles of these people. It's certainly not perfect, like I said it's very history book-ish, therefore it doesn't cover everything. In fact it ends with the AIDS epidemic of the 80's. Certainly things have changed sin...more
Michael  Starsheen
An interesting history

I gave this book five stars. It's an interesting perspective on the rise of homosexual presence in American society, although it ends in the 1990s and doesn't cover the more recent years growing activism.
Danny Maskas
This book serves as a good introduction to LGBT history. It has a broad sweep of gender and sexuality issues spanning from colonization through the AIDS crisis. However, its analysis is often pretty shallow, doing little more than saying that certain movements, media, or people exisited. Also, the writing is somewhat reminiscent of a college essay and full of spelling errors.
Jes
I think this a very important history that needs to be told. However, one of my issues with many history books is that the evidence excerpts are too long and too numerous. When I read a historical evaluation I prefer to see the authors thoughts and analysis, rather than long excerpts from source material...the purpose of an annotated bibliography is to give access and notes to that source material. I also did not like the authors choice to end the history on the AIDS epidemic, all too often hist...more
Jarrod Scarbrough
This is far from a concise history of Queer United States history. While I enjoyed the book, the author did tend to jump around chronologically, which makes it a bit hard to stay focused on the time periods he was trying to portray. Other than that, the book is interesting and reads easily, doesn't get too bogged down in the mundane. If you are looking for a quick run through of some major points (as well as some not too well known ones) in US Queer history, this is the book for you. If you are...more
Maria
I appreciate Bronski's challenge to reconsider how we conceptualize our heteronormative approach to American history by more fully understanding and integrating the experiences of the LGBTQ community as foundational to American history. Some of his evidence, however, seemed a bit of a stretch to affirm his point, and Bronksi's sweeping generalizations contributed to a seemingly less than nuanced monograph that could have benefited from greater depth rather. His summarization of other historians'...more
Jason Mock
Bronski's book is eye-opening and inspired this reader to learn more
about 19th century "invert" culture.
Tim
This was alright, but not in-depth enough, some of the analysis seems a bit fishy to me, and it's also pretty outdated with respect to transgender people. Good for a cursory overview of queerness in American history though.
Kay
Jul 17, 2014 Kay rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those interested in an overview of GLBT history
I picked this book up for research on a historical fiction novel I was working on and I had never really dabbled in the history of GLBT people in the US. I think this was a great introduction and Dr. Bronski's source list is helpful in further research. It's very easy to make a history book incredibly dry, but Dr. Bronski's style is enjoyable to read and he presents the information in an accessible manner. I greatly enjoyed reading this history and it has definitely spurred me on to further rese...more
M

Not too bad for a basic background for those who know little or nothing about LBGT history, but there is not much depth.

It does seem odd that a book published in 2011 stops at 1990. The epilogue does cover the 1990-2010 period, but in summary format.





Mark
I thought this was a very good survey of the subject, and I thought the most interesting point he made was about the two approaches to the gay rights/liberation movement. One anarchist, one assimilative. I also felt the last chapter and the epilogue were a strong finish, but that may be because it was about the times during which I was alive, so I had a personal response to it.
Bryan
Spanning European colonization to 1990 and clocking in at only 240 pages, this really just a gloss. It does it what it is supposed to but considering it took months and months to finish it wasn’t exactly setting off flash bulbs in my mind. Stonewall gets about five sentences, but there is whole chapter on how World War II set the pieces in place for the social upheavals of the 1960s.
J Sietsema
A Queer History is a great idea, poorly executed. Throughout, both Bronski's prose and his scholarship are very weak. While Brosnki does offer a decent survey of queerdom in America, both arguments and facts are hazily sketched. Then again... he still got me to tear up, as I always, do, when I read about Stonewall, even as the few paragraphs he dedicated to it were so poor.
Lizabeth Tucker
This is an interesting look at the history of American LGBT through various movements and social changes throughout the years. While I may not agree with all the author's theories or conclusions, I did find the information fascinating and thought provoking. Add the numerous reference materials, fictional and factual, and it made the read more than worthwhile.
Neil McGarry
I think the best history books tell a story, and this one doesn't. There's plenty of interest here, but the presentation is so dry and non-compelling that I had to force myself to finish.
Tegan
An outline of mostly gay & lesbian history in America (limited attention on transgender/sexual history). Touching on the effects of politics, religion, economics, war, gender roles, and medicine on the development, visibility, and shape of LBGT lives. Best supplemented by more in-depth publications, but a good starting place.
Allen
I would recommend this to anyone who teaches American history or American lit, and to anyone else who's really interested in LGBTQ issues. It's a a history, and thus not a real page-turner--thus my not having completed it yet--but it IS interesting and clearly written.
Wils Cain
Very interesting book, a little dry in the first half. It's a very interesting look at the history of the queer culture - for example, how racism set the stage for the US to treat a specific group of "others" differently and how easily we were pushed into one of these groups.
Laura Bang
A good, not-too-long overview of LGBT history in the U.S., which is just what I was looking for as background reading for my new volunteer job at an LGBT center.

One complaint: So many typos! I think this is the most typos I've encountered in a single book.
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Michael Bronski has written extensively on LGBT issues for four decades. He has published widely in the LGBT and mainstream press and his work appears in numerous anthologies. He is a Senior Lecturer in Women’s and Gender Studies and Jewish Studies at Dartmouth College.
More about Michael Bronski...
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