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A Queer History of the United States

(ReVisioning American History #1)

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  1,159 ratings  ·  142 reviews
Winner of a 2012 Stonewall Book Award in nonfiction

The first book to cover the entirety of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender history, from pre-1492 to the present.

In the 1620s, Thomas Morton broke from Plymouth Colony and founded Merrymount, which celebrated same-sex desire, atheism, and interracial marriage. Transgender evangelist Jemima Wilkinson, in the early 1800
Hardcover, 312 pages
Published May 10th 2011 by Beacon Press
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Average rating 3.79  · 
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 ·  1,159 ratings  ·  142 reviews

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Nov 12, 2013 rated it did not like it
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” (to quote the book), were oddly silent. Not once was the w
V. Briceland
Jun 16, 2011 rated it liked it
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
I read all but one of two of the first chapters of this book, for research for a gay historical fiction novel and ... some of it was really good, some of it was mediocre, but I found it had a lot of contradictions.

This is a very general history of gay culture in the United States, and with its broad brushstrokes, sometimes it wins, sometimes it loses.

I took lots of notes and found many enjoyable details (the chapter on the production and marketing of gender was an unexpected joy) I found lots
Cody VC
Jun 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 14, 2015 rated it it was ok
Messy and not my jam. A number of pitfalls that are real...
- centering whiteness
- centering cis experiences, esp amab cis experiences
- conflation of desire and labels gltbqqia
- uncreative notions of what resistance can look like that glorify violent actions and invisibilze other ways ppl have resisted and survived

where's the intersectional, anti-colonial framework to at least hold space for the possibility of radical kinds of queernesses throughout time?
it's hard to write these histories in w
Lauren Stoolfire
I'd seen this nonfiction history book making the rounds at the library quite a bit recently so I thought I'd give the audiobook edition a try. The narrator does a very good job presenting the information. The book is a great primer on the subject and it covers a few hundred years - like the author says there is so much more out there especially if you were to do a deep dive on a particular time period or figure. On the bit about free love, I was pleased to hear Victoria Woodhull get a mention.
Feb 02, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: lgbt
I found this on overdrive & read it because I wanted to learn about American History anyway this year (which I was never taught about in school pretty much at all) & it obviously wasn't supposed to be an all-encompassing work of every facette of American history, so it was fine to get an overview through a gay (white, male, middle-aged to old-ish) lens with.

I did find it lacking in several departments, though (When I use quotes they aren't direct quotes from the text, but paraphrased from memor
Feb 21, 2019 rated it liked it
This book was informative, but it missed the mark for me. It spent a lot of time talking about attitudes towards sexuality and gender in early America, yet a lot of the arguments were hard to follow. It would touch on subjects that I thought needed more explanation and do deep dives into topics that I found too shallow to warrant the attention. I liked the emphasis it placed on the authors and texts that shaped the movement, but sometimes the examples provided didn't mesh well with the paragraph ...more
Aug 08, 2020 rated it it was ok
This book is exclusionary.
I was very excited to read this book but ended up being very disappointed.

Trans people, lives and activism are completely erased from this book. This book EXCLUDES entirely the involvement of trans women in the Stonewall Riots.

Bisexuality is excluded.

I found this book to focus too much on the activism of cis white gay men with some support from cis white lesbian women.

Race is brought up occasionally, but not with the depth that queer BIPOC deserve.

If you are looking f
Jan 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 17, 2016 rated it liked it
The book's thesis is that queer US history is US history-- that the two are inseparable-- and I suppose it succeeds in conveying this. However, the sheer task of compressing 500 years of history from the Puritans to the AIDS epidemic into 300 pages results in a book that feels like a litany of important names and events. I think it would have benefited a lot from just focusing on a handful of events with more depth and nuance. Should also be noted that the focus is primarily on people who identi ...more
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
Jan 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
From Native American berdaches to ACT UP, this book follows the attitudes and treatment of LGBTQ people in the United States.

As a gay man and a history buff, I enjoyed Bronski’s take the major events in world history and how they affected the LGBTQ population. For a long time our history was left out of history books, but Bronski does a good job and showing modern LGBTQ people how our predecessors mattered in the past, changed attitudes in their societies to allow the environment, while not ide
Aug 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Since this book is about LGBTQIA, I'll shorten its name to AQHOTUS. :)

But seriously, I'm glad the author called it "Queer" history and embraced this umbrella term.

Although I've had this book on my shelf for over 6 years, and read a little of it when I first bought it, I ended up putting it down and shelving it for a few years.

What struck me reading it the last few weeks is that it's historic message is as relevant today as when it was written.

I'm glad I had this unintended break in reading AQHO
Rory Wilson
Sep 01, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: lgbt, history
Overall I think this is an accessible and good premier into lesbian and gay history. I did enjoy the book's repeated references to various literary influences on queer movements and the broader culture. I also was very interested in the chapters describing the formation of masculinity and feminity in the US.

However, I think the book is primarily centered around a white gay and lesbian history at the sacrifice of transgender, bisexual, pansexual, asexual, QTPOC history. I felt that at the very l
Jul 09, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's incredibly well-researched and encompassing, however, I found the queerness highlighted to be more abstract than I was hoping for. This is obviously necessary for earlier eras of American history — and something that gets rectified as Bronski covered queerness after WWII — but I would have greatly appreciated more concrete examples from the disparate time periods. With that said, as a detailed recounting of heterosexual, white, male norms and the varied ways queer groups differentiated from ...more
Aug 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I really liked this. There weren't quite as many surprising facts to me as other history books I've read recently, but that might be because I'm a little more familiar with the history in discussion. The discussion of community, perception, and definition was very interesting.

In any case, I was really excited to discover this was part of a series! Can't wait to read the others.
Tommy Estlund
May 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
This was a fantastic primer on the history of LGTBQ folk in American life. Definitely recommend this to those who want to understand the complicated experience of marginalized folk striving to reach equality.
BAM The Bibliomaniac
A great resource of homoerotic literature
Jun 26, 2020 rated it it was ok
As a queer person and a historian especially interested in social history, I thought this book would be an interesting and enlightening read. While I did learn a few things and did more research about a few people, in general, I was extremely disappointed. This book was written by a cis white gay man, and that's VERY obvious.

The only time Bronski mentions bisexual people is when describing/defining the LGBTQ+ acronym. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't remember him using the word to des
Adam Ross
Jul 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
Another great book in the Re-Visioning America series. What is great about the series is that they put their topics of interest in the forefront and re-read American history with the eye on the chosen theme, exploring how it effected American history as a whole. Most books like this would just pick a series of people who exemplify the theme as a "who's who" of the pet topic. These are more integrated.

This book in particular was fascinating for a number of reasons. I appreciate the fact that they
Jan 23, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history, nonfiction, lgbtq
It's an admittedly ambitious project to try and cover 500 years of queer history in roughly 250 pages, but I was disappointed that Bronski adopted such a dichotomous approach (you're either gay or straight/either male or female). There were some compelling sections, and he certainly did his research, but it ultimately felt like too much breadth, not enough depth.
William Bitterman
Feb 04, 2020 rated it liked it
I don't know about this one. I mean, it had great tidbits from years and years ago that were not common knowledge, but most of the book was brief accounts of recent (and well known) history. Things like stonewall and people like Marsha P Johnson were referenced almost in passing. A great deal of time was spent talking about legislation and American public's reaction to queer life and activism.
Ali Sousa
Jun 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Genuinely one of the most fascinating books I've ever read - an incredible, all-encompassing explanation of why America is the way it is interwoven with the undeniable evidence that queer people have been present and crucial since the very beginning.
Nov 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Fascinating, well researched, very accessible.
Jan 11, 2020 rated it it was ok
Actual rating: 2.5

Here's the thing, I was tremendously hyped to read this book, and whilst I learned some stuff (although at times was addressed more like some kind of "tea", rather than "hey, this was a serious and important thing"), I had a few issues with the book. Starting off, I have issues with the title having the word "queer" in it, when the spotlight it's only going to be directed at gay and lesbian people in the LGBTQ+ community; here's what I'm saying: the author only addressed the L
Sep 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I picked up a copy of this book this past June, with all the focus on LGBT Pride month. As social perspectives on homosexuality have changed over the last couple of decades, for the good, I thought this might be an interesting read. And, it was! Going back to the very foundations of our country, Bronski very insightfully examines the social dynamics and perspectives of various phases of our history. He exacts details of situations and events that precipitated changes within our culture. He notes ...more
Feb 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed, queer-books
I think the main thing that I took from this book is that we've always been here.

Logically I knew that - queer people were obviously not a development of the 1980s, no matter how much religious nuts try to protest queerness is a new thing. But having the actual history and being able to see how queer people lived before gay rights became a movement was really encouraging. Yeah, there was homophobia that happened, too, but it was really encouraging to know that our ancestors were queer, too.

The m
Mar 20, 2018 rated it liked it
If you go into this book expecting great detail about the history of queer survival and liberation, you're not going to get it. Instead, Bronski spends the majority of the book talking about 'queer' in a very academic sense - defying gender roles, 'deviant' sexuality, etc. When I picked this up, I was expecting the book to talk about actual LGBT people and instead I got a lot of mush about the shifting opinions of sex and gender in the United States with some LGBT people thrown in.

In comparison
Jun 06, 2020 rated it did not like it
It’s pretty rare that I one-star a book. I was so excited for this book and the series of which it’s a part. Queer history is American history and this is a story that needs to be told. But this book is so woefully inadequate that I just feel angry. This would be a decent book if it were titled A White Gay History of the United States. I say decent because the author seemed to really struggle to decide whether he wanted to talk about queer people or black people (but not, I should mention, queer ...more
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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.

Other books in the series

ReVisioning American History (5 books)
  • A Disability History of the United States
  • An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States (ReVisioning American History, #3)
  • An African American and Latinx History of the United States
  • A Black Women's History of the United States

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