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A Queer History of the United States for Young People

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Queer history didn’t start with Stonewall. This book explores how LGBTQ people have always been a part of our national identity, contributing to the country and culture for over 400 years.

It is crucial for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer youth to know their history. But this history is not easy to find since it’s rarely taught in schools or commemorated in other ways. A Queer History of the United States for Young People corrects this and demonstrates that LGBTQ people have long been vital to shaping our understanding of what America is today.

Through engrossing narratives, letters, drawings, poems, and more, the book encourages young readers, of all identities, to feel pride at the accomplishments of the LGBTQ people who came before them and to use history as a guide to the future.The stories he shares include those of

* Thomas Morton, who celebrated same-sex love in Boston’s Puritan community in the 1620s.
* Albert D. J. Cashier, an Irish immigrant and Civil War hero, who was born in the body of a woman but lived as a man for over a half century.
* Gladys Bentley, an African American blues singer who challenged cross-dressing laws in 1920s Harlem.
* Bayard Rustin, Martin Luther King Jr.’s close friend, civil rights organizer, and an openly gay man.
* Sylvia Rivera, who along with Marsha P. Johnson, founded the first transgender political group in the United States in 1970.
* Harvey Milk, a community organizer and the first openly gay politician to win an election in California.
* Jamie Nabozny, a teen who brought national attention to the issue of LGBTQ bullying by bringing his case to the Supreme Court in the 1990s.

336 pages, Paperback

First published June 4, 2019

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About the author

Michael Bronski

31 books61 followers
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.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 92 reviews
Profile Image for Kathleen.
Author 1 book46 followers
Read
July 29, 2019
Updated to add that these issues are still in the finished copy.

Keeping in mind that I read this as a physical arc and not as a finished edition, I had many issues with this title. It's fairly good for what it is, but there are some really big red flags on this text. I don't know if it's from the original author, the adapter, or for some other reason, but:

p. 3: transgender is in a list of words for "women and men who are attracted to members of their own sex"

p. 10: "now that we have explored all the terms and words from LGBTQ people" but leaves out people who are intersex or asexual

p. 58: "intersexed" (also on page 282)

p. 191: "knew she was a gay."

And, my personal pet peeve, the first glossary entry is for asexuals/asexuality (which is not once mentioned in the text), and it's done in an insulting and inaccurate way.

Hopefully, this will all get fixed before the final printing.
Profile Image for Rhode PVD.
2,304 reviews23 followers
June 17, 2019
Haven’t read it, but saw a screenshot of the page saying asexuality is a temporary phase. 😳😳😳 So, it’s an untrustworthy book. Which is too bad because a great book on this topic is needed.
Profile Image for Devann.
2,431 reviews128 followers
June 13, 2019
I received an ARC copy of this book from Edelweiss

actual rating: 3.5

I do have some issues with some of the language used in this book, but overall it is filled with a lot of good information. I did like how it talks about how the language we use to describe different orientations is always changing and tried to put things into their historical contexts, but still there were some things the author said in the modern day sections where I did not necessarily agree with the wording of it in some ways. Also I wasn't really expecting the ace spectrum to be discussed at all [as someone who is ace themselves I am very used to being disappointed in this regard], but was really put off by the mildly condescending definition that was used in the glossary in the back.

I think as with most things that discuss LGBT issues or history you have to use this as a starting point and read other books on the topic to compare or even talk to real life people to get a better idea for the language and labels people actually use outside of an academic context. As I said before, there is a lot of good information here and it talked about many people I had not heard of before, as well as several I was already familiar with. I also liked how it started by talking about Native Americans instead of pretending like the history of the country only started when white people got here.
June 17, 2019
The exclusion of asexuality as a full, substantive identity and historically present part of the queer community belies a lack of research and/or general knowledge of queer history. It is placed in scare quotes and the author claims that asexuality is "recent" (it is not). The author paints a picture that asexuality is a phase and not a true identity, saying that it is "similar to" other identities, ostensibly because the author does not believe it is one. Asexuality has existed through human history, as all sexualities have. And the terminology is many decades old. Asexual members of the community have been there the whole time, and this continued ignoring of their place in the community by this author is deeply unsettling. This is the fault I take issue with most strongly, but the book contains many other faults and slights against the queer community, listed in other reviews.
1 review
June 17, 2019
Asexuality is not a "temporary feeling", you ignorant charlatan.
Profile Image for Ai Miller.
575 reviews35 followers
August 24, 2021
Oh what a mess of a book. As other reviews have noted, there's a great deal of confusion around language in this book--it doesn't seem to know what to do with trans people in general, conflating trans-ness with sexuality in some parts and separating it with others (which theoretically I'd be fine with except for the inconsistency of it all--it feels more like a mistake than a political move.)

I think my biggest beef with it all (beyond yknow the nationalism of tying up queer history with US history and in particular with American myths about ourselves, which I think we should be questioning, but it also like makes sense given the title,) is the inconsistency overall in methodology with regards to whether or not we can call someone from the past "gay" or "trans." The authors (and I'm unclear how much of this is the original text itself or the way it's been adjusted for "young people" (more on that later)) lay out that we can't do this, which is of course a valid way of approaching queer history, but then in the actual chapters there's a lot of flopping back and forth on whether or not we can claim a history from these people. As an example, when talking about Emily Dickinson, the text reads "However she may have thought of herself, Emily Dickinson was certainly a woman who loved other women." It all feels very like trying to have your cake and eat it too, and while I understand the tension--to offer youth a history grounded in an awareness of the way that our ideas about sex and sexuality have changed over time--I don't think this is a good way of approaching it (and I think settling a history in individuals is also a bad way of going about it, but yknow here we are I guess.)

The other issue I have is who this book is aimed at. I assumed (and picked up the book based on the idea that) this book is aimed at young teens, maybe ages 12+. The book itself seems to indicate it's aimed at people in their late teens and early twenties--not in terms of how the language is written (I still thought it was aimed at 12 year olds reading it!) but with an actual phrasing that comes late in the text. And while I wouldn't discourage an 18 year old from reading this book (I wouldn't discourage anyone from reading anything!) I think you can probably read a much better queer history book for adults and get a better sense of the history.

Overall this was most disappointing because young people deserve better than this! I haven't yet found a good replacement (and I might have to write it >.>) but I wouldn't recommend this, especially as the first contact a person might have with queer history.
Profile Image for Mac.
21 reviews14 followers
April 16, 2020
A compact glimpse at some LGBTQ+ movers and shakers in America's past. While informative, I did find this book to be a bit lacking (such as claims of "x changed the way Americans viewed y," with just a statement like this being the only "proof" given). Another thing that got on my nerves was some blatant misinformation or exaggerated info. Such as the claim that POC military personnel were ONLY in support units.... Here's a quote from the Texas Historical Commission website regarding African Americans in WW2: "909,000 African Americans served in the Army, and 78 percent of them served in service branches (engineer, quartermaster, and transportation). The African American combat units in the Pacific included the 93rd Infantry Division, the 24th Infantry Regiment (one of the original Buffalo Soldier regiments), 10 anti-aircraft battalions, and one coast artillery battalion)."

https://www.thc.texas.gov/blog/africa...

All in all, this was an okay book and very readable. It served as a good introduction to LGBTQ+ American history.


Edit to say: where are the footnotes??? No respectable historian would leave out footnotes. The bibliography was severely lacking, as well. I hope the volume of this targeted at older readers does a better job at deploying sources and using footnotes.
Profile Image for Nicole Crucial.
Author 2 books10 followers
August 8, 2020
I learned a lot about actual lgbtq figures and history, but as others have pointed out, the author's definitions of many identities are outdated or just plain wrong/problematic. (See: calling asexuality a "phase", bisexuality as attraction to "both" genders in some places and "various" genders in the index, some weird language/pronouns around trans people but specifically Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, ignoring pansexuality except to equate it with being "sexually fluid"...)

The book could also be quite pedantic at times. I picked up the "for young people" version mostly because it was shorter than the original (still almost 300 pages).

This is a good book if you're already on the up and up as far as queer *identities* but lack a historical context. AKA, good context for Very Online lgbtq+ folks like me.
Profile Image for julia!!.
251 reviews13 followers
April 7, 2020
Uff. I had such high hopes for this book, but it left me disappointed.

Starting off with something positive: some aspects of the book are quite interesting. I knew some of things already, but lots of facts were new to me. A story that I particularly liked was the one about "Publick Universal Friend" - a preacher living in the late 18th century and refusing to identify as either male or female as well as not using she/her or he/him pronouns. I also liked that the book explained things in such a simple manner. I know that many readers thought the writing style to be "too simple" but as the book labels itself as being for young people I think it makes sense. Well, that's about it with the things I liked.

Unfortunately, so many things about "A queer history of the United States for Young People" is overly problematic - I don't even know where to start.
In my opinion, the title is pretty misleading. It states that the book deals with QUEER history and stories of QUEER personas. Consequently you would think that there is a diversity in LGBTQ+ identities. Well, about 90% of the people who we get to know are either gay or lesbian and cisgendered. There are only few mentions of transgender individuals, exactly one story about a bisexual person and no (!) mention whatsoever of asexuality - except for in the glossary where it is stated that it is "a phase". Pansexuality is mentioned twice, both times explained wrong. The book also constantly talks about "the two genders" - male and female - and therefore erases non-binary, genderfluid and genderqueer identities. That goes along with that when talking about a transgender person, the author often uses their deadname and wrong pronouns. Apparently the thought behind that was to make the matter "easier" to understand but it made me pretty uncomfortable.
Furthermore there is almost no mention of the Stonewall riots, despite it being a critical part of LGBTQ+ history. That left me very disappointed and I can't think of any reason as to why the author would have left that out.
All in all, a very regrettable read. The author himself is a professor for Gender and Sexuality but makes so many obvious mistakes that I can hardly believe he took much effort in this book.

If someone can recommend me a well researched and interesting book on LGBTQ+ history, I'd be glad to read it. But this one.. ain't it.

1.5 stars (and those are mostly for "Publick Universal Friend" because I thoroughly enjoyed that part)
Profile Image for Christopher.
733 reviews39 followers
December 11, 2020
Though LGBTQ people have made extraordinary gains in recent years, identifying as such a person can be incredibly difficult for young people. Young LGBTQ people can face discrimination and abuse from their family, friends, and community. Fortunately, Mr. Bronski and Mr. Chevat have written this excellent book about the history of LGBTQ people in America that will be encouraging and enlightening to both young and old readers alike.

While most of this book is made up of short biographical sketches of famous LGBTQ people, this book also reads very much like a social history of the country too, particularly when it comes to American's private relations and sexuality. Mr. Bronski's chapters on "romantic friendships" towards the beginning of the book is absolutely fascinating and people may view historic friendships quite differently after reading book, such as the intense friendship of George Washington and Lafayette. Even during the biographical sketches Mr. Bronski takes the time to walk the reader through the social climate and changes of the times. He also does a fantastic job of explaining the ever-changing array of terms LGBTQ people have used and are using to describe their identities. And all of this is done in a language and style the is simple enough for almost any reader understand, but never dumbs down the discussion.

The only complaint I have against this book is that, despite his best efforts at avoiding this pitfall, Mr. Bronski does fall into the habit of trying to categorize many of his subjects in binary categories. Mr. Bronski makes a valiant effort to explain how human sexuality is more complicated than a simple binary choice, and he deserves great credit for that. Still, that complexity is not always well reflected in the ways he describe some of his subjects later in the book.

Whether you're gay or straight, this is a fantastic introduction to American LGBTQ history that is useful for both young and old readers alike.
Profile Image for Alicia.
5,600 reviews103 followers
January 3, 2020
I don't know if I'd put this on any "best of" lists, but it's an integral addition to any collection. It's not particularly well written because it's really just a series of short story biographical sketches of people who do not fit neatly into boxes or that contemporary society questions as possibly questioning using historical context from primary source documents like their letter writing. The organization is merely chronological.

It also doesn't feel comprehensive and I wonder what the differences are between the adult version and this young adult adaption- is it in the short stories or did it cut out people. I guess maybe from my existence I would want the inclusion of Matthew Shepard and I understand that he didn't fit the mold of what was presented based on their activism in various ways, he became a flashpoint for the LGBTQ community with his gruesome murder. Likewise, James Baldwin that's referenced in quotes was American though he lived the majority of his life overseas and he was not included. So I'm questioning the parameters of who was included and why.

I'm glad I read it and it does provide worthwhile explorations into relationships that didn't have words that could have been considered GLBTQ.
Profile Image for Heather.
268 reviews8 followers
April 18, 2021
Important history, compelling storytelling

Not only does this great book, which I read along with my preteen, encapsulates so much important information about the history of LGBTQ+ people in the United States, but it tells great stories at the same time that allow you to feel closer and more connected to the people involved.
Profile Image for Brittany.
28 reviews6 followers
July 28, 2021
Great information about the LGBTQIA+ history in the U.S.. Lots of examples of individuals and organizations who helped shape history throughout the years. At times, the writing was a bit bland, but overall a lovely read to become more informed.
December 8, 2022
such an amazing book that tells you all these stories about people in history who were lgbtq+ and the hardships they faced. it made me realize how there’s been queer people for centuries and how far we’ve come
Profile Image for Kurt.
583 reviews10 followers
February 20, 2020
Such an accessible history! I love the James Baldwin quote that framed it: "The great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all that we do. It could scarcely be otherwise, since it is to history that we owe our frames of reference, our identities, and our aspirations" (270). Bronski introduced me to lots of new characters, like gender revolutionary Public Universal Friend and new heroes of mine: Victoria Woodhull, who ran for president with Frederick Douglas as her VP; Pauli Murray, a Black civil rights activist and lawyer who was tight with Eleanor Roosevelt; and Carl Wittman, a radical gay white intersectional activist I can look up to. I have new ideas for my LGBTQ Studies course; I want to start the course with queer Indigineity, for example, and I'm excited to include Wittman's "Refugees from Amerika: A Gay Manifesto" and Essex Hemphill's "Say Brother." I feel my people's history alive in me, lighting a way forward.
Profile Image for Roz.
343 reviews8 followers
September 3, 2019
This book literally put me in a reading slump and at this point I can't finish it. Just the thought of going back to it exhausts me. Nothing in the first 50 pages really stuck out to me as good and so much of it was a problem. Obviously, the biggest and most unsurmountable problem for me was the lack of and dismissal of asexuality and aromanticism. As an aroace woman, seeing asexuality and aromanticism included in a general queer history is obviously gonna be incredibly important to me and the fact that they were completely left out and except for the one moment when they were dismissed as a phase, left a horrible taste in my mouth for this book and I just can't handle trying to go back to it. Literally the only inclusion of asexuality in the entire book (aromanticism isn't mentioned even once) is an entry in the glossary at the back of the book which not only uses scare quotes around the word asexuality, but also claims that "asexuality is a temporary feeling." My very permanent asexuality is gonna become a very permanent boot in someone's ass for writing that bullshit.

Beyond the aroace problem, this book used really exclusionist language, which, again, is super frustrating to see in a book about queer history. They continually used the phrase "men and women" rather than just saying "people," even after they finally acknowledged nonbinary identities. The short definitions of the main identities in the LGBT acronym included in the introduction were very lacking and simplistic. There was a throwaway line at the end of the bisexual section kind of acknowledging pansexuality without acknowledging the nuance of why individuals choose to use one term over the other. Intersexuality isn't really mentioned at all. Nonbinary identities are glossed over at best.

From the little that I was able to stomach reading, I just could not ever recommend this to anyone, let alone young people who are starting to figure out their identities and have questions about what options there are available to them. The language was too simplistic and infantalizing - news flash! young people aren't dumb and are in fact capable of understanding a lot of nuance, especially in regards to identity and talking down to them is not going to gain you any readers. The dismissal of so many different queer identities and their roles in American history was infuriating and again does such a major disservice to readers. I was so excited when I first heard about this book but it ended up being just an absolutely abysmal book that I am genuinely gutted to have read.
Profile Image for ThatOneCornerReader.
140 reviews4 followers
January 4, 2020
*Deep inhale* Petition to rename this A Problematic Book that We're Still Going to Give to Young People Anyway. Because that’s what this is. Problematic.

Don’t take me the wrong way. The subject matter is great, it’s the execution that’s gone a bit wrong. This book does not deserve a coherent review, so we're going off on tangents.

First off, the book itself talks down to the reader. The whole time I felt as if I was being scorned or treated as a child. I get that this is an adaptation, but the whole time I felt like the author was writing condescendingly. Then there are the numerous instances of offensive wording and ideas. The acephobic definition of asexuality has already been picked apart (rightfully), but quite frankly, I was disgusted. Not only is it wrong, but keeping in mind the target audience for this book, it's awful. Spreading ideas as wrong as this is majorly damaging not only to young people trying to form an idea about their own identity but this could be someone’s only real formative experience with the LGBT+ community (as it's not a huge topic in schools), creating an inaccurate belief in someone’s mind. Also, the complete lack of representation of aro/ace individuals/history and the minimal representation of other sexualities beyond gay, lesbian, transgender, and queer (while very important) was extremely insulting and disappointing. Overall, the result was almost entirely atrocious.

I’ll concede that most of the history itself in the book was fine, so long as you maybe take it with a grain of salt. A couple of chapters seemed to meander, and then others rushed right past important information with little analysis. Very few chapters earnestly grabbed my interest and were informative. This book was a mixed bag of quality, with much of it on the low end.

I'm madly disappointed with how this book turned out to be. I was hoping so hard that there could a great, LGBT+ history for young people but this simply ain’t it, chief. I found myself offended and at very few times informed. I do not know what I'll do when I see this book in a library, but it won't be pretty.
Profile Image for Kane.
10 reviews7 followers
February 4, 2020
Actual: 3.5

I def agree w people’s frustrations in this book in that sometimes it came across condescending (the bit about “wow people used to READ newspapers?? Not use instagram?? Crazy, right, teens who don’t know anything!” Was so annoying lol), the definition of asexual in the back really isnt that great, but I also think it’s unfair to dismiss this book as a whole and say that there is nothing worthwhile about it because that’s really not true.

This book is really good in that it gives a lot of different jumping off points for your own research if you want to learn more about the LGBTQ community and our greater history. Books like these can’t really provide more than snippets, especially not when trying to cover so many different people, events and organizations. It was really refreshing in that it did mention two spirit identities within Native American communities and that it did mention how much of an impact colonialism has had on how we view gender and sexuality. A lot of people gloss over that. It was great in that it wasn’t all about white people; this book mentions so many members of our community that are people of colour. And it also addressed issues like racism in the community, or neglect lesbians faced when men formed gay organizations. Stuff like that. There were quite a few people in this book I’d never heard of and was excited to learn about!

Overall, I think this book is fine and it’s good for people who don’t know much beyond Stonewall (or anything at all!) because it has so many learning opportunities. It is an accessible and easy to digest history book, even if it comes off a bit condescending at times. And you can always supplement the book w your own research.
Profile Image for emma.
761 reviews28 followers
July 22, 2019
I'm quite disappointed with this one. It might be something I return to later, but I feel as though there's a lot of reaching going on here, in addition to some misrepresentation through diction.
First, the early history is mostly spent on people's friendships. While I do believe some of these people were actually gay, I'm going to guess that some of this was due to a different take on masculinity. That, and Bronski didn't even assume they were gay. Some people presented were presented as good, close friends. I'm sorry, but friendship isn't a sexuality, and girls dressing as boys to be in the army doesn't mean they were anything but girls seeking agency (the justification for this was that "queer" can mean "different" but when we're discussing LGBTQ history, I don't think ~alternative~ lifestyles are LGBTQ queer. I was kinda desperate for some proof that these girls were trans, or wanted to be, esp bc I've seen photos of such individuals, but this wasn't included.) There's little proof for them, and I don't think these sections will help people who question lgbtq+ validity to accept lgbtq people. In addition, more time could have been spent on Native American people, or on expanding early history to include the world, or at least the Americas, rather just the USA.
Also, some wording seemed queer-phobic to me. For example, asexuality was defined as a temporary sexuality, not a sexuality. If it were temporary, it would be celibacy, or low sex drive, not a sexuality. Little details like this made me lose trust in the author. Such a big shame, as I think books like this are very necessary.
Profile Image for Casey Peel.
191 reviews5 followers
August 1, 2019
I read this book to see if it would be a good one for my 13-year-old niece. I think she's a bit too young for this right now but I can see it being good for her next year (with her parents' consent).

I want to preface the review by saying that the definition of asexual in the glossary is not just bad but actively damaging. I'm at a loss for why it was even included as I could find no mention of asexual/aces in the entire book (which, itself, is a huge miss). If you give this book to a young person please ensure you engage them in a conversation about why that definition is very bad.

The above side, I found the book an approachable and good read about queer people in the US (better than the original version according to my partner who read both). Each chapter is a small biography of one or two individuals and the context of the time in which they lived. I liked that it started with the First People, not with post-colonial Europeans. In particular I liked how the author explicitly used, and in fact talked about using, labels for the people that they themselves would have used and not trying to put 21st century labels (lesbian, gay, queer, etc) onto them. It did a good job of including people of color and people across the gender spectrum too.

My engagement with the book varied chapter to chapter. Sometimes I was engrossed and other times it felt like a slog. It's hard for me to disentangle if it was the book or me however.
Profile Image for Emily.
1,522 reviews28 followers
November 24, 2019
LMAO I think Goodreads removed my review for this book?? Well fuck that.

This book deserves a one-star rating because it fails in its basic premise: to present QUEER HISTORY. You can't erase asexuality/aromanticism and present an accurate/complete view of queer history. You can't deny or be ignorant of the history of asexuality and claim to have the adequate knowledge base necessary to write a book on queer history. I don't trust this author, I don't trust this book. More reviews about the problematic nature of this book: 1 2 3 4
Profile Image for Ace.
435 reviews44 followers
Shelved as 'dnf-d'
July 26, 2019
I was going to read this, but slowly going down the reviews as this is a 2.94 book I was cautious. Which lead me to a link of the author being acephobic. YIKES NO. GET OUT. LEAVE MY LIFE. BYEEEE!

P.S. Here's the twitter Thread
Profile Image for Tony.
Author 3 books9 followers
July 28, 2020
A great insight to some historically important people who were LGBTQ+ and historically important people because they were LGBTQ+ and how both groups shaped our society.
A great addition to my classroom nonfiction shelf.
Profile Image for Noah.
12 reviews13 followers
August 23, 2020
So, my feelings are pretty mixed.

I'm going ahead and admitting that I didn't read the glossary, but I found the quote about what he said on asexuality. (Although, I did notice that he never mentioned asexuality in the actual book). As an asexual individual, that's a big yikes from me. Another identity he described wrong is pansexuality, which he only mentioned in passing twice. From what I remember, he described pansexuality both the same as bisexuality in the introduction and the same as sexual fluidity in the second chapter from the end. Both descriptions are incorrect. Pansexuality is, simply, an attraction to individuals regardless of their gender identity. The way Bronski described it gave me the vibes that he didn't consider pansexuality an actual identity, nor that he actually knows what pansexuality is.

Furthermore, how he handled trans folk and nonbinary people made me uncomfortable. Now, I'm transgender, but I can't speak for everyone, so some people may see this differently than me and that's fine. Personally, I disliked how Bronski provided people's dead-names and how he used the wrong pronouns before switching later. He also described being transgender, as some other reviewers pointed out, as a sexual rather than gender identity, saying that being trans is a way to express being attracted to the same gender. He would occasionally say things like, "men dressing up as women", which contradicted his message about gender being a social norm, and it enforced the notion that trans folk are just "dressing up", which is untrue. Overall, I was confused (and still am) if Bronksi is actually supportive of us trans folk or not.

Now- I get that Bronski is probably in his seventies, so I was honestly expecting him to not get "newer" (just because something didn't have a name before doesn't mean it didn't exist) identities. The LGBTQIA+ community is ever-expanding, and it is still dealing with ace-phobia, biphobia, panphobia, and etc. The erasure of many sexual and gender identities is common, both in and out of the community, with comments such as "[in regards to asexuality] oh, you'll grow out of it!" or "you'll change your mind when you meet the right person." Bisexual people are told they need to "pick a side", and pansexuals, omnisexuals, demisexuals, and many, many other identities are treated as "fake" and "for attention". Not to mention how nonbinary identities are treated! So, no, I'm not surprised by how Bronski treated identities that aren't cisgender and not the LG or B. Disappointed? Yes; but not surprised. Hopefully, newer and more informed books on LGBTQIA+ history will arise and include everything Bronski ignored.

Overall, I understand what Bronski was trying to do, and I did think there was good stuff in there. Is it worth a read? Sure. There are people I've never heard who deserve recognition, and there are tidbits I thought were amusing and inspiring. However, if you're a nonbinary, transgender, or any sexuality that's not gay, lesbian, or bisexual, you're not going to find good, (or any) accurate representation. (There is one nonbinary person mentioned, and I had never heard of them! I also suspect they were ace, but Bronksi danced around it).

[Apologies if this isn't completely coherent. I am writing this at 2:55 in the morning].
Profile Image for Suzanne Ondrus.
Author 2 books5 followers
July 15, 2020
I learned a different side of American history from this book! This book would be great to suplement a women's studies or gender studies course. I especially appreciated the cultural explanations- i.e. that same sex friendship a hundred years ago or more we today cannot look at with our modern lens; this aspect was even taught by showing snippets of letters with affectionate greetings. Bronski presents how sharing beds was common a hundred year ago and how socialization was segregated by gender. It also talked about colonialism and its damaging effects on gender, sexuality, and body shaming. The book also gives a bit of history on when terms came into usage and those who are responsible for coinage. I was fascinated by Jemima Wilkinson or Publick Universal Friend who was born in 1752 in Rhode Island. After Typhoid fever Friend had visions and "told her friends and family that Jemima Wilkinson had died and that she was a new person, neither male nor female"(28). Surprisingly Friend was accepted in the community and not vilified. There were several stories of historic American communities (from Colonial times through Civil War) accepting transgenders. There were about 400 women disguised as men who fought in the Civil War (67). -ie. Albert D.J. Cashier (62) who even won his petition to get his pension from the war. Then during our revolutionary war Deborah Sampson who was almost sex feet tall went to war as a man (33) and later married a man. The book also explains some women dressed as men in order to stay with their husbands during the war; again, I appreciated all these different points of views. Also cases of husbands being on the downlow (according to our modern pov)- ie Samuel Gridley Howe and Charles Sumner (54)

I enjoyed Charlotte Cushman (68) a successful lesbian actress who in the mid 1800s played men even, without public outcry. Also, Victoria Woodhull (92) noted for her free love philosophy.

Here is some noted diversity: Bayard Rustin (164)was African American and part Native American; Gloria Anzaldua (184) Latina; Kiyoshi Kuromiya Japanese American (220) Felix Gonzalez-Torres (Cuban origin) (227)
Profile Image for Molly Walker.
717 reviews
November 7, 2020
I had mixed feelings about this. On one hand, I loved learning about notable queer people and their impact on US history. In many ways, the contributions of those in the LGBT+ community (especially those who are also POC) have been erased from our history-both in the past and the history that is being made now. I appreciated that this book presented these stories in an accessible, compelling way.

However, some parts of this book were frustrating. Like other reviewers have mentioned, the dismissive definition and overall exclusion of asexuality was problematic, especially since this book is intended for young readers who may be searching for personal representation. (I also felt as though bisexuality was somewhat dismissed, though not to the same extent.) Additionally, in some of the early chapters I struggled with the speculation surrounding some of the subjects featured. Were they a part of the LGBT+ community and that aspect of their identity was erased throughout history? Or did the authors misplace historical context and rely on speculation? I'm not really sure of the answer.

Overall, this book is a good starting point for learning about queer history and for introducing important historical figures that I didn't know about previously. When recommending this book to younger readers, be sure to share with them the criticisms along with how it succeeds.

"If some of our statements are bitter these days, you must remember that truth is our only sword." -Pauli Murray, writing to Eleanor Roosevelt
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312 reviews
February 16, 2019
My inclination when I started the book was four stars and although I've debated somewhat, I'm choosing to stick with that - primarily because there were people and events discussed in this book that I didn't know about and I appreciated that thoroughness. I appreciated as well that the book did not only focus on gay, lesbian, or trans individuals specifically, but also dealt with individuals and events that simply pushed outside of the traditional norm of heterosexual relationships or marriage - and I feel as if the title is an apt descriptor. The book is frank and open, while still being informative and appropriate for preteens and young adults.

I did debate three stars, and the reason for that primarily is that at times, the book felt a little preachy, or even as if it was talking down to its readers. I have not read the authors adult Queer History and am curious to look at that now, both because of an interest in additional sources, but also to see if it lacks that element.

The four stars holds because it's interesting content and overwhelmingly open and approachable, but there were points throughout the material where the tone did annoy or bother me and I wish some of that had been more carefully considered.

Overall, I believe it would be a useful addition to a juvenile or YA LGBT or American history collection.

I received an ARC copy of this from Publishers Weekly at ALA Midwinter.
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