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Real Queer America: LGBT Stories from Red States

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  1,771 ratings  ·  326 reviews
A transgender reporter's narrative tour through the surprisingly vibrant queer communities sprouting up in red states, offering a vision of a stronger, more humane America.

Ten years ago, Samantha Allen was a suit-and-tie-wearing Mormon missionary. Now she's a senior Daily Beast reporter happily married to another woman. A lot in her life has changed, but what hasn't ch
Kindle Edition, 321 pages
Published March 5th 2019 by Little, Brown and Company
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Cece (ProblemsOfaBookNerd)
I have so many thoughts about this brilliant book and I don’t know how I’ll ever say them all in a video. Maybe it deserves its own dedicated discussion just to break down the incredible breadth and heart of this story and the queer communities we create in conservative states. I know that it has impacted me in a myriad of ways and I will never stop recommending it, and I implore you to pick it up if you want to see the colorful queerness in America today. There are so many of us, and we are so ...more
Jan 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
In Real Queer America, queer reporter Samantha Allen embarks on a road trip across Red State America, from Provo, Utah to the Bible Belt to the Deep South, illuminating LGBT narratives that often go unmentioned in broader media circles. She portrays the beloved community of LGBT individuals in the South as well as the fight for queer rights in these conservative states. I appreciated Allen’s warm and vulnerable narration and her disclosure of her own story of coming out, both to others and herse ...more
Madalyn (Novel Ink)
Apr 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This one hit me DEEP, and this is a book that I think will always hold a dear place in my heart. Fellow queer folks, especially those in red states: this is a must-read. Samantha Allen perfectly captured the unique experience of being queer in a conservative community, and both the wonderful and not-so-great things about it. And the Atlanta chapter? So much love. I will be thinking about these stories for quite a long time to come!
Sarah Swedberg
May 05, 2019 rated it liked it
I wanted to like this book more.

Maybe the problem is that I live in red America and do the really hard work of trying to make it a safer place for LGBTQ+ people. Many days I feel like the work is impossible, despite some gains. This doesn't stop me from working toward those gains, but it also exhausts me.

Maybe because of that I think Allen mythologizes people like the people I know to too great an extent.

I also think that she dismisses the good work of people in cities too easily. She writes of
This audiobook helped me pin point some of my feelings about queer organizing in the US South and my feelings around being a transplant from the NE. But I am not without criticism of this book. Many of these are based on my expectations of the book. I was expecting the book to be a little heavier on the road trip narrative- instead it leans on modern queer history. This is not inherently bad, but since much of the recent history is lived history for me I found myself being disappointed that the ...more
Nov 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
I found this both interesting and moving. As a straight, cis person who wants to be a good ally, this book provided me a lot of insight. RTC

Full review:

As a straight, cis person who wants to be a good ally, I picked this book up to give me a broader perspective of the lives of LGBTQ people, especially since most of the media focus seems to be on those living in the more liberal coastal enclaves. The premise of the book intrigued me, because as the author points out throughout the course of the b
Apr 23, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I had been very excited to read about the stories of LGBTQ+ people in "red" states in the US. It sounded like it would be an interesting look at what it's like, at how they live their lives and deal with living in "red" states. The author herself went through a similar journey, going from a "suit-and-tie-wearing Mormon missionary" to a reporter now married to another woman.

The author takes us through various red states and interviews people there: their lives, how they realized who they were, ho
Feb 11, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lgbt, woman-authored
A book that had the potential to finally give voice to the silenced stories of queer people living in conservative regions, "Real Queer America" is instead dogged by its author, Samantha Allen's, constant missives about her disdain for New York City.

In the aftermath of Trump's election in 2016, journalist Samantha Allen asked herself what the lives of queer people living in the heart of Trump country were like. Herself having come of age and transitioned in small cities and rural areas in "red s
Humans are humans are humans. Why are people so afraid of those who are not exactly like them? This is where personal essays really shine, eliciting empathy and understanding. This collection is a good mix of personal stories and relevant commentary. Samantha Allen, an award-winning journalist, who happens to be transgender, takes us on a journey through LGBT communities in conservative states. Insightful read!
Rickey Bach
Jul 06, 2019 rated it it was ok
When I first downloaded this audiobook, I expected chapters which were snugly spun around certain individuals, who share their experiences of being queer in more conservative areas of the US. Having grown up in a very red, impoverished, and rural part of the country as a queer person myself, I wanted to connect with stories that were similar to my own. Although there are some great stories like this in the book, I felt that they were greatly overshadowed by the authors disdain for New York City, ...more
Jan 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
As a small town Southern queer, I want everyone to read this book. Not everyone can, should, or *wants* to leave their Southern and Midwestern towns. Those that stay build a better future for everyone that comes after. I hope this is especially eye opening to those in urban enclaves like San Francisco, New York, LA, and Chicago: there are beautiful, thriving queer communities everywhere. The book itself meanders and doubles back on itself a few times, but I can't fault it too much - it is, after ...more
Jessica Woodbury
3.5 stars. Allen's goal of showcasing the breadth and depth of queer life in red states is a worthy one and she more than meets it. For me personally, I think it's a bit too muddy in the amount of personal narrative that is included. It's not that Allen's story isn't interesting and doesn't give perspective, because it does, but it sometimes feels almost like an even split, half memoir and half reporting, and I think I would have pushed it towards more like 70/30, especially as Allen has lived i ...more
Jan 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
The story of an endlessly endearing queer trans journalist who sets out on a road trip to prove that middle America is not just as queer, but queerer, than the coastal havens? Yes please!

To start with, Samantha Allen’s unique voice comes through so strongly in this book, turning what could be a dry list of statistics and anecdotes into an engrossing journey full of humor, vulnerability, insightfulness and joy. Her voice is joined by the voices of her road brother Billy and everyone they meet alo
Jul 06, 2019 rated it it was ok
I struggled with drafting a review and decided I should instead leave a note for potential readers: this book seems to suffer from meddling by the publisher or editor(s) attempting to capitalize on the easy journalism popular post-2016-election that is, “we sent our coastal city journalists to a [coal town/bar in the Midwest/town that went red for the first time in history]!! They’re just like us!!” I say this because 200+ pages in we discover the author was told her *travel memoir* could sell, ...more
Ryan McIlvain
Mar 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What really surprised me in this memoir-cum-travelogue-cum-sociological-study was not how smart it was but how fun! I've come to expect remarkable insight from Allen--that's long been on display in her reporting and editorializing on LGBT issues in The Daily Beast. Yet something about the long form here liberates her to be consequential and breezy at the same time, colloquial and lyrical, dropping statistics (but not too many!) alongside seemingly throwaway lines of sharp poetic beauty. "Time is ...more
Jul 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So enjoyed gaining the perspective from a trans woman reporting on the very conservative parts of the country which all too many liberals are always quick to discredit as bigoted & dangerous for the LGBT+ populations there. The author made a great point about how even though some towns or states are vehemently working against them (Indiana for example under Mike Pence), it is still their home and they want to have a life and feel safe and flourish regardless of the narrow minded people in charge ...more
Gary  Beauregard Bottomley
Our self identity is a complex thing. It gets stamped on to us from the community around us including the bars we go to, the churches we prayer in and the malls we shop at. Our image of ourselves that others stamped onto us gets formed into shaping our character. What we authentically think and desire for ourselves forms the masks that we wear as we present it to the world and ourselves, and it helps creates our personality, who we strive to be and to become despite the distractions, ambiguities ...more
Sep 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lgbt, nonfiction, 2019
Well I cried

“I have spent a week doing nothing but talk to people. But talking is far from nothing. Words are the literal stuff of change.”

I read a nonfiction book?? Not only that, but I loved it??? What is happening.

Part travel memoir and part recent history of queer America, this book joins journalist Samantha Allen on a road trip across America’s most conservative areas as she finds communities of LGBT+ people and examines why they stay instead of flocking to blue states. Through telling the
Won in a Goodreads giveaway

2019-01-22 08.34.19 (edited-Pixlr) fgydrtdfgyfy

Samantha Allen embarks on a road trip to show us how LGBTQ live in seemingly LGBTQ unfriendly areas. Along the way she visits LGBTQ hot spots and interviews the people who run them or some other noteworthy people about what drives them, why they stay, etc. I don't identify as LGBTQ (heteroromantic asexual in a hetero marriage) but it seemed like a good portrayal of LGBTQ life.

The places she travels to are : Provo Utah, Texas, Bloomington Indiana, Johnson City Tenness
Such a beautiful reflection--so timely, and something I hope becomes outdated very, very soon. I wasn't quite expecting its trajectory, probably mostly because I avoid synopses and reviews apart from identifying something I want to read, and so I was a little surprised that this focused on cities that are more or less progressive bubbles in mostly conservative, Southern states. I loved the discussions of identity in all its iterations, but particularly that of geographical identity (obviously?) ...more
May 12, 2019 rated it it was ok
The concept behind this book was amazing and I loved everyone who the author spoke about and interviewed. But I felt this book had far too many metaphors, pop culture references and badly integrated statistics that didn’t allow it to flow the way I really wished it had.

I hope the author writes more books about things like this because I feel the things they are discussing here are worth exploring further, but I would need their writing style to change/improve for me to enjoy their content more.
Aug 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lgbtq
Really good read, especially if you’re trying to learn more about the trans community. As a northerner, I can be pretty judgmental of the South. While LGBTQ people definitely face more challenges down there, it’s heartening to know how active and resilient the queer communities are, especially in places I never would’ve expected. In particular, I really liked the opening chapter about Provo and seeing the intricacies of the intersection of Mormon and queer.
Jessica Marks
Feb 12, 2021 rated it it was ok
I'm waffling between two and three stars, so let's just settle in the middle and say 2.5, and I hate to say that I didn't like it because there is a really important message of carving your space out in your hometown, finding your people, and creating change from within. But the book just wasn't what I expected and definitely read more like a memoir than what I wanted.
Most of the places the author visits are places that she's lived and most of the people that she interviews are her friends. So
This is what I have learned on my travels: America is a deeply queer country—not just the liberal bastions and enclaves, but the so-called real America sandwiched between the coasts. (6)

In Real Queer America, trans lesbian journalist Samantha Allen takes a road trip across the southern United States, from Utah to Florida, in 2017. With the motto "something gay every day," her mission was to participate in and expose the existence of small-town queer communities. Allen notes that most media atten
Feb 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I picked up this book, I assumed it was going to be a big bummer of a read. Being LGBT in a ultra conservative state like Mississippi? Having the state you live in constantly threaten to take away your right to use the bathroom? Living in a place that does not even pretend to value your safety? All sounds bad. I was prepared for a long, depressing ride. I was (mostly) wrong. While there is plenty of legislation discussed and statistics mentioned that made me so so sad (for every act of LGBT ...more
Heather Brose
Jan 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
I thought this book was very powerful. We all have our preconceptions about Red States and I was pleasantly surprised to learn about the supportive communities within these states for LGBTQ+ people. It's always difficult to hear about the oppression and violence against LGBTQ+ people however, along this journey with Samantha, you also learn there are good, loving people all across the US that support and advocate for LGBTQ+ rights.

Thank you Samantha for giving a voice to various LGBTQ+ individu
Feb 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The world does not deserve the closing scene of this book, which showcases a turtle in a crystal-clear natural spring living up to its full potential. I won’t say more.

Samantha Allen, who is a GLAAD Award-winning reporter with the Daily Beast, has written a truly lovely, warm, funny, poignant, and important travel memoir about visiting queer communities in states usually overlooked or maligned (in many cases deservedly so) because of the cruel and punitive laws they subject their queer citizens
Kody Keckler
Aug 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lgbt, nonfiction
This book was a fun, optimistic journey across a few deeply red states in America. As a young person born and raised in a “purple” state that seems to be becoming more and more red every day, a lot of the stories and experiences rang true. This book presented so many people doing so many important things to advance queer (and especially trans) justice across the States, and I most appreciated the scope and resourcefulness of organizations and community members everywhere.

We, as a queer community
Jul 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So, shall I send a copy to Ms. Taylor Swift?

Dr. Samantha Allen is captivating, blending her own story with her reportage, on a 6 week road trip through some red states. This is a must read for anyone, almost especially queer people, who have exclusively lived in blue, queer-friendly towns/counties/cities/states in America. There is a cultural misunderstanding about queer people existing and thriving, by way of staying and cultivating their roots in beautiful rural places and Southern cities. Sa
Feb 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: not-cis-authors
Samantha Allen's book Real Queer America is an inspiring, optimistic, heartfelt letter to fellow queer folks living in red states in the United States. But it's also incredibly informative (and gently corrective) to cishet liberals living in blue states. You know, the people who tend to look down from their high horse, putting us on their personal "no travel" lists, making assumptions about what life is like in conservative areas of the country.

Allen's book offers a more realistic perspective on
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Samantha Allen is the author of REAL QUEER AMERICA: LGBT STORIES FROM RED STATES (Little, Brown, 2019), LOVE & ESTROGEN (Amazon Original Stories, 2018) , and M TO (WT)F (Audible Originals, 2020). She is a GLAAD Award-winning journalist who covers LGBT stories. She received her Ph.D. in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from Emory University in 2015 and was the 2013 recipient of the Kinsey Ins ...more

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“Nothing could be queerer than getting out of your comfort zone.” 2 likes
“Social progress, I realize, happens not just through the sort of revolutionary actions that generate Oscar-baiting biopics but through the underestimated power of conversation—through small exchanges of generosity and goodwill, through questions asked in good faith, through love expressed with no preconditions or expectations of return. I have spent a week doing nothing but talk to people. But talking is far from nothing. Words are the literal stuff of change.” 2 likes
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