Not that long ago, an eager reader could have read in a single summer all the books on LGBTQ+ history that had been written. Now, more and more books are being published all the time. “Book Shelf” is an attempt to introduce you to some of those books and encourage you to read them and learn more about their subjects. We provide short summaries of the book, some biographical notes about the author, a link to the publisher, and sometimes a document or two related to the book. If you are an author and want to provide a summary of your book and documents to go with it, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Over the course of the last half century, queer history has developed as a collaborative project involving academic researchers, community scholars, and the public. Initially rejected by most colleges and universities, queer history was sustained for many years by community-based contributors and audiences. Academic activism eventually made a place for queer history within higher education, which in turn helped queer historians become more influential in politics, law, and society. Through a collection of essays written over three decades by award-winning historian Marc Stein, Queer Public History charts the evolution of queer historical interventions in the academic sphere and explores the development of publicly oriented queer historical scholarship. From the AIDS crisis of the 1980s and the rise of queer activism in the 1990s to debates about queer immigration, same-sex marriage, and the politics of gay pride in the early twenty-first century, Stein introduces readers to key themes in queer public history. A manifesto for renewed partnerships between academic and community-based historians, strengthened linkages between queer public history and LGBT scholarly activism, and increased public support for historical research on gender and sexuality, this anthology reconsiders and reimagines the past, present, and future of queer public history.
The Stonewall Riots: A Documentary History presents a broad overview and more than 200 primary sources on the LGBT rebellion that erupted when New York City police raided a Greenwich Village gay bar in 1969. The book explores the developments in the 1960s that culminated in the uprising, the explosion of LGBT protests and demonstrations in 1969, and the mass mobilization and political empowerment that followed. The introduction considers diverse perspectives on what happened during the Stonewall Riots, competing explanations for why they occurred, conflicting arguments about how they mattered, and critical questions about who today lays claim to the legacy of the rebellion. The documents include mainstream, alternative, and LGBT media stories, gay bar guide listings, state court decisions, political fliers, first-person accounts, song lyrics, and photographs. The book is national in scope and focuses on the years from 1965 to 1973.
For teachers and students, this is a useful classroom text on the Stonewall Riots, generally recognized as the most important event in LGBTQ history. For everyone fascinated by urban rebellions, political activism, and social justice, the book offers colorful descriptions of gay bars, campy stories of queer resistance, courageous accounts of movement protests, powerful narratives of police repression, and inspiring examples of political empowerment. As a primary source reader with an accessible introduction, the book generates excitement and enthusiasm about historical research and writing. Its publication in the summer of 2019 coincided with the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.
After the introduction, the book proceeds in three parts. The first focuses on the pre-Stonewall era (1965-69), with chapters on gay bars and antigay policing, activist agendas and visions, and political protests. The second focuses on Stonewall (1969), with chapters on the inn and the riots. The third focuses on the post-Stonewall era (1969-73), with chapters on activist agendas and visions, political protests, and pride marches and parades.
Fashioning Sapphism draws on the tools of historical inquiry, the theoretical strengths of feminist and queer theories, and the interpretive strategies of various disciplines to scrutinize the social, cultural and political context surrounding the 1928 publication of Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness. Banned soon after by the British government as obscene the trial brought about massive media exposure of the subject of same-sex relations between women, and thus can be seen as a watershed event—the crystallizing moment in the construction of an English lesbian identity and subculture, and marking a great divide between innocence and deviance, private and public, New Woman and Modern Lesbian. As suggested by each of the key terms in the subtitle (The Origins of a Modern English Lesbian Culture), my approach constitutes a new direction in lesbian historiography by its insistence on a particularized national context and temporality in interrogating anew a range of myths long accepted without question (and still in circulation) concerning, to cite only a few, the extent of homophobia in the 1920s, or the strategic deployment of sexology against sexual minorities, or the rigidity of certain cultural codes to denote lesbianism in public culture.
Based on extensive new archival research, I examine a wide range of public and private documents, such as parliamentary records, diaries, letters, newspapers accounts, photographs, and so on. Through close reading of such texts, the book unsettles many of the received understandings of lesbian history, producing a revisionist intervention into terrain well trodden by others. Using an approach that might be called “lesbian cultural history,” I investigate the lives of lesbians of the past by engaging—or connecting—with a range of other areas of enquiry, such as medicine, psychology, sexology, law, literary representation, visual culture, and fashion, to demonstrate the importance of interdisciplinarity in recording the emergence of an increasingly visible lesbian subculture in England in the early 20th century. Emerging from the fruitful interactions of lesbian cultural studies, modernist studies, cultural history and queer theory, this project constitutes a new direction in lesbian studies and invites different perspectives on the formation of past sexual identities.
In the end, the aperture of social and cultural experimentation that modernity facilitated for women in the decade preceding the obscenity trial was illusory and ephemeral. After 1928, Hall’s fashioning of chic modernity, published in press reports everywhere, her daring in troubling the conventions of gender, and her powerful literary representation of the female sexual invert would coalesce to become the classic iconic type of the mannish lesbian. Henceforth Hall’s name would become the byword for a cultural figure far more threatening than the modern woman. What distances us from cultural perceptions of such relationships in the 1920s is that we no longer find tenable some of the options available to readers of that time, especially when the women in question appear to us today as ‘obviously’ mannish and/or lesbian. Fashioning Sapphism explores that moment of fluidity before this image became iconic.
For decades, the history of sexuality has been a multidisciplinary project serving competing agendas. Lesbian, gay and queer scholars have produced powerful narratives by tracing back as continuous or discontinuous a homosexual or queer subject. Yet organizing historical work around modern categories of identity as normal or abnormal often obscures how the sexual was known or talked about in the past. Set against the backdrop of women’s work experiences, friendships and communities during the First World War, Disturbing Practices draws on a substantial body of new archival material to expose the roadblocks in current historisizing practices and imagine alternatives.
In my project’s earliest stage I sought historical evidence to better substantiate claims that women serving in military organizations were thought abnormal or masculine, or that the war increased the visibility of lesbianism, a view popularized in Radclyffe Hall’s classic “lesbian” novel, The Well of Loneliness (1928), which idealizes the activities of an all-female ambulance unit working near the front lines and fantasizes about erotic possibilities. Of the myriad forms of war service, ambulance-driving attracted a number of well-known adventure-seeking women we now identify as lesbian, such as Gertrude Stein, who was joined by her partner Alice B. Toklas; the flamboyant Dolly Wilde, niece of Oscar; the eccentric speedboat racer Joe Carstairs; the former suffragettes Vera “Jack” Holme and the Hon. Evelina Haverfield (rumored to have been lovers); and Barbara “Toupie” Lowther, the model for Hall’s protagonist, Stephen Gordon. Soon my research interests expanded to include women like Violet Douglas-Pennant, the one-time commandant of the Women’s Royal Air Force, who had been accused or suspected of same-sex relations, and Florence Harley, a British Red Cross nurse who went to court to defend her reputation against allegations of sexual immorality. But then something unexpected happened that completely transformed the project: I began to take seriously the theorist Lee Edelman’s proposition that “queerness can never define an identity; it can only ever disturb one,” which struck me as profoundly unsettling in its suggestion that queerness might better serve the historian of sexuality as a tool or method rather than as an identity.
This seemed a far cry from current practices in lesbian, gay or queer history-making intent on recovering, remembering, imagining, touching or reconstructing lesbian, gay, or queer beings in the past. Disturbing Practices may have started out as a history of lesbianism (or a queer history of lesbianism) but it was becoming instead a historiography of sexuality, with (at least) two objectives: first, to examine the specific political interests, purposes, and investments of the project of recuperating and/or tracing a lesbian, gay or queer past as continuous or discontinuous in relation to identities we know about now and, second, to envisage alternative histories of sexuality to think differently about historicizing the sexual past.
Working out some of the problems in how we write the history of sexuality is best explained through historical example, which is the rationale that informs this book’s two-part structure in its movement from historiographical and theoretical problems to a set of case studies, focusing on Douglas-Pennant, Nurse Harley and women ambulance drivers, such as the “Angels of Pervyse,” Mairi Chisholm and Elsie Knocker. Ordinary Britons in the first half of last century seem not to have viewed sex or sexuality as we do in the present; sex-talk buzzed all around, legible to some and baffling to others—the aware, self-aware, and unaware sometimes gathered around a table to converse on a topic at once present and unfathomable.
Disturbing Practices clarifies the ethical value and political purpose of identity history, indeed its very capacity to give rise to innovative practices borne of sustained conversations between queer studies and critical history. It seeks to explore questions we have not yet posed about the modern sexual past.
Who, and what, is “heterosexual”? How did we come to think about ourselves, and our sexualities, in terms of something called “heterosexuality” and what does it mean that we do? These questions are at the core of Hanne Blank’s Straight: The Surprisingly Short History of Heterosexuality, a look at…
Surpassing the Love of Men: Romantic Friendship and Love Between Women from the Renaissance to the Present was first published in 1981 by William Morrow; was a New York Times Notable Book of 1981; won the Stonewall Book Award in 1982; was named by Lambda Literary Review as One of the 100 Best…
Most America’s know the story of Senator Joseph McCarthy and how he set off a “red scare” when he famously charged in 1950 that the US State Department and other government agencies had been infiltrated by communist agents. But few Americans know that McCarthy also charged that the government had…
The Stonewall Riots: A Documentary History presents a broad overview and more than 200 primary sources on the LGBT rebellion that erupted when New York City police raided a Greenwich Village gay bar in 1969. The book explores the developments in the 1960s that culminated in the uprising, the…