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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 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 1800s, changed her name to “Publick Universal Friend,” refused to use pronouns, fought for gender equality, and led her own congregation in upstate New York. In the mid-nineteenth century, internationally famous Shakespearean actor Charlotte Cushman led an openly lesbian life, including a well-publicized “female marriage.” And in the late 1920s, Augustus Granville Dill was fired by W. E. B. Du Bois from the NAACP’s magazine the Crisis after being arrested for a homosexual encounter. These are just a few moments of queer history that Michael Bronski highlights in this groundbreaking book.   Intellectually dynamic and endlessly provocative, 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 documents, literature, and cultural histories, noted scholar and activist Michael Bronski charts the breadth of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender history, from 1492 to the 1990s, and has written a testament to how the LGBT experience has profoundly shaped our country, culture, and history.   A Queer History of the United States abounds with startling examples of unknown or often ignored aspects of American history—the ineffectiveness of sodomy laws in the colonies, the prevalence of cross-dressing women soldiers in the Civil War, the impact of new technologies on LGBT life in the nineteenth century, and how rock music and popular culture were, in large part, responsible for the devastating backlash against gay rights in the late 1970s. Most striking, Bronski documents how, over centuries, various incarnations of social purity movements have consistently attempted to regulate all sexuality, including fantasies, masturbation, and queer sex. Resisting these efforts, same-sex desire flourished and helped make America what it is today.   At heart, A Queer History of the United States is simply about American history. It is a book that will matter both to LGBT people and heterosexuals. This engrossing and revelatory history will make readers appreciate just how queer America really is.


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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 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 1800s, changed her name to “Publick Universal Friend,” refused to use pronouns, fought for gender equality, and led her own congregation in upstate New York. In the mid-nineteenth century, internationally famous Shakespearean actor Charlotte Cushman led an openly lesbian life, including a well-publicized “female marriage.” And in the late 1920s, Augustus Granville Dill was fired by W. E. B. Du Bois from the NAACP’s magazine the Crisis after being arrested for a homosexual encounter. These are just a few moments of queer history that Michael Bronski highlights in this groundbreaking book.   Intellectually dynamic and endlessly provocative, 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 documents, literature, and cultural histories, noted scholar and activist Michael Bronski charts the breadth of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender history, from 1492 to the 1990s, and has written a testament to how the LGBT experience has profoundly shaped our country, culture, and history.   A Queer History of the United States abounds with startling examples of unknown or often ignored aspects of American history—the ineffectiveness of sodomy laws in the colonies, the prevalence of cross-dressing women soldiers in the Civil War, the impact of new technologies on LGBT life in the nineteenth century, and how rock music and popular culture were, in large part, responsible for the devastating backlash against gay rights in the late 1970s. Most striking, Bronski documents how, over centuries, various incarnations of social purity movements have consistently attempted to regulate all sexuality, including fantasies, masturbation, and queer sex. Resisting these efforts, same-sex desire flourished and helped make America what it is today.   At heart, A Queer History of the United States is simply about American history. It is a book that will matter both to LGBT people and heterosexuals. This engrossing and revelatory history will make readers appreciate just how queer America really is.

30 review for A Queer History of the United States

  1. 5 out of 5

    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” (to quote the book), were oddly silent. Not once was the w 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 word "asexual" used. Not once was an individual described as "bisexual", even if their relationships with both men and women were being discussed. Never was the gender dichotomy challenged. Trans individuals were mentioned, but often the descriptions of their lives were brief, when compared to the lengthy paragraphs devoted to the lives of lesbian suffragettes, gay writers, or the homosexual community in general. While I recognize that evidence is sparse, the utter lack of any queer presence in this book beyond lesbian, gay, and trans was extremely troubling. It does no good to shine a light in the ignored places of our history if that same light shuts out others. I expected better.

  2. 4 out of 5

    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 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 century is simply a quick run-down of the usual literary and political suspects (Walt Whitman might've been gay, y'all!). And by 'the present', Bronski means 1990, the year at which he unapologetically cuts off his narrative. Bronski's gallop through several hundred years of history certainly covers a lot of territory, and for that it may be worth reading. Anyone expecting analysis or a critical eye may be disappointed to find that the read is a bit like attending a cocktail party and hearing all the expected names dropped, but not being able after to remember if anything interesting about them was said.

  3. 4 out of 5

    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 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 that "berdache" is inaccurate and offensive, yet makes no attempt to use an alternative term--a failing made all the more striking when the book jacket captions one of the illustrations with the current term "two-spirit". (He also discusses a person who refused to use pronouns by repeatedly referring to this person as "her".) The book could also have benefited from one more look-over by an editor; I found a few typos here and there, and there were a couple of places where facts could have been introduced somewhat earlier in terms of narrative. I do still hope that this comes to be considered an important text, because it is sorely needed.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Lydia

    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 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 of bisexual / asexual and trans erasure present not only in the historical text but in the text itself. I liked that it often challenged and called out racist ideals of the time, as well as well-known historical figures who were racist, but I was just disappointed at times in the overall tone of this book, upon reflection. This feels very white-centered and very along the gay/lesbian binary, as well as the male/female binary. I'm pleased with the notes I made, but I just found this to be well-intentioned and equally harmful. At one point, Bronski conflates the queer struggle with the struggle for equality amongst African Americans in the United States. He makes one or two interesting points I suppose, but to conflate and compare struggles is harmful and has already been done a thousand times over. He then goes on to elaborate that we shouldn't compare struggles, but like lots of white male cis writers, lacks the subtlety to break down the intersectionality of blackness and queerness in any meaningful way. He then makes a smart move and quotes Audre Lorde, and then leaves the quotation unattended. The more I think about this, the more it sours in my mouth, which is sad because it was an enjoyable read, but I often wanted Bronski to check his privilege and drop his pejorative views. Oh well. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  5. 5 out of 5

    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.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jay

    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 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 ways that don't fall into these (and other pitfalls), glad this author have it a go. but for real there need to be better books than this. anybody have other book suggestions?

  7. 5 out of 5

    lavende

    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 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 memory). First of all, I disliked its approach which led to a lot of word count over colonial and racist, misogynistic, transphobic or ableist “homosexuals“ (& occasionally feminists), which is fine insofar as that the deeply flawed ideologies of prominent figures of LGBT history should definitely be highlighted, but that left very little space to contrast those people with black, native american and other LGBT people of color, women and specifically lesbians, trans people, disabled or at least nom-eugenicist LGBT people ... etc. Especially the way the author talked about native Americans and, relatedly, fetishization of both native men and women (in this book, by white men) was not great. Since I'm a white person myself, what I'm about to say is just as much seen from a white perspective as the original text by Michael Bronski. The fact that Morton and a number of other white men in the Merrymount colony invited native women to their maypole celebrations and that interracial marriages of those native women and white men were “encouraged“ by Morton is described as a proof for a liberal attitude held by Morton and Merrymount in regard to sexuality in general, implicitly including a potential tolerance of homosexuality. To me, it seems like plain fetishization of nonwhite, specifically native women. Later, Bronski attributes a positive quality to fetishization of romantic friendships between black and native men in popular literature by a white [gay, but not exclusively] audience, since the racist stereotype of sexually more “natural“ (less repressed by social conventions) men of color “helped white gay men embrace their own sexuality“ ... I mean? It's still bad? Apart from that, there was an okay amount of mentions of lesbians, but Bronski almost exclusively referred to bisexuals as “homosexuals who slept with [opposite sex]“, for example James Dean, which I did find very ... odd. He does mention bisexuality occasionally, but never explicitly talks about it the way “homosexuality“ is talked about. Obviously it can be hard to label people who didn't have the same understanding of sexuality as we do now, but that doesn't explain why the author had no problem labelling people as “homosexual“, heterosexual or sometimes “queer“. The focus transgender people and activism in this book is so miniscule that it pretty much doesn't exist. A handful of organizations and people are named, but it does in no way help understand the state of transgender people's lives and rights throughout American history. Here, again, exists an overlap between gay people and trans people who would've identified differently through history than today, but again, barely mentioning something at all that is explicitly included in the word “queer“ as well as the acronym LGBT which Bronski used to define the group of people whose history he was going to write about, is just ... bad academic writing plain and simple.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Saige

    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 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 paragraphs around them. There was also a decided lack of transitions. It switched amongst topics in a chapter and I was left searching for a connection that wasn't there. I learned some new facts, but overall this is definitely not one of my top texts for LGBT history.

  9. 4 out of 5

    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 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 since then (he mentions this in the epilogue but doesn't really give much beyond that, for whatever reason). Recommended if you want a basic history of queer history, but if you're already knowledgeable in the subject, I don't think there's much here for you that you might not already know.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    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 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 identify as gay or lesbian, with very little writing afforded to bisexual, non-binary (outside of cross-dressing), and other identities.

  11. 5 out of 5

    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 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 you're looking for an overview of its' history find a more reliable source.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Nate

    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 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 ideal decidedly better than in Oscar Wildes time, in which we live today. I would have preferred more specific stories on, say, Rustin’s contributions to the Civil Rights movement, or Eleanor Roosevelt’s sway with her husband. But since this book encompasses over 300 years I understand why some stories had to be skimmed over. I have seen other reviewers on Goodreads comment that certain communities were underrepresented in the book. That is true, but Bronski makes a point to say in the beginning that GLBTQ history is difficult to prove. Records actively leave out or codify facts that would have gotten their subjects thrown in jail or killed. Sexualities of people from the past cannot be proven. And retrofitting common identities we know today to people who lived in sexually repressed societies would not be ethical or accurate. Plus, we can’t expect an author writing in 2011 to be up on the common parlance of 2020. I was disappointed to find no mention of Abraham Lincolns’ possible bisexuality. But, again, it cant be substantiated. Men in that time shared beds and we cannot know if they had sex while doing so. Men and women in that time wrote romantic and emotional letters to their friends that sound very much to people living today like love letters. But we cannot know.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Tommy Estlund

    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.

  14. 4 out of 5

    BAM The Bibliomaniac

    A great resource of homoerotic literature

  15. 4 out of 5

    Adam Ross

    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 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 begin their reading of American history before European settlement in 1492, so that we get a sense of how indigenous people viewed the subject as well. The chapters on early American attitudes toward LGBTQ people was surprisingly enriching - the Puritans had laws on the books but rarely enforced them, and homosexual partnerships were well known up through the 1950s, and for a large part of that time there was a "live-and-let-live" attitude - so long as LGBTQ people didn't broadcast it in public, they would be left alone. The exploration of LGBTQ characters in early American literature, in war and the military, and in social life, was also a fascinating history, as well as how responses to and reactions against LGBTQ people and their depictions in the pulps and in literature shaped heteronormative concepts of masculinity and femininity. The book (in fact the whole series) is worth reading, and gets you to look at American history through different eyes than we're used to.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Lee

    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.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ali Sousa

    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.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    Fascinating, well researched, very accessible.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Carlos

    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 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 and G in the LGBTQ+ and still had the nerve to title the book with such an inclusive- and term of identity- as queer. I felt lots of erasure specially on Bisexuals, Transgenders and Transsexuals, not even to note that I believe there's not a single mention of asexuals in this book. The wording the author used showed fear, and I would say even denial to call the actions of people and sexualities by their name if they didn't fall into gay or lesbian; rather contradictory for a book meant to be about raising awareness of what it means to be queer in America. If I'm correct, the book was published in 2011, and even though this is suppossed to be a storyline from the past up to the present (2011), the author cuts short his narrative in the 1990's in a sluggish way. That being said, I am not as harsh as I normally would, especially if the text was more contemporary, but even so, by 2011 there was definitely more information on LGBTQ+ studies to make a way more serious book. As I stated earlier, the book is okay. You can find some "tea" here regarding famous gays and lesbians, but it wasn't more than a huge listing of names, rather than focusing on the repression/oppression these people felt, an aspect that at times got lost in the narrative and sea of names of people and books. Reading this wasn't a total waste of time, but I would've preferred to read a more critical, inclusive and assertive work of what it means to be part of the LGBTQ+ community and movement.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    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 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 both the religious challenges and encouragements; the connection between women's rights and the civil rights movement for blacks, and how they dovetail into the more recent experience for gay people. Interestingly for me, he did a wonderful job of showing how WWII was perhaps the true catalyst for change in the 20th century when it came to the understanding of human sexuality in general, and development of LGBT perspectives in particular. Throughout the book Bronski lifts of numerous people, in all walks of social life, who not only were gay, but who help to bring about change in attitudes amidst our country. LBGT people still have a long way to go to be fulled accepted, welcomed, and made and equal part of our cultural expression. Yet this book shows a positive trajectory which I hope will continue forward, rapidly, for the full inclusion and welcome of LGBT people in America.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jinn

    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 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 main criticism that I have with this book is that it should really be called A Gay and Lesbian History of the United States. Bronski discusses the history of gay men and lesbians extensively - how they lived, how they managed in a society that made their love illegal, and how they fought for equality - the word "bisexuality" was in there twice (both mentions were in the same paragraph) and I don't think trans people were mentioned as often as that (unless you count mentions of gender-nonconforming Native Americans at the beginning). So even though it was a really good history of gay men and lesbians in the United States, I wouldn't say it's a complete history of queerness in America. That said, though, it was still a really good book. It's well-researched, and like I said, I love the opportunity to see people like me in the past. The book stops before 1990, just after the gay liberation movement kicked off, so it's all the gay and lesbian history you never read about in school.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Haemophilus

    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 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 to other books about queer history that cover mainly the 20th century (e.g. Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers, The Gay Revolution) this book is shockingly short which means the information it presents is very shallow. Non-white erasure is common in gay historical texts and, as other reviewers have said, it's present here too. The brief coverage of the AIDS epidemic is appalling considering its significance to our history. I do not think this book is even a good introduction to queer history in the United States. I would recommend reading several other books about LGBTQ history first before moving on to this one as a supplement. All that said, I'm not recommending against reading this book. It's an enjoyable curiosity and it goes down easy. Just know that this is far from the whole story it advertises itself to be.

  23. 5 out of 5

    David Avery

    This would have been a solid, 4 star read for me if didn't over-promise and under deliver. The blurb breathlessly proclaims it will cover “the entirety of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender history, from pre-1492 to the present.” In reality, it mostly covers a period from the 1920s or so to 1990, when it inexplicably ends even though it was published in 2011. Seriously, how can the publisher claim this covers the entirety up to the present? Not only because it stopped in 1990, but especiall This would have been a solid, 4 star read for me if didn't over-promise and under deliver. The blurb breathlessly proclaims it will cover “the entirety of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender history, from pre-1492 to the present.” In reality, it mostly covers a period from the 1920s or so to 1990, when it inexplicably ends even though it was published in 2011. Seriously, how can the publisher claim this covers the entirety up to the present? Not only because it stopped in 1990, but especially because so much has happened since then, things I never even thought in 1990 I would ever see in my lifetime! “Intellectually dynamic and endlessly provocative . . . a book that radically challenges how we understand American history”? Not in my opinion. “An engrossing and revelatory history”? I didn’t find that either. If you are looking for a solid, workmanlike academic work on a broad swath of mid 20th century US gay history until 1990, you will find this book interesting and respectable if not particularly revelatory, and a solid, worthwhile 4 star read. If you are looking to learn more about pre-20th century gay life, which is what I was looking for when I chose this book, you will be left feeling mislead.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Katie/Doing Dewey

    This book about the history of LGBT culture and social issues contained a ton of fascinating information. I was surprised by the visibility of the LGBT community over the centuries this book covers. Similar to my feeling when reading about women in science, I knew intellectually that this was a population that had been written out of history, but seeing some of what’s there if we only look still somehow makes this erasure more shocking. I also found this examination of how American attitudes tow This book about the history of LGBT culture and social issues contained a ton of fascinating information. I was surprised by the visibility of the LGBT community over the centuries this book covers. Similar to my feeling when reading about women in science, I knew intellectually that this was a population that had been written out of history, but seeing some of what’s there if we only look still somehow makes this erasure more shocking. I also found this examination of how American attitudes towards sex and gender have changed over time really interesting. There were several fun facts I had to share while reading. Unfortunately, despite the interesting material here, the writing style was terribly dry. This narrative covered so many years of history that no one individual got more than a few sentences. As a result, there weren’t a lot of engaging people stories. The author also waxed philosophical too often for my liking and read more than I thought was justified into just a handful of examples of art from different time periods. This review first published at Doing Dewey.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    This book covers a history of the U.S. from a queer perspective beginning with early colonialism and ending at 1990. He covers social attitudes toward homosexuality and other queer identities, important queer people in history (but not necessarily queer activists), and queer literature. I have glanced through the print book before, but I listened to the whole thing on audio. It was an interesting history, though sometimes very dry. There was a lot of information packed into this one, so it's one This book covers a history of the U.S. from a queer perspective beginning with early colonialism and ending at 1990. He covers social attitudes toward homosexuality and other queer identities, important queer people in history (but not necessarily queer activists), and queer literature. I have glanced through the print book before, but I listened to the whole thing on audio. It was an interesting history, though sometimes very dry. There was a lot of information packed into this one, so it's one of those that probably takes a few reads before all of the information sinks in. While I wasn't the biggest fan of the narrator, I'm glad I listened to the audio. There were parts I wasn't as interested in and I just felt free to zone out during some of that. My one issue is that it felt like it centered much more on queer men than women, but this may have been due to the lack of documentation of women's lives before the 19th and 20th century. Still, it's a great picture of life in the U.S. through the queer lens. It was a good one for LGBT History Month. Recommended. Grades 11 through Adult. Some scholarly reference to sexual activity.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Becky

    This was a solid, well-researched book, and basically readable even though it skewed academic in its language. I didn't get a lot out of it, but it's a good introductory text. One thing to note is that the book is very much a history not of the United States in totality, but of the contemporary LGBTQ community. It's a "how did we get here" kind of read. This is all well and good, but I thought there could have been better coverage of racial minorities (especially non-Black people of color), indig This was a solid, well-researched book, and basically readable even though it skewed academic in its language. I didn't get a lot out of it, but it's a good introductory text. One thing to note is that the book is very much a history not of the United States in totality, but of the contemporary LGBTQ community. It's a "how did we get here" kind of read. This is all well and good, but I thought there could have been better coverage of racial minorities (especially non-Black people of color), indigenous communities, the Latin American world, and rural/working-class/non-visible folks whose experiences didn't survive to become the "gay community" as we now imagine it. As an example of what I was hoping to see: I remember my American women's history professor including lessons on Native American and West African women. Even though these histories were subsumed by European imperialism, we still studied them. In Bronski's defense, I'd hazard a guess that we don't have enough academics writing about the queer history of marginalized people, sad face.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

    I learned a lot about queer history that I was never taught in school -- the only mention of any queer history I got in high school was a brief mention of the Stonewall riots during an out of class AP test practice session, so extremely bare minimum. However, I was frustrated with how this book, though it seeks to address its limits and shortcomings in the beginning, focuses almost entirely on white gay men and lesbians with very little attention given to people who are trans, nonbinary, bi, pan I learned a lot about queer history that I was never taught in school -- the only mention of any queer history I got in high school was a brief mention of the Stonewall riots during an out of class AP test practice session, so extremely bare minimum. However, I was frustrated with how this book, though it seeks to address its limits and shortcomings in the beginning, focuses almost entirely on white gay men and lesbians with very little attention given to people who are trans, nonbinary, bi, pan, etc, or people who are Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian, etc. And the incessant use of he/she and latino/latina! what kind of queer history book can't use singular they or other gender neutral identifiers?? I was also kind of frustrated how the book stopped in the 90s, when decades have passed since then. Overall, I appreciated learning more about queer history, but I don't think anyone already more familiar with the topic would learn much.

  28. 4 out of 5

    taz

    I learned a lot, but it was incredibly dry in most places. There are a few notable figures missing, as other reviewers have pointed out. Bronski only mentioned Harvey Milk once, and not even in connection to his being the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California. He also takes some more radical viewpoints in the epilogue (he disagrees with the "just like you" justification). This shows through somewhat when he discusses the gay liberation movement as well (he agrees wi I learned a lot, but it was incredibly dry in most places. There are a few notable figures missing, as other reviewers have pointed out. Bronski only mentioned Harvey Milk once, and not even in connection to his being the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California. He also takes some more radical viewpoints in the epilogue (he disagrees with the "just like you" justification). This shows through somewhat when he discusses the gay liberation movement as well (he agrees with this approach, rather than the legalization process). Overall, though, I think it was pretty well-rounded. It's surprising it took me so long to read a book so short, but I suppose it is due to the fact that every other sentence is loaded with facts and dates.

  29. 4 out of 5

    David Lucander

    I adopted this in my Civil Rights Movement class and have gotten a couple of nicely done research papers from students who read it. This is an excellent single-volume history of LGBT people in the US. I wish this book went a little closer to the present, it ends at the HIV/AIDS crisis. There's very insightful sections on gay men in the military in the 1900s and out west in the 1800s - these were basically safe places for queer-oriented men to gravitate. Bronski does a nice job weaving popular cu I adopted this in my Civil Rights Movement class and have gotten a couple of nicely done research papers from students who read it. This is an excellent single-volume history of LGBT people in the US. I wish this book went a little closer to the present, it ends at the HIV/AIDS crisis. There's very insightful sections on gay men in the military in the 1900s and out west in the 1800s - these were basically safe places for queer-oriented men to gravitate. Bronski does a nice job weaving popular culture (body building, sexual revolution, theater) into the narrative. I wish there was a greater focus on the lives of LGBT people, something like a mini-bio of a noteworthy/significant/typical person from each chapter would give readers historical figures to connect with.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Steven Hunt

    Insightful. Definitely not a complete history, it is from the perspective of colonization, but it is applicable to Western culture so I find it appropriate. I found the book Sex and the Constitution a good supplement to this book and also Making Gay History. Read in combination, you have a very good idea of the formulation of gay rights and how they have shaped American society. What I find surprising is how all of these books overlook the fact that many pertinent people in history had "gay" tend Insightful. Definitely not a complete history, it is from the perspective of colonization, but it is applicable to Western culture so I find it appropriate. I found the book Sex and the Constitution a good supplement to this book and also Making Gay History. Read in combination, you have a very good idea of the formulation of gay rights and how they have shaped American society. What I find surprising is how all of these books overlook the fact that many pertinent people in history had "gay" tendencies. From some of the founding fathers to some of the presidents of the United States! Would have been interesting to include these. In general, I recommend this book.

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