Kirkus Reviews QR Code
A QUEER HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES by Michael Bronski Kirkus Star

A QUEER HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

By Michael Bronski

Pub Date: May 10th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-8070-4439-1
Publisher: Beacon

Illuminating history lesson integrating the homosexual movement into America’s historical landscape. This is the first book in the publisher’s ReVisioning American History series.

LGBT expert Bronski (Women’s and Gender Studies, Jewish Studies/Dartmouth Coll; Pulp Friction: Uncovering the Golden Age of Gay Male Pulps, 2003, etc.) contends that gay men and women’s contributions to the nation’s historical fabric have not always been recognized for their impact. To prove his point, the author ambitiously chronologically traces five centuries of significant, transformational events, people and places in gay history. Bronski reaches back to 1492 to highlight the sexually progressive European influence explorers like Christopher Columbus had on colonial culture and how those ideals locked horns with Puritanical mores. The author equates the injustice of slavery to homosexual oppression and explores the Revolutionary era’s strict ideas of gender conformity and the proliferation of same-sex “romantic friendships” in the 18th  century. Drawing on countless references from literary texts, gay classics, poetry, journals, newspaper articles and letters, Bronski gives readers a grand tour of queer cultural vantage points. These include the “outlaw culture” of San Francisco, the erotic prose of Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman, the homoerotic novels that indelibly shaped American literature and the pivotal revolution at the Stonewall Inn riots. The author suggests that as the United States grew in size, so did the tyrannical promotion of the heterosexual union as the “ideal relationship.” Evidence of abundant gay soldiers in World War II surprises almost as much as the lengths they took to interact with one another. Considering more recent events, Bronski ends with the AIDS activism of late-’80s radical group ACT UP and the still-simmering gay-marriage argument.

A lucid, cerebral treatise on gay culture from the point of view of a clever historian who maintains that “the heritage of LGBT people is the heritage of Americans.” Required reading for both established and newly emerging members of the gay community—and far beyond.