For the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, an anthology chronicling the tumultuous fight for LGBTQ rights in the 1960s and the activists who spearheaded it, with a foreword by Edmund White.
Finalist for the Randy Shilts Award for Gay Nonfiction, presented by The Publishing Triangle
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June 28, 2019 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, which is considered the most significant event in the gay liberation movement, and the catalyst for the modern fight for LGBTQ rights in the United States. Drawing from the New York Public Library's archives, The Stonewall Reader is a collection of first accounts, diaries, periodic literature, and articles from LGBTQ magazines and newspapers that documented both the years leading up to and the years following the riots. Most importantly the anthology spotlights both iconic activists who were pivotal in the movement, such as Sylvia Rivera, co-founder of Street Transvestites Action Revolutionaries (STAR), as well as forgotten figures like Ernestine Eckstein, one of the few out, African American, lesbian activists in the 1960s. The anthology focuses on the events of 1969, the five years before, and the five years after. Jason Baumann, the NYPL coordinator of humanities and LGBTQ collections, has edited and introduced the volume to coincide with the NYPL exhibition he has curated on the Stonewall uprising and gay liberation movement of 1969.
This expansive collection of documents from the New York Public Library's LGBTQ history archive constructs a vital and dynamic narrative of the early days of gay liberation through the words of activists, writers, and other eyewitnesses. The book follows the movement through the years just before Stonewall, the event itself, and the years after. Plenty of the essays and excerpts are not specifically about Stonewall, but provide a broader picture of inequality and persecution, as with the salacious press coverage of trans woman Christine Jorgensen's transition. The riots are revisited from multiple perspectives: in one piece, activist and journalist Dick Leitsch recounts the events in more or less direct prose; the following piece, by a former Stonewall patron, more lyrically describes the incident as "Mother Stonewall giving birth to a new era." This collection is significant for its inclusion of essays and selections from memoir that provide a more intimate understanding of the movement's history. In a selection from Karla Jay's memoir, the activist recalls protesting homophobia in the feminist community, and an interview with Kiyoshi Kuromiya explores the misogyny and racism in the early stages of the LGBTQ movement. This window into the daily lives of activists and ordinary people fighting passionately against injustice is illuminating and inspiring.
First person history
Experience the present as history [and] ourselves as history makers”
“The function of the homosexual is to make you uneasy”
Divided into three sections: Before,During and After Stonewall, this book condenses the time from the 50s to the 70s with primary source material found in the extant collection of The NYPL archives. From some of the first more quiet reports, to actual interviews with participants, to reporters’ records of the time it is, to me, a marvelous overview of a time historically overlapping my own struggles with Women's Lib and my own sexuality. The oldest pieces pre-Mattachine Society to the anger of the racial divide within all movements post Stonewall this Jason Baumann compilation should be read by anyone who relishes see history through those who made it.
This is a truly wonderful book...a historical sociology...a memoir...containing first person accounts of activists in what is now known as the LGBTQIA+ community but in the 40s and 50s know as “sick”. I was born in the 50s in New England, and spent part of my summers on Cape Cod, so I did see “gay people” even if I never met one. When Stonewall happened, it barely blipped in Rhode Island. There was more focus on the Black Power Movement. And when I finally first saw The Stonewall, it was boarded up, as was my own life. I learned a lot about the role of Stonewall in both this book and “Liberation and Resistance”, both edited for the New York Public Library by Jason Baumann.
Highly recommended 5/5