I was expecting a book mostly about the actual events of Stonewall itself, first of all. That’s not really what this is. Only about a third of it focuses on the actual riots, the middle section. The first section focuses on pre-Stonewall writings by queer authors, and the final third does the same except with the new perspective the events of Stonewall lent the queer community. This is obviously a smart way to structure the book, but I really did go in just wanting something mainly about those three nights, and maybe some historical context leading up and some effects after.
Mostly, though, I had a hard time paying attention to this for the same reason I always have a hard time paying attention to essay or story collections, and that’s that there isn’t a narrative through-line, and you essentially start over with every new piece of writing. The middle section concentrating on Stonewall itself didn’t really have that problem, and it was the most interesting part of the book for me, seeing so many different perspectives and memories on the same events. But especially in the first section, I had a hard time latching on because each essay was also mostly a part of a bigger whole, like a book or memoir, that I didn’t have available to me.
Overall, though, this is an eye-opening collection of primary historical documents about why exactly Stonewall was so important, and queer movements and activists leading up to and afterwards. I found myself constantly googling people and events as they were talked about, and went down many wormholes that also distracted me from finishing the book. Mostly what this book did is make me want to seek out further information, perhaps in a more cohesive narrative format, about this time in history.
“No matter that we were defending a Mafia club. The Stonewall was a symbol, just as the leveling of the Bastille had been. No matter that only six prisoners had been in the Bastille and one of those was Sade, who clearly deserved being locked up. No one chooses the right symbolic occasion; one takes what’s available.”
[3.5 stars, rounded up]
Read Harder Challenge 2021: Read an LGBTQ+ history book.