Book Club: A Queer History of the United States

Beacon Press, the nonprofit publishing company of the Unitarian Universalist Association, has a long history of publishing books that have informed and inspired civil rights and social justice movements, from James Baldwin’s Notes of a Native Son to Tucson author Laila Halaby’s Once in a Promised Land. In that tradition, Beacon has launched a new book series called ReVisioning American History. The first in that series is Michael Bronski’s A Queer History of the United States, which was released in hardcover in May 2011 and will be released in trade paperback on May 15, 2012.

Bronski frames LGBTQ history as one that is woven into the fabric of U.S. history — not separate from or additional to it.

Bronski explains in the introduction to his book that he is interested in providing something more than a history of “who might have been ‘gay’ in the past or had sexual relations with their own sex.” In fact, his mention of individuals is often pared down to the sheerest character sketches and profiles. Far from a collective biography of LGBTQ Americans, Bronski’s interest in individuals is often limited to a person’s role as agents in a process of evolving gender expectations, agents who sometimes shape those expectations and other times act independently of them. He explains that he doesn’t want to reduce history to “names, dates, political actions, political ideas, laws passed and repealed.” Instead, borrowing the words of Shulamith Firestone, he wants to present history “as process, a natural flux of action and reaction.” Continue reading