Title: Stonewall: A Building. An Uprising. A Revolution
Author: Rob Sanders
Illustrator: Jamey Christoph
Publisher: Random House, 2019
Themes: civil rights, lgbtqia+ history, New York, equal rights, Stonewall, 50 years anniversary of Stonewall
Two stables houses, side by side.
For more than a hundred years, we witnessed history. Then came a night when we became part of history.
We were built in the 1840’s to board the horses of the affluent in New York City’s Greenwich Village.
Inside our brick walls, horses whinnied and hammers clanged. Outside, passersby bustled as carriages rumbled on the cobblestone streets.
A rich and dynamic history of the Stonewall Inn and its role in the gay civil rights movement–a movement that continues to this very day. In the early-morning hours of June 28, 1969, the Stonewall Inn was raided by police in New York City. Though the inn had been raided before, that night would be different. It would be the night when empowered members of the LGBTQ+ community–in and around the Stonewall Inn–began to protest and demand their equal rights as citizens of the United States.
Why I like this book:
As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots this month, this is a beautiful lgbtqia+ nonfiction picture book for all ages on this important piece of civil rights’ history.
Written effectively and creatively from the POV of the Stonewall Inn, it narrates its own story from its humble beginning as a horse stable to an iconic, historical monument that was the birthplace of the fight for civil rights for the lgbtqia+ community.
It is pitched at young readers and this iconic history is presented with appropriate language and content for its audience. The harsh treatment of the police towards gay and lesbian people and the New York mob owning the bar, as well as some of the brutality of the riots is described though not in detail. The book ends on an optimistic note about some of the equal rights that the lgbtqia+ community now has, for which the Stonewall rioters paved the way. Jamey Christoph’s illustrations are vibrant, colorful and passionate and pair well with this text.
When I moved to New York in 2012, one of the first sites I made a point of visiting was the Stonewall Inn, and I confess this picture book left me with some powerful emotions. It is an important addition to school library shelves.
The back matter mentions how trans women of color were instrumental in the Stonewall Uprising, and I can only imagine the decision to include this in the back matter rather than in the heart of the book required some intense discussion within the editorial team. I would have liked to see Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera mentioned, but I hope these choices enable a very wide audience for this important book. There is also: suggestions for further reading, a glossary, additional information about the Stonewall Inn, now designated a National Historic Landmark, and archival photographs, as well as a brief interview with one of the participants in the riots.
Pair this with another picture book Rob wrote –Pride: the Story of Harvey Milk and the rainbow Flag
here’s an interview with the author on Alison Goldberg’s blog.
On June 6th, the NYPD issued a statement apologizing for the raid that lead to the Stonewall Riots.
Each week a group of bloggers reviews picture books we feel would make great educational reads. To help teachers, caregivers and parents, we have included resources and/or activities with each of our reviews. A complete list of the thousands of books we have reviewed can be found sorted alphabetically and by topics, here on Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.