Title: The Stonewall Riots, Coming Out in the Streets
Author: Gayle E. Pitman
Publisher: Abrams, 2019
Genre: MG/YA Nonfiction
Themes: stonewall riots, lgbtqia+ history, gay liberation movement, gay rights, Greenwich village, PRIDE, social justice, politics, gay history, New York gay movement, civil rights,
Greenwich Village is one of the most vibrant and bustling neighborhoods in New York City, filled with apartment buildings, brown stone row houses, , shops, and restaurants. Its also one of the most famous gay neighborhoods in the world.
This book is about the Stonewall Riots, a series of spontaneous, often violent demonstrations by members of the gay (LGBTQ+) community in reaction to a police raid that took place in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City. The Riots are attributed as the spark that ignited the LGBTQ+ movement. The author describes American gay history leading up to the Riots, the Riots themselves, and the aftermath, and includes her interviews of people involved or witnesses, including a woman who was ten at the time. Profusely illustrated, the book includes contemporary photos, newspaper clippings, and other period objects. A timely and necessary read, The Stonewall Riots helps readers to understand the history and legacy of the LGBTQ+ movement.
Why I like this book:
I have read several books about the Stonewall Riots, but this is my favorite by far, and wholly accessible to 6th graders up to adults. It reminded me a little of that other gay classic October Mourning by Lesléa Newman because of Pitman’s clever use of an object as the springboard for each chapter’s focus.
Published with intention this year for the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in Greenwich village and the police resistance, the book is extremely well-researched and covers the birth of the Gay rights movement with enormous breadth and readability. Aimed at a younger audience, it breaks things down by important: places, individuals, objects, movements, explaining the connection between each focus. It covers truly a lot of ground: the Mattachine Society, The Daughters of Bilitis, how the mob was linked with the NYC gay scene, about the rockette-like leg kickers fronted some of the riots,and even how the Nazi legacy of the VW bug was transformed into a hippy icon…. Chapters are short and catchy. Language which might be unfamiliar to younger readers is briefly explained, which was a great editorial choice, and the prejudice and tragedy of certain events aren’t avoided. Also, the lack of certain clear facts that surround the initial Stonewall rade are not glossed over. As a children’s librarian, I love how different perspectives are offered when facts aren’t clear.
This is an important civil rights book of the build-up to, the events of, and the aftermath of the Stonewall Riots in 1969. I hope finds its ways into many schools and libraries as well as homes. Much of America has still to move well beyond the prejudice of the 60’s, and these queer stories are as important to read about as those of the POC community. I was appreciative of Pitman’s sensitivity to the key role of the Queens and transgender resisters to these uprisings, and how their rights are in many ways only recently starting to be acknowledged. Well known and much less well known individual people’s stories are shared here and we owe much to their courage and struggles. Those still struggling will take comfort from their stand.
Last summer, I visited the GLBT Historical Society Museum, located in the heart of San Francisco’s Castro District, is the first full-scale, stand-alone museum of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender history and culture in the United States. The visit was grand, but I have to say that reading Gayle Pitman’s book was just as powerful and enlightening experience for me. This may also be because since living in new York, I have visited Stonewall many times, and because my first ever Pride march was in Manhattan.
My favorite quote: “This was just another battle. Nobody thought of it as History, Her-Story, My-Story, Your-Story or Our-Story. We were being denied a place to dance together. That’s all.”
The book includes a timeline, extensive bibliography/resources, and notes about each “object”…. this lends itself to social science classes.