The Right Side of History by Adrian Brooks: book review

I have an unalienable, constitutional and natural right to love
whom I may…and with that right neither you nor
any law you can frame have any right to interfere…I trust that I am fully understood, for I
mean just that. 
 Victoria Hull, 1871

The Right Side of History: 100 Years of LGBTQI Activism, edited by Adrian Brooks, should be in every bookstore and library and adopted as a textbook in every college-level, American history course.

Adrian Brooks has assembled a formidable body of work that chronicles the events and the people who have worked towards and spoken out for gay liberation and LGBT issues since before Stonewall. Yes, before Stonewall.

I was born in 1943. It hit me hard to realize these injustices were happening during my childhood:

  • In 1948, homosexuality and adultery were criminal, masturbation purportedly caused mental illness, and premarital sex was deemed shameful. But Kinsey showed such “perverted activities” to be prevalent, thereby torpedoing a cozy concept of manhood rigorously reinforced. The nation reeled.
  • In 1950, a Senate subcommittee issued a report, calling homosexuals a threat to national security…Even the appearance of homosexuality—butch women, effeminate men—became grounds for firing and arrest…it was still a crime to be a gay man or lesbian with myriad sodomy and lewdness laws on the books.
  • In 1953, one of President Eisenhower’s first actions in office was to issue an executive order barring all gays, lesbians, and bisexuals from federal employment. 
  • Cops would walk in slowly like they owned the place, eyeballing everyone, pushing people with nightsticks. If they put you in a paddy wagon, you’d be hauled off to the Tombs (jail). If they put you in a car, they’d take you to some alley or empty parking lot, make you suck their dick, take all your clothes, throw them in the trunk of their car, and tell you to go home naked.

Look at the diversity of topics and the big names in the table of contents:

Part I: Before Stonewall

  • The Divine Discontent of Isadora Duncan
    by Adrian Brooks 
  • Henry Gerber’s Bridge to the World
    by Hayden L. Mora 
  • The 1934 Longshoremen’s Strike
    by Adrian Brooks 
  • The Cradle Will Rock
    by Eric A. Gordon 
  • Bayard Rustin: Offensive Lineman for Freedom
    by Patricia Nell Warren
  • The Kinsey Reports
    by Anahi Russo Garrido
  • Criminals and Subversives: The Mattachine Society
    and Daughters of Bilitis
    by Victoria A. Brownworth 
  • The Beats: Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac
    by Neeli Cherkovski
  • Frank Kameny: Advocate for Freedom
    by John D’Emilio
  • Josephine Baker’s Dream without Fire or War:
    An Interview with Jean-Claude Baker
    by Adrian Brooks
  • April 4, 1968
    by Adrian Brooks
  • Ground Zero
    by Miss Major Griffin-Gracy

Part II: After Stonewall

  • The Revolutionary Joy of Gary Alinder
    by Paul Gabriel
  • Lesbian Nation: Jill Johnston and the
    Revolution of Women
    by Victoria A. Brownworth
  • The Angels of Light: Paris Sites Under the Bourgeois
    by Adrian Brooks
  • Anita Bryant’s Anti-Gay Crusade
    by Jeanne Córdova
  • “The Mayor of Castro Street”
    by Adrian Brooks
  • Interview with Charlotte Bunch:
    Human Rights and Gender Equality
    by Anahi Russo Garrido
  • The Enemy Is Me: Becoming a Man inside a Feminist
    by Max Wolf Valerio
  • My Battle with the University of California
    by Merle Woo
  • The Quilt
    by Julie Rhoad
  • The Red Camaro
    by Matt Ebert
  • Between the Sexes
    by Tiger Howard Devore
  • A Hero in Search of a Myth: The Navajo Journey of
    Jack C. Jackson, Jr.
    by Max Wolf Valerio
  • Interview with Judy Shepard: Remembering Matthew
    by Adrian Brooks
  • Interview: Barney Frank
    by Brenda Knight and Adrian Brooks
  • Black, Gay, and Muslim
    by Sultan Shakir
  • Bullying
    by James Gilliam
  • A Conversation with Evan Wolfson: Freedom to Marry
    by Angela Dallara
  • Diana Nyad
    by Rita Mae Brown
  • Our Lives, Our Words: Newspapers, Bookstores, and
    Gay Liberation
    by Victoria A. Brownworth

I recognized many of the writers and subjects — others were new to me, and I’m grateful to know them now. Most of the writers in of The Right Side of History: 100 Years of LGBTQI Activism are of our generation. We grew up not knowing this information. Let’s change that now. I hope you’ll read this book and purchase another for a friend. I did.

Adrian Brooks (born 1947, 68 at the time of the book release), who curated this book and wrote several of its essays, is a social and political activist, poet, performer and writer who has been working for change since the 1960s.

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