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Stonewall: Breaking Out in the Fight for Gay Rights

Review

Stonewall: Breaking Out in the Fight for Gay Rights

June 28, 1969 earmarks an unprecedented time in American history, sandwiched between the struggles and triumphs of the Civil Rights Movement and Equal Rights for women. The LGBT community --- which was simply known as Gays, back then --- got sick and tired of their oppressive societal and legal environs and finally fought back. What began as a supposed routine police raid that was actually a clandestine plan to clear out an unwelcome aspect of society from a Mafia-run bar turned into a pivotal point in the history of the American Gay Rights Movement:  The Stonewall Riots.
 
Ann Bausum's latest book is a profound story sparked by another profound story. From her author notes, Bausum shares her humble beginnings in the making of STONEWALL. The initial concept came when, during one of her book signings, a stranger uttered a plea for Bausum to write a book about the history of gay rights for young people. The acclaimed and award-winning nonfiction author relays that though "her heart yearned to say yes," her response was noncommittal.
 
Bausum states, "I saw myself as a straight outsider, an interloper when it came to the topic of gay rights." Yet the very next day, Bausum learned about the untimely death of Tyler Clementi --- a gay college student "slightly younger than my own college-aged sons." Moved by the gut wrenching news, Bausum pledged to write a book about gay rights history.
  
In all of her books, Bausum retells history with the utmost care and respect for the factual nuances that come along with iconic moments, and STONEWALL is no exception.  
 
In all of her books, Bausum retells history with the utmost care and respect for the factual nuances that come along with iconic moments, and STONEWALL is no exception. Even though there was limited media coverage on what transpired during the early morning hours of June 28th and witnesses had different takes on "who did what when," Bausum does a stellar job capturing the moment that the gay community stood their ground for the first time.
 
While Bausum spends a handful of chapters filled with blow-by-blow depictions of the riots, she goes further to explain how that event fuels activism. Great examples are the formation of a new kind of protest called the “zap” --- a guerilla-style blend of protest and theater; the establishment of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) that directed protests toward institutions like the FDA, the pharmaceutical industry and the Catholic Church; and an AIDS memorial quilt "so large that it could carpet the Washington Mall."
 
Although the LGBT community has made great strides in various equality issues, the fight for gay rights is not over. Bausum closes with a reminder that "with each advance, that LGBT rainbow symbol of diversity becomes ever more an overarching canopy that can embrace the entire American family." Incredibly riveting and eye-opening, STONEWALL is an essential resource to be read and discussed in school and at home.

Reviewed by Anita Lock on May 11, 2015

Stonewall: Breaking Out in the Fight for Gay Rights
by Ann Bausum

  • Publication Date: May 3, 2016
  • Genres: Nonfiction, Young Adult 12+
  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Speak
  • ISBN-10: 014751147X
  • ISBN-13: 9780147511478