• A Queer History of the United States

  • By: Michael Bronski
  • Narrated by: Vikas Adam
  • Length: 10 hrs and 29 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (232 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Winner of a 2012 Stonewall Book Award in nonfiction

The first book to cover the entirety of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender history, from pre-1492 to the present.  

In the 1620s, Thomas Morton broke from Plymouth Colony and founded Merrymount, which celebrated same-sex desire, atheism, and interracial marriage. Transgender evangelist Jemima Wilkinson, in the early 1800s, changed her name to “Publick Universal Friend”, refused to use pronouns, fought for gender equality, and led her own congregation in upstate New York. In the mid-19th century, internationally famous Shakespearean actor Charlotte Cushman led an openly lesbian life, including a well-publicized “female marriage.” And in the late 1920s, Augustus Granville Dill was fired by W. E. B. Du Bois from the NAACP’s magazine the Crisis after being arrested for a homosexual encounter. These are just a few moments of queer history that Michael Bronski highlights in this groundbreaking book.  

Intellectually dynamic and endlessly provocative, A Queer History of the United States is more than a “who’s who” of queer history: it is a book that radically challenges how we understand American history. Drawing upon primary documents, literature, and cultural histories, noted scholar and activist Michael Bronski charts the breadth of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender history, from 1492 to the 1990s, and has written a testament to how the LGBT experience has profoundly shaped our country, culture, and history.  

A Queer History of the United States abounds with startling examples of unknown or often ignored aspects of American history - the ineffectiveness of sodomy laws in the colonies, the prevalence of cross-dressing women soldiers in the Civil War, the impact of new technologies on LGBT life in the 19th century, and how rock music and popular culture were, in large part, responsible for the devastating backlash against gay rights in the late 1970s. Most striking, Bronski documents how, over centuries, various incarnations of social purity movements have consistently attempted to regulate all sexuality, including fantasies, masturbation, and queer sex. Resisting these efforts, same-sex desire flourished and helped make America what it is today.  

At heart, A Queer History of the United States is simply about American history. It is a book that will matter both to LGBT people and heterosexuals. This engrossing and revelatory history will make listeners appreciate just how queer America really is.

©2011 Michael Bronski (P)2018 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

“The first book to cover all of LGBT history from 1492 through the present is Michael Bronski's A Queer History of the United States (Beacon Press). It is wonderfully readable and looks at the way we understand the history of the United States. The LGBT population moves from the margins to the mainstream and we see that the history of this country also is our history.” (Windy City Times)

“Bronski's book provides an excellent overview for readers new to the field of gay history. Summing Up: Essential. All levels/libraries...” (CHOICE Magazine)

“...A succinct distillation of the history of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders in America… Bronski’s impeccable research bolsters his arguments… a useful handbook for LGBT activist groups and other interested members of the gay community.” (Boston Globe)

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  • Overall
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    3 out of 5 stars

Good read, misleading title

While I will absolutely give credit where credit is due, this is a very well researched and for the most part enjoyable read, the title of this book will leave many LGBT readers unsatisfied in a search for their history. This book is not a queer history of the United States, but a gay and lesbian one. You could count the number of times transgender and bisexual people are mentioned on your ten fingers with a few to spare, and even those mentions are just that: mentions only with no elaboration. To spend as much time discussing WWII as this book does to not mention Christine Jorgensen even once? To completely gloss over the central role of trans women at Stonewall? To repeatedly insist on using the bulky and exclusionary “his or her” rather than the more inclusive and less cumbersome they” for an unknown individual’s pronouns? Incredibly disappointing. This book is a fantastic gay and lesbian history of the United States, and if presented in that context, I would have very little to quibble with about it. Just know what you’re getting into if you’re one of the people looking for the few scraps of representation transgender and bisexual people get every so often, because you won’t find it here.

35 people found this helpful

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The history lesson I didn’t know I needed

As a social worker and social science researcher, this book had me enthralled and often in disbelief. Of note, I read it for fun- and I am unbelievably glad I did.

The level of detail and research, and the intentionally inclusive notes and language used was touching and memorable. I’m literally about to read it again, and will likely buy a copy just to be able to write notes and look into some of the references more deeply - not only for my professional and academic knowledge, but also to better understand my country and my place in it as a queer trans adult.

Thanks to this book I am now chock full of fact based historical information, more US history knowledge than I’ve ever possessed, and a burning fiery rage about the erasure of my community throughout history. Thank you.

8 people found this helpful

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Nice linkage of marginalized groups

I liked how it framed "other" to include Afican Americans. The author does a good job weaving historical threads.

7 people found this helpful

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Get you a physical copy

This text is DENSE and there are so many amazing references that can be easily missed in audio form if you're listening on the go. Worthwhile.

6 people found this helpful

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Excellent Text Book - It didn't float my boat.

Let me first say that this is an extraordinarily thorough book. It is a must-read for other writers and/or students of LGBTQ+ history. That being said, it didn't float my boat. After a few chapters of waiting to be drawn into this book, it didn't happen. This is an excellent text book. I rated it above average because it didn't match what I was looking for but is very well researched and written book. Like many dates I've been on, he was a great guy but there was no chemistry.

4 people found this helpful

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Am intriguing and important history of the U.S.

honestly, this was a great title. There were definitely some issues that I had with some of the language being outdated, but I also have to remember that this book came out 10 years ago, and much of the language in the LGBTQ community has changed since then.

Keeping that in mind, this is one of the more informative and interesting looks at the history of the United States of America through the lens of its LGBTQ population, which has been and always will be there. I would highly recommend this to anyone, especially those who feel that there's no history for queer individuals. This book nicely lays out how vital the LGBTQ community has been to the formation of this country.

3 people found this helpful

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Excellent!

It's rare that a book fulfills the expectations that a reader has for it. At the epilogue, I found myself wanting more information. This was informative while also remaining concise. The reader has a voice that expresses the content in a way that keeps the listeners interest. 6 stars!

2 people found this helpful

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Even better than I expected

At first I thought I might never actually get through this much book, but it actually went by quick due to the compelling content and skillful reading. We're here, we're queer... oh, you know the rest.

2 people found this helpful

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Thought Provoking

This book was consistently interesting and thought-provoking. I found the epilogue to be particularly well written and challenging. In it, Bronski makes persuasive arguments, drawing on and giving new life to the elements from the history he had introduced in the body of the book. I was, honestly, surprised by some of his arguments. He caught me leaning toward simpler, cliched ways of thinking about our moment in history. I might end up clinging to some of my simpler thoughts about lgbt assimilation, but I enjoyed and cannot easily dismiss his way of framing queer history. The reader is talented, but I found the performance distracting (to me, some aspects of the performance seemed mismatched to the content).

2 people found this helpful

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Long and dry

Very dry, but factual and interesting. Good if you wanna fall asleep. Need a more upbeat narrator for a history piece.

2 people found this helpful