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Publisher's Summary

A transgender reporter's narrative tour through the surprisingly vibrant queer communities sprouting up in red states, offering a vision of a stronger, more humane America.

Ten years ago, Samantha Allen was a suit-and-tie-wearing Mormon missionary. Now she's a senior Daily Beast reporter happily married to another woman. A lot in her life has changed, but what hasn't changed is her deep love of Red State America, and of queer people who stay in so-called "flyover country" rather than moving to the liberal coasts. 

In Real Queer America, Allen takes us on a cross-country road-trip stretching all the way from Provo, Utah to the Rio Grande Valley to the Bible Belt to the Deep South. Her motto for the trip: "Something gay every day." Making pit stops at drag shows, political rallies, and hubs of queer life across the heartland, she introduces us to scores of extraordinary LGBT people working for change, from the first openly transgender mayor in Texas history to the manager of the only queer night club in Bloomington, Indiana, and many more.

Capturing profound cultural shifts underway in unexpected places and revealing a national network of chosen family fighting for a better world, Real Queer America is a treasure trove of uplifting stories and a much-needed source of hope and inspiration in these divided times.

©2019 Samantha Allen (P)2019 Hachette Audio

Critic Reviews

"Allen argues that queerness thrives everywhere, perhaps even more so in states like Indiana, Texas, and Tennessee, precisely because there's still so much advocacy work to do. Allen's openness about her personal story - including growing up Mormon, living an angst-filled double life in Provo, coming out as transgendered, meeting her wife in an elevator at the Kinsey Institute, and undergoing surgery to get a vagina - invites respect. She writes with loving curiosity about other people in the LGBTQ community and blends this with national-level reporting on political and historical LGBTQ issues." (Booklist, starred review)

"In this clever combination of easy travelogue and thoughtful exploration of queerness in America, journalist Allen retraces her transformation from a Mormon missionary in Utah to a transgender woman living happily in rural Florida...Queer readers will nod knowingly at the descriptions of finding gay-friendly hangouts and questioning whether public hand-holding is safe in a new area, and readers without that experience will still enjoy Allen's charming, humorous recounting of the ultimate road trip through rainbow-colored America." (Publishers Weekly)

"It's kind of like a trans Travels with Charley in Search of America, but without Steinbeck's lightly misogynist depictions of women and meandering, stream of consciousness. As Samantha Allen travels across the country's reddest states and perhaps the most unsafe for queer people, she unearths a humanity that the midwest and south are rarely afforded. Queer people exist everywhere, not just cities, and this book is a fierce testament to that." (Out Magazine)

Featured Article: The Best Trans and Nonbinary Listens


As our society becomes more inclusive, some of our most underrepresented communities are getting a much-needed opportunity to tell their stories. For this list, we’ve come up with some of the best trans and nonbinary listens, across all genres and age categories. And because we know that authenticity is important to listeners, our selections are almost exclusively written by queer, trans, and nonbinary authors.

What listeners say about Real Queer America

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Shout-out to a queer hero for an excellent job!

The narrative of life as queer people know it is much different than what is reflected in a very small slice of lgbtq+ friendly national outlets and by a who's-who list of prominent people under the broad, inclusive and expansive queer umbrella. Queer life in the heartland is much more fulfilling and diverse than what it is depicted to be. Of course there are major challenges and everyday threats to our very existence and to the safety of our community but that does not mean that a conclusion to arise from that fact should be to pack up shop and leave town for metropoli where queer life can become uninspiring, people can become jaded and the very real connections that makes our relationships prosper at a deeper level can become flimsy threads. This book is an eye-opener for everyone who does not know enough about the queerness of red america. Humanity of people trumps indecency of everyday brinksmanship that we see from depraved politicians and anyone who has both the courage and the time to invest in real relationships with actual people will open up their heart and dispel any seed of prejudice and bias which basically is the result lack of information and connectedness. Terrific stories and inspired narration!

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Critical Commentary On Life Outside the Coasts

One thing I’ve always noticed growing up in the Midwest is how little my experience is reflected in the national media. Samantha Allen does an excellent job exploring the different facets of a full LGBTQ+ experience in America, in what can only be her voice. You have not read or listened to a book like this before and history will thank her for writing it.

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A Beautiful Journey

An excellent queer journey across the American South that really gave me a sense of hope and love. an excellent read for anyone living queer and looking for their place in the world.

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This experience needed to be explored.

As a Floridian, I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed this exploration of LGBT activism in the south and in "red states" in general. I never identified as a "southerner" because I've always been very liberal. But a great deal of my childhood was spent camping, hiking and canoing in the woods of southern states, and I wouldn't trade that experience for anything. It is great to explore the space between two truths that seem to oppose each other, which this book does very well.

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Mr.Pink

This book from an author I’d and journalist I’d never of was incredible and full of hope for the future. Calling the south my home for as long as I remember having felt and still feel the south has long way to go. Alabama is usually the last to be apart of progressive history. #alabamathelast. I hope one day that my financial independence will no longer hinge on how I choose to identify. Till then i must survive in the closet.

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Not what I expected

Saw the author on MSNBC and based on interview thought this was a book about unlikely pockets of tolerance throughout red states...or something like that. You know- perhaps feel good stories that shatter the stereotype of the hypocritical un-Christlike christian or the gun-toting conservative redneck who turns out to support LGBT rights, maybe?
Instead this book seems to be mainly about the struggles of LGBT citizens due to laws (or the lack of laws) in various states that do not support their rights. An important book, yes...just not the uplifting book I thought I'd be listening to on a long road trip.

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Rural Queer Realness

As someone who is a transgender lesbian living in Alabama, I could not appreciate this book more. Samantha Allen is brilliant, and her insight to the queer community in the US is unparalleled. Thank you for putting in the work, and sharing with the rest of the world what our reality is.

What I would give to have been a stop on your tour. If you’re ever in Alabama feel free to stop by and you will be welcomed with our most authentic southern hospitality! <3

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Enjoyed very much!

Eye-opening, insightful, honest, sobering, hopeful, lovely, encouraging. Read this to prepare for a book club meeting at which the author will be present, and so glad I did!

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Another fabulous book

Once again Samantha pulls me in and wraps me in her story. Absolutely loving every moment of it. Thank you again Samantha for sharing your journey

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Exceptional!

Satisfying curiosities you didn't know you had about diverse people you want to know by the end of the story. Samantha is an incredible storyteller, nourishing the senses throughout and make you ache for the foods, smells and sights enough to consider moving to a red state. I hope Samantha writes more books like this one.