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When Brooklyn Was Queer

By: Hugh Ryan
Narrated by: Hugh Ryan
Length: 11 hrs and 30 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (26 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The never-before-told story of Brooklyn's vibrant and forgotten queer history, from the mid-1850s up to the present day

Hugh Ryan's When Brooklyn Was Queer is a groundbreaking exploration of the LGBT history of Brooklyn, from the early days of Walt Whitman in the 1850s up through the queer women who worked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard during World War II, and beyond. No other book, movie, or exhibition has ever told this sweeping story. Not only has Brooklyn always lived in the shadow of queer Manhattan neighborhoods like Greenwich Village and Harlem, but there has also been a systematic erasure of its queer history - a great forgetting.

Ryan is here to unearth that history for the first time. In intimate, evocative, moving prose, he discusses in new light the fundamental questions of what history is, who tells it, and how we can only make sense of ourselves through its retelling; and reveals how the formation of the Brooklyn we know today is inextricably linked to the stories of the incredible people who created its diverse neighborhoods and cultures. Through them, When Brooklyn Was Queer brings Brooklyn's queer past to life, and claims its place as a modern classic.

©2019 Hugh Ryan (P)2019 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

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  • Johnny
  • FAYETTEVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA, United States
  • 03-25-19

Incredible history

Fantastically researched and presented. So much historical and economic history I had no idea about. Not only gives perspective into historical queer lives, but gives economic and political perspective on how all of society changed and how New York as a whole changed through the decades. A good effort to touch on queer PoC history as well despite all of society's efforts to erase the evidence. I just finished this book and am eager to listen again right away. Please give this a listen. It has enriched my historical understanding so so much!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Jeffrey
  • Austin Texas, United States
  • 06-26-19

A Love Letter

Truly, Mr. Ryan loves his topic because it was/is his home and he waxes eloquently, but in an instructive way worthy of top-notch historical research. History books and those who write them are never perfect. I always am skeptical of their truths presented because we readers are always at the mercy of the author's intent, accuracy and basically that any author of any history can distort, influence and take advantage of readers. Lie to them if they wish. Interpret in ways that can be deceptive. Make you think what they want you to think and not what really happened. Still, Mr. Ryan gives us the joy and the sadness. The triumphs, but also the failures. The cruel realities of post WWII gay America against how it "used to be" prior to the wars. What became of queer Brooklyn and then ends the book on positive notes. He writes with just a hint of or in the style historical fiction to make it just right entertaining. Conjectures of a conversation perhaps extrapolated. What the person he writes of might of thought or seemed to think from a diary note. I trust Mr. Ryan because he is not trying to hide queer folk as most histories have done for decades of time, trying to put queers back in closets. Mr. Ryan is trying to open closets, not close them. This now is the definitive history of Queer Brooklyn, perhaps indeed of queer America.

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Fascinating book

If you are looking for a really good read for Pride Month may I suggest “When Brooklyn Was Queer” by Hugh Ryan. It is not JUST a queer history of Brooklyn but a comprehensive exploration of Queerness in America between the publication of “Leaves of Grass” in 1855 and Stonewall in 1969. It explores the changes in queer self understanding as well as the changes in societal understanding of Queerness over time. Also the intersectionality and NON intersectionality between race, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and class, and ALSO the roll that wartime disruption played in the emergence and repression of queer culture and identity. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a history book as enlightening and intriguing as this!

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Breath of fresh air

This sort of in depth look at our history just simply doesn't exist. Listening to recounts of stories from real queer people, how racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, white supremacy and the church affected queerness (and how it still does to this day) and how we have always been around was like a warm hug. We have been pushed out of the picture for so long and this book is just a reminder of how strong we are.

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A beautiful , much needed history of LGBT Brooklyn

What a wonderfully rich , powerful, informative and mind opening history of LGBT Brooklyn and the rest of NYC as narrated and written by Author Hugh Ryan . Truly the book we have needed for many many years now. Great stories that make us appreciate the struggles that our quueer Brothers and sisters went through to bring us all to where we are now and how far we have yet to go. Thank you Hugh for giving us back our history. FYI. that epilogue had me in tears !