Ingram Blog

Stonewall, 50 Years Later

Laura Barkema, MLIS, Collection Development Librarian and Jenny McCluskey, MSLS, Collection Development Librarian
On June 28, 1969, at a bar called the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, a movement began. Hundreds of gay men, lesbians, drag queens, and trans people who were tired of being arrested and harassed for their sexual orientations or proclivities via police raids at their chosen establishments, such as the Stonewall Inn, stood up for themselves. They refused to be taken by the police and humiliated, so they started riots and protests that lasted all night into morning. The riots continued the following night. This escalation of anger and frustration by members of the gay community came to be known as the Stonewall Riots (or Uprising), and this year in June 2019 is the 50th Anniversary of this pivotal moment in the rights of LGBTQIA+ people today.

In the decades leading up to the Stonewall Riots, both homosexuality and cross-dressing were still illegal in America. When LGBTQIA+ people wanted to spend time with each other or meet up somewhere that was safe, they would often come to clubs or bars in neighborhoods such as Greenwich Village and places like the Stonewall Inn. Often, these institutions would get raided by the police, and everyone inside would need to show their IDs and/or have their pictures taken. Because they had committed crimes and were arrested, their names and sometimes images were printed in the newspapers for all their friends and family to see. Most of the people frequenting these bars were doing so in secret. Lives were ruined by these laws, with people often losing jobs or even becoming homeless once they were “outed” in the newspaper.

All this pain, suffering, and mistreatment led them to fight back that night in June, and the riots woke people up. The following year in 1970 on the first anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, a gay “pride” parade occurred in New York, L.A., and Chicago. This was the first of the celebrations we know today as “Pride” and is still observed all over the country and the world 49 years later. Almost immediately after the riots, new organizations dedicated to fighting for the rights of homosexuals began to pop up across the country, and just two years later, there were groups in every major city in the United States, Australia, Canada, and Western Europe. For most people, there is no question that this event on Christopher Street in Manhattan sparked a movement that is still going strong today.

In 2019, on this 50th Anniversary, there are a few new titles about the Stonewall Riots that we want to highlight. Drawing from the New York Times archives, The Stonewall Reader is an anthology detailing the uprising, while Fred W. McDarrah’s Pride: Photographs After Stonewall chronicles the years following Stonewall in New York City through images. Pride: From Stonewall to Present by Matthew Todd is another book coming out this spring focusing on the legacy of the riots and its effects on the LGBTQIA+ community then and now. Marc Stein’s The Stonewall Riots: A Documentary History delves into the details of everything surrounding the uprising, much of it from primary sources and those who were a part of it. And Indecent Advances: A Hidden History of True Crime and Prejudice Before Stonewall by James Polchin describes the decades before Stonewall and the terrifying truths of what led up to this momentous event.

As for youth literature about the Stonewall Riots coming out in 2019, What Was Stonewall, part of the What Was series, is an upper elementary book on the subject. The Stonewall Riots: Coming Out in the Streets by Gayle E. Pitman is for middle grade readers and delves a bit more into the history before the riots as well as the actual events. For the younger readers, the picture book Stonewall: A Building, an Uprising, a Revolution by Rob Sanders and Illustrated by Jamey Christoph is a great introduction. And lastly, for young adults, The Gay Liberation Movement: Before and After Stonewall by Sean Heather K McGraw is a great full history of the years leading up to Stonewall and its effect on the years following.

As we reflect on the legacy that Stonewall has had on the LGBTQIA+ civil rights movement and titles that cover the events, it is also worth examining how well- or ill-represented the LGBTQIA+ community and its interests are in publishing and discussing the current trends therein. Here at Ingram, we are seeing LGBTQIA+ representation becoming more prevalent in mainstream publishing, as it has in the general and popular media. Publishers are producing LGBTQIA+ nonfiction resources, memoirs, and fiction titles with LGBTQIA+ main and secondary characters. Many of these fiction titles include themes of gender identity and fluidity, questioning, coming out, asexuality, and other queer themes, although many readers would like to see much more as the industry continues to evolve. This LGBTQIA+ focus is an important part of the movement for inclusion and representation of diversity in the publishing industry.

The LGBTQIA+ community’s representation in the market is stronger than it’s ever been, thanks in part to the visibility of the Stonewall Awards for youth and adult titles. In youth fiction, more LGBTQIA+ narratives are publishing in both juvenile and YA arenas, with most getting strong reviews and great sales, an example of which is The Moon Within by Aida Salazar. There is also more representation of LGBTQIA+ parents in board books and picture books and additional examples of characters with gender neutrality. Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love is a good example of gender nonconformity. In the adult categories, the romance genre seems to be making the most serious inroads into inclusivity, while mysteries have a way to go. General and literary LGBTQIA+ adult fiction is top-heavy with gay men’s themes, although there are some positive developments in lesbian themes by major publishers. We are seeing an uptick in titles with transgender themes also, where not long ago there was very little. The publisher Jessica Kingsley, for example, has some excellent nonfiction resources, such as the recent To My Trans Sisters and Trans Voices: Becoming Who You Are.

Comics/graphic novels have increased LGBTQIA+ visibility by deftly weaving LGBTQIA+ themes and by including more diverse people into the tapestry of the story, making it a natural, flowing part of the narrative. With the visual artistry, creators can include a plethora of varied illustrative representation that makes both fantastical and realistic characters come to life. The success of youth titles with LGBTQIA+ characters, such as the critically-acclaimed Lumberjanes comic, which includes the original graphic novel, the prose series, a coloring book, and an upcoming live-action film, shows that there is a widespread youth audience embracing LGBTQIA+ inclusivity in comics. Another title of note in self-help narratives and nonfiction graphic guides is the YA-focused A Quick & Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns by Archie Bongiovanni and Tristan Jimerson. The guide takes important subject matter and makes it a readable and entertaining narrative. Emil Ferris’s debut graphic novel My Favorite Thing is Monsters, which was written as a diary revolving around a murder and received a LAMBDA literary award in 2018, is getting a sequel Fall 2019.

As you can see, there are many recent and forthcoming titles worth checking out, both about Stonewall and LGBTQIA+ interest to satisfy readers of any age. You can find the titles for the Stonewall Award Winners, the LAMBDA Literary Awards, and other Adult, Teen, and Children's LGBTQIA+ interest lists on ipage.