Staff Picks

Guide to Pride: Titles Spotlighting the LGBTQ Experience

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer/or Questioning (LGBTQ) Pride Month is celebrated every year in June.

It includes such festivities as parades, parties, picnics, workshops, symposia, concerts, and all manner of public events that attract millions of participants around the world.

In the United States, Pride Month has historically been observed in June to commemorate the anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion in New York City.

In the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, New York City police performed a routine raid of the Stonewall Inn, a popular bar in New York City’s Greenwich Village.

Until the 1970s, police frequently conducted raids on establishments that catered to the gay community and the FBI kept records of known homosexuals; in 1969 being gay was a criminal offense.

LGBTQ people went to jail, lost their jobs, were denied housing, and were often disowned by their families due to their sexual orientation.

In addition, The American Psychiatric Association classified homosexuality as a mental disorder, and countless LGBTQ people were subjected to barbaric treatments designed to “cure” them.

This toxic atmosphere of homophobia and legalized discrimination convinced many LGBTQ individuals to “stay in the closet” and keep their sexual orientation carefully hidden to avoid harassment and persecution. 

A humble setting for a defining moment: The Stonewall Inn in New York City’s Greenwich Village neighborhood circa September, 1969.

On that fateful night at the Stonewall Inn, however, LGBTQ bar patrons and onlookers fought back. Years of pent-up anger and frustration suddenly exploded into a violent riot.

The protesters’ radical response to oppression triggered an intense demand for gay rights and ultimately led to the birth of the modern LGBTQ civil rights movement.

Activists who were inspired by the uprising formed a number of influential new gay and lesbian organizations across the country that led the fight to end discrimination.

The riots were a catalyst for many LGBTQ individuals to come out of the closet and take to the streets to demand equal rights and public acceptance.

On June 24, 2016, President Obama designated the site of the Stonewall Riots as a national monument, the first U.S. location dedicated to LGBTQ rights and history to be granted landmark status.

The Des Plaines Public Library is dedicated to inclusivity and diversity, serving as a welcoming and safe space for all patrons including members of the LGBTQ community.

We offer information on coming out to friends and family, LGBTQ relationships, mental health, bullying, safe sex practices, and local support groups and alliances.

The Library also owns a number of LGBTQ-themed fiction titles, biographies of important LGBTQ figures in the community, as well as feature films and documentaries pertaining to the LGBTQ experience.

As we look back at Stonewall and celebrate Pride Month, learning about the events and activists who shaped the LGBTQ movement has never been easier.

To find out more about the origins of Pride and the continuing fight for LGBTQ equality in the United States, check out these fantastic titles:

Cover of Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution

Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution

by David Carter

Based on more than a decade of meticulous research, hundreds of interviews, and access to previously sealed records, Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution is the definitive text on the near week-long series of riots, protests, and street demonstrations that are credited as the motivating force behind the transformation of the gay political movement. Along with presenting an exhaustive, hour-by-hour reconstruction of the riots, Carter offers background on the events that precipitated the riots, the life and times of the individuals involved, and how the rebellion impacted the LGBTQ rights movement in the following decades. Other notable features include never-before-seen photographs, as well as diagrams and floor plans of the Stonewall Inn and maps of Greenwich Village where the riots took place. The volume also serves as the basis for the PBS American Experience documentary Stonewall Uprising.

Cover of Making Gay History: The Half Century Fight for Lesbian and Gay Equal Rights

Making Gay History: The Half Century Fight for Lesbian and Gay Equal Rights

by Eric Marcus

This title highlights the social, cultural, and political developments of LGBTQ issues through the personal recollections of more than sixty individuals, from high profile leaders to everyday people. Together, these moving first-person testimonies paint a portrait of the successes and setbacks of the LGBTQ struggle against bigoted opposition and discrimination. Author Eric Marcus also created the award-winning Making Gay History podcast using his extensive archive of audio recordings, many of which were originally taped for his book. The episodes feature oral histories of prominent figures of the LGBTQ rights movement such as Frank Kameny, Barbara Gittings, Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson, Larry Kramer, and many more. Three seasons are available to download, as well as bonus episodes.

Cover of Out and Proud in Chicago: An Overview of the City’s Gay Community

Out and Proud in Chicago: An Overview of the City’s Gay Community

Edited by Tracy Baim

This lavishly illustrated, regionally-focused volume provides an overview of the people, places, and events that are, or have been, important to the LGBTQ community in Chicago. It contains short articles written by thirty five different authors covering key moments in the city’s LGBTQ history such as the founding of the first gay organization in the United States, Chicago’s own “Stonewall”, Mattachine Midwest, the anti-Anita Bryant protest, the impact of AIDS, and LGBTQ involvement in sports, media, theater, community centers, bars, and dance. Published as a companion to the website Chicago Gay History.

Cover of The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle

The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle

by Lillian Faderman

Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle is a comprehensive history of the fight for gay and lesbian civil rights from the 1950s to the present day. Faderman relates the five-decade-long struggle for equality through dramatic personal accounts based on more than one-hundred fifty interviews with politicians, military figures, lawyers, activists, and LGBTQ citizens who witnessed the critical events of the movement firsthand. The book will be of enduring value to anyone interested in learning more about America’s LGBTQ past—and in understanding how those historical events continue to reverberate in the twenty-first century.

Cover of Transgender History: The Roots of Today’s Revolution

Transgender History: The Roots of Today’s Revolution

by Susan Stryker

This illuminating book examines the major movements, writing, and events of transgender history from the mid-twentieth century to today. It includes informative sidebars, quotes from significant texts and speeches, brief biographical sketches of key figures, plus excerpts from transgender memoirs, and discussion of the treatment of transgenderism in popular culture. Transgender History: The Roots of Today’s Revolution is a rich resource for anyone who wants to better understand the evolving concepts of gender in contemporary society.

Cover of When We Rise: My Life in the Movement

When We Rise: My Life in the Movement

by Cleve Jones

In this Lambda Literary Award-winning memoir, LGBTQ rights activist and grassroots organizer, Cleve Jones chronicles his lifelong commitment to the building of the gay rights movement. Jones began his career in the 1970s as a teenager after he hitchhiked from his home in Arizona to San Francisco where he was mentored by pioneering gay rights leader Harvey Milk. After Milk’s assassination, Jones co-founded the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, and in 1987 conceived of the NAMES Project AIDS memorial quilt, the world’s largest community arts project. An essential read for those interested in understanding the LGBTQ quest for social justice and LGBTQ millennials wishing to learn about their heritage. The book is also the partial basis for the eight-part docudrama ABC miniseries of the same name that was broadcast in February 2017.

Cover of How to Survive a Plague: The Story of How Activists and Scientists Tamed AIDS

How to Survive a Plague: The Story of How Activists and Scientists Tamed AIDS

by David France

Written by David France, a journalist who covered AIDS from its beginnings, this text tells the heroic and heartbreaking story of two militant activist organizations, ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) and TAG (Treatment Action Group), that took on Washington and the medical establishment to turn AIDS from a death sentence to a manageable disease. These courageous activists, many of whom were HIV-positive young men, infiltrated the pharmaceutical industry and government agencies to uncover new medications, moving them from experimental trials into the hands of fatally ill patients in record time. The author directed a documentary, also titled How to Survive a Plague, which won a Directors Guild Award and a Peabody Award and was an Oscar finalist for Best Documentary feature.

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