17 October 2014

Book Review: A Queer History of the United States

Michael Bronski is an American professor of Women and Gender Studies at Dartmouth College. He's written extensively including The Pleasure Principle: Sex, Backlash and the Struggle for Gay Freedom.

Much of the "history" I read as an adolescent about LGBT life fell into two categories: (1) major excavations in the historical archive to find a continuous "gay" identity in the remote past and (2) modern narratives of living "gay" identified individuals. This book is as conservative as I think it can get, yet it is radical in that its ideological commitment is to anarchism and transgenderism. It starts with Thomas Morton's break with Plymouth Colony in the 1620s to start Merrymount which embraced same-sex desire, atheism and interracial marriage.

This book does not just challenge American history, it also challenges American LGBT history and the joint project of liberal and conservative American LGBT  historians who do not challenge the major historical mythologies of America in their quest to normalize or naturalize LGBT movements, persons and desires, through the ages.

Bronski's Queer History constructs a narrative of America where sodomy laws were ineffective as much as political movements in eighteenth and nineteenth century America had a strong focus on the regulation of sexuality in general. In this way, he shows that LGBT identity is much more universal to the American narrative contrary to the various persecuted minority narratives that have dominated LGBT historiography.

I read the 312 page cloth version (ISBN-13: 978-0807044391) published by Beacon Press on May 10, 2011. It was heavily discounted and likely can be found at abebooks or amazon.

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