I just finished reading a recently-published nonfiction title that I’m really excited about—No Way, They Were Gay? Hidden Lives and Secret Loves by Lee Wind.
Here’s a brief description:
Think history books present the truth? Not necessarily. History is crafted by the people who record it. And sometimes, those historians are biased against, don’t see, or can’t even imagine anyone different from themselves.
History has often left out the stories of LGBTQIA+ people. Historians have even censored the lives and loves of some of the world’s most famous people, from William Shakespeare and Pharaoh Hatshepsut to Cary Grant and Eleanor Roosevelt.
Join author Lee Wind for a fascinating journey through primary sources — poetry, memoir, news clippings, and images of ancient artwork — to explore the hidden (and often surprising) Queer lives and loves of two dozen historical figures.
Why do I love this book so much? Because Wind does a phenomenal job of weaving together excerpts from a diverse array of primary source materials to reassess the sexual and gender identities of a dozen famous and lesser-known figures from the past. The clear, engaging prose is sprinkled with well-designed factoids that provide context and historical photos that help to bring the subjects to life.
From William Shakespeare and Mahatma Gandhi to Eleanor Roosevelt to Abraham Lincoln, Wind doesn’t shy away from revealing his subjects in their full complexity. He also provides evidence that explains how and why historians chose to erase accounts of men who loved men, women who loved women, and people who lived outside of gender boundaries. Most importantly, at the end of each section, Wind invites readers to draw their own conclusions about the information he presents.
The backmatter includes a timeline, copious source notes, and recommended sources for further exploration.
No Way, They Were Gay? would be a good choice for middle school (and high school) English class discussions that focus on research strategies and the importance of tracing information back to primary sources. But the book’s greatest value is in helping Queer youth feel seen and providing tangible evidence that people like them have existed all through history.