No Way, They Were Gay?

No Way, They Were Gay?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.

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David LaRochelle
3 years ago

What an impor­tant top­ic to cov­er! Thank you, Melis­sa, for high­light­ing this book, and thank you, Lee, for writ­ing it.