This year is the 51st anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion, AKA the Stonewall Riots. These were a series of demonstrations from the LGBTQ community against the police raids at the Greenwich Village club. This is also the turning point of civil rights for that community’s liberation movement. While there is still work to be done, there has still been progress. And that fateful night and the events of June 28–July 3, 1969, is what helped to start it.
I’ve tried to include a variety of age-appropriate books in this list that focus primarily on the importance of Stonewall. That said, this list isn’t as diverse as I would otherwise want and consists mainly of white authors. However, we do have other articles in our LGBTQ archives that consist of a wide array of authors. I personally recommend this one that is geared towards Queer female authors.
Children’s Books About Stonewall
To quote a popular ’80s song, I believe the children are our future. The things we teach them will help to set the foundation for the type of people they will be. One of the best things that you can teach children is tolerance. First you have to show what intolerance is, what it can do, and how people stop it.
What was Stonewall? by Nico Medina
This addition to the popular children’s series focuses on that fateful day in June that started it all. As with others in the series, this book doesn’t shy away from the history but does a good job of explaining it in a way that is easy for children to understand. It can also serve to set the stage for discussions about gender identity.
Stonewall: Our March Continues by Olivia Huggins (Author), Tess Marie Vosevich Keller (Illustrator) and Tara Eglin (Designer)
This book goes a bit more in depth about the circumstances and situations that lead to that night, but is still presented in a way that younger readers can understand. Older readers who are reading this with the young ones in their lives will be appreciative of the discussion questions since this will provide the opportunity for an open dialogue.
Stonewall: A Building, An Uprising, A Revolution by Rob Sanders (Author) and Jamey Christoph (Illustrator)
The narrator in this book is Stonewall Inn itself. This book also highlights the importance of these few days in LGBTQ history. It highlights the work of queer people starting a movement towards being accepted and not harmed for just being themselves. The book is written in a way that is appropriate for children and at a level that they can comprehend.
Middle School Books About Stonewall
Middle school years are the most formative ones. The seeds of the type of person one is going to be are firmly planted here. For some, these are also the years of bullying, some of it constant. So, it is a good time to firmly instill tolerance and caring for your fellow humans in young readers.
Stonewall Riots: Coming Out in the Streets by Gayle E. Pitman
This book focuses on Stonewall in a fairly well-rounded way. It includes LGBTQ+ history up until that week and the aftermath of it. It includes interviews with the protesters involved as well as witnesses to the event. The book also features newspaper clippings, as well as contemporary photos and other important projects of the period. This is a wonderful introduction to this part of our history for middle grade readers.
Stonewall: Breaking Out in the Fight for Gay Rights by Ann Bausum
This book really focuses on what it was like to be gay in 1969 America. It expands on how that discrimination and not-so-random police attacks served as a catalyst for the Stonewall uprising. This is a short read, so it’s perfect for readers who may not have long attention spans. But it does this without shortchanging the historical importance.
Adult Books About Stonewall
You’re never too old to learn about something new. And these books are a testament to that.
Queer America: A People’s GLBT History of the United States by Vicki L. Eaklor
While this doesn’t focus specifically on Stonewall, it shows a decade by decade overview of all major events in queer history, and of course includes a chapter on this event.
Stonewall: The Definitive Story of the LGBTQ Rights Uprising That Changed America by Martin Duberman
This book follows a group of six people and their experiences during this period of history. Penned by a renowned historian and activist, it does a masterful job of recreating that time period. It touches on the repression that led up to the events of the five days in 1969. In this book, we follow the group through this event up to the first official Pride march in 1970.
We Are Everywhere: Protest, Power, and Pride in the History of Queer Liberation by Matthew Reimer and Leighton Brown
This photographic book journeys through the decades of struggle before that fateful night and the events of those five days. It traces LGBTQ+ activism as far back as nineteenth century Europe to the present day. It is a visual representation of the history and speaks multitudes on that community, what they’ve been through, and how far they’ve come.
The Stonewall Riot Reader by The New York Public Library and Edmund White
This is an anthology that pulls from the NYPL archives made up of a variety of written pieces that include diary entries, periodic lit, articles from LGBTQ+ magazines and much more. It also focuses on iconic activists, such as Sylvia Rivera and Ernestine Eckstein. This collection focuses not only on Stonewall but also on the five years before and after as well. It is a great overview of the impact that night in 1969 had on the LGBTQ+ community.
As with any list, this is simply a starting off point that will hopefully help to introduce you to the events that are still remembered every June. While there will be no parades this year due to COVID-19, the meaning behind it will still be there and it will be celebrated, as it rightfully should.
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