50 Years After Stonewall: Two Canadian LGBTQ history books to dive in to

The Stone Wall reader Edited by New York Public Library
The Stonewall Reader, Edited by the New York Public Library

Today marks the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising – a key moment in LGBTQ history which marked a fundamental shift in the fight for LGBTQ rights in North America.  

Wanting to reflect more on this year’s anniversary, I dove in to a copy of the recently released Stonewall Reader, edited by the New York Public Library. It is an informative anthology offering important context and stories of the times before, during and after Stonewall. The Stonewall Reader has many insights to offer about the decade surrounding Stonewall and is well worth the read.

But what about LGBTQ history on this side of the border? In Canada, we often hear the stories about Stonewall, prominent figures in the fights for LGBTQ rights such as Harvey Milk and Anita Bryant, the AIDS crisis through the eyes of San Francisco, and so on, while neglecting to look at our own local history.

So, if you’re looking for two Canadian LGBTQ history books I’d recommend starting with these two recent publications:

Prairie Fairies: A history of Queer Communities and People in Western Canada, 1930 - 1985 by Valerie J. Korinek
Prairie Fairies by Valerie J. Korinek

Prairie Fairies: A History of Queer Communities and People in Western Canada, 1930-1985 – by Valerie J. Korinek

Valeris Korinek’s well-written book (first inspired by the comprehensive archival work of the late Neil Richards) focuses on the long and rich LGBTQ history of the prairie provinces, starting from 1930 up until 1985. The book “draws upon a wealth of oral, archival, and cultural histories to recover the experiences of queer urban and rural people in the prairies.”

This engaging book reads almost like a novel, providing the reader with a rich wealth of information about queer life on the prairies, including how much of the community’s work shifted after Stonewall. It shows us that the prairies were often a leader in North American LGBTQ movements, while having vibrant queer community histories of their own.

I have no doubt others will look to, and build on this comprehensive historic look at queer prairie history for years to come.

Find out more about the book here.

Queer Progress: From Homophobia to Homonationalism by Tim McCaskell
Queer Progress by Tim McCaskell

Queer Progress: From Homphobia to Homonationalism – by Tim McCaskell

Going back 45 years to 1974, Tim McCaskell’s book is a mix of story and analysis, covering four decades of queer politics in Toronto, from shortly after Stonewall up until 2014.  

McCaskell tells the stories and shifts in Toronto’s LGBTQ movements through the eyes of a community organizer. He is firmly rooted in Toronto’s left. His analysis looks at the shift from collective liberation towards individual rights, the progress made on sexual and gender rights over the last decades, while questioning ‘pink-washing’ and what queer progress really is. His questions around racial inclusion, gender equality, and class divisions within the LGBTQ movement are increasingly crucial to consider today, making it a history and analysis well work the read.

Find out more about the book here.

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