Book review: Gay & Lesbian History for Kids: The Century-Long Struggle for LGBT Rights, by Jerome Pohlen

Pohlen Gay Lesbian HistoryPohlen, Jerome. Gay & Lesbian History for Kids: The Century-Long Struggle for LGBT Rights. Chicago Review Press. 2015. $17.95. 180 p. Paper. ISBN 9781613730829.

This book’s title alone signals such an enormous societal sea change since my own schooldays, when this topic was never broached or breathed, let alone “taught” in print form. But publishing has undergone its own transformation in recent years, with more and more LGBT-related age-appropriate materials now available for both students and younger readers in general. This excellent work should take pride of place with those materials.

In this large-format paperback, Pohlen offers a visually-appealing volume, yet one that is also substantive and accessible. His chronological chapters begin with “a brief history to 1900,” and continue by decades to “2000-present.”

The author’s historical overviews are quite extensive but never tedious, and he includes details that even LGBT history buffs may be surprised to see in a title for young readers. (When was the last time you spotted a photo of sex-change-pioneer Christine Jorgensen in any book?) His text is lively, yet with virtually no editorial comment, except for a few strategically-placed punctuation marks here and there.

Large photographs, attractive graphics, and numerous “sidebars” illustrate nearly every page, highlighting various “LGBT Heroes” and other issues deserving further detail. There are also 21 suggestions for possible classroom activities; some of these seem a bit tangential but are still worth a look. On the whole, this book offers engrossing facts presented thoughtfully and with fine visual flair.

A short but select list of “Resources” is included. This list could be longer, but the chosen works have become standards on this topic for young readers. Perhaps updated editions of the main text will find this section expanded as well.

This outstanding book is highly recommended for middle/high school libraries, as supplementary reading for social studies/history classes, and also for general adult LGBT history/current events collections. It represents a wonderful opportunity to see with our own eyes how times have indeed changed for us all.

Cathy Ritchie
Acquisitions/Selection Services
Dallas (TX) Public Library

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