Book review: The Right Side of History, by Adrian Brooks

Brooks Right Side of HistoryBrooks, Adrian. The Right Side of History: 100 years of LGBTQI Activism. Cleis Press. June 2015. $18.95. 408 pages. Paperback. 9781627781237.

Associated article: Interview with author, Adrian Brooks.

Brooks has been an activist since the 1960s. He has been involved with the anti-war protests of the 1960s, volunteered with Dr, Martin Luther King in the Civil Rights battle, and has done social work all over the world, including Mexico and India. In his current collection of anecdotal histories, The Right Side of History, Brooks and other authors tell the stories of LGBTQI activism from the past one hundred years. With a passion and vigor that we all should aspire to, Brooks makes the amazing contributions to the LGBTQI cause known.

The book itself tells stories of figures that are inspirational not just to the LGBTQI cause, but to the human cause; many forget that much of our LGBTQI activism “roots” were forged in social, political, and economic activism. While workers fought for higher wages and the right to a union in San Francisco in the 1930s, many like Harry Hay went further to advocate for not just workers’ rights but human rights. Bayard Rustin advocated for African American rights when he was still in high school, staging sit-ins at movie theaters with his fellow teammates before he actively protested for gay rights. Everyone remembers Stonewall, but not everyone remembers those unnamed warriors who combated against Anita Bryant and her “Save the Children” campaign or how so many young LGBTQI youths’ lives were taken before our government decided to act with the passage of several hate crime laws, including the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

The narratives chronicle the journeys of our activists and how far they came while overcoming incredible obstacles, including abuse, imprisonment, politics, isolation, slander, and much more. Each essay is comprehensive; they include critical details, the characters involved, and what influenced them to get involved in LGBTQI activism. The reading style leans towards the academic, but the length of each essay makes it more accessible for everyday reading. Avid readers interested in LGBTQIA history or activism will enjoy this volume, and will find it easy to research more reading materials with the well documented endnotes after each chapter.

The Right Side of History: 100 years of LGBTQI Activism is definitely recommended for nonfiction collections and/or LGBTQIA collections in either public or academic libraries. With the current SCOTUS ruling on same-sex marriage and pride weekend coming to a close, this book couldn’t come at a more important time. But as the author states, “every generation builds on the struggles of brave forebears to achieve the heretofore unimaginable” — we still must remember that we still have a long journey ahead of us, even after all of the successes.

Judi Tichacek

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