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Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked The Gay Revolution Paperback – 2010
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Riveting...Not only the definitive examination of the riots but an absorbing history of pre-Stonewall America, and how the oppression and pent-up rage of those years finally ignited on a hot New York night. - Boston GlobeIn 1969, a series of riots over police action against The Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York City's Greenwich Village, changed the longtime landscape of the homosexual in society literally overnight. Since then the event itself has become the stuff of legend, with relatively little hard information available on the riots themselves. Now, based on hundreds of interviews, an exhaustive search of public and previously sealed files, and over a decade of intensive research into the history and the topic, Stonewall brings this singular event to vivid life in this, the definitive story of one of history's most singular events.
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
I'd read Martin Duberman's book back in 1993, and have started re-reading it. As history, Carter's book is superior. Instead of viewing the event itself from the standpoint of six individuals, Carter used many viewpoints and sources (including extensive interviews where possible, as well as written records). One thing of note is that Carter does not even mention one of the individuals in Duberman's work. I found an interview where he explains that the person's account varied too much from telling to telling and could not be independently corroborated.
There is a rights activist mentioned in the book, some one who was involved with the pre-existing organizations but not at the riots (indeed, I believe he is opposed to non-peaceful protests and at the time was worried about political backlash from the riots). In a short Facebook exchange he mentioned "Both David Carter and Martin Duberman contribute to gay history but in different ways---Carter is an extremely rigorous fact checker--while Duberman is a masterful story-teller."
Although I was present that night, and on many of the following nights, I was until last week not aware of this book's existence. Frankly, almost every account I had read previously was misinformed at best.
I heard about the book only because I saw an exhibit at the New York Public Library ("1969: The Year of Gay Liberation") and decided to read it. I'm so glad I did.
Its one of few works of serious research that also tells a great story. And it is indeed thoroughly researched (and foot-noted) by Mr Carter. Since no one could possibly have been present on Christopher Street for every minute of every night of the riots, this page-turner tells the story as it unfolded.
It enabled me to finally piece together all the events into a cohesive image of a week to remember. I can certainly vouch for the books's accuracy insofar as I recall the events I witnessed in late June and early July.
For those interested in the LGBT history, this book is simply indispensible.
Carter takes careful time to explain not merely the events of the riots, but also spends time laying out key background information and providing the historical context absolutely necessary to understanding what happened that June. In those first chapters a sense of grim hopelessness leaks out. Following this is an amazingly comprehensive accounts of those fateful nights, detailing not just what happened but showing how; we see in the accounting how the factors detailed in the first section fueled the events in the section, the role the geography played, the weight of anger built up over so many years of persecution. The section that follows, the aftermath and early years of the gay liberation movement, almost feel like a relief - such as when the sun emerges from a particularly nasty storm.
The work Carter has sunk into the book shows through clearly - not only the extremely lengthy source lists and bibliography, but the way he directly uses primary material and allows those who were present to speak in their own words throughout. There are twin passions at play here; not only to the importance of the riots, but a passion to be faithful to the reader and those involved and provide an accurate accounting. This makes it clear to everyone that the entire spectrum of the community was involved - although Carter is careful to note that certain groups and individuals played vital roles (the lesbian who fought the police and started the whole thing off, transgendered men and drag queens, and, of course, the gay homeless youths who formed the core of the front lines).
Importantly to the casual reader, Carter's writing style brings the participants and events alive. This book isn't just names and dates, a beige chronology blandly recorded in a dull high school history text - these are people; you can feel their fear and hope and anger echoing down to the present, nearly five decades later. I mentioned above a "sense of grim hopelessness" in the first section outlining the historical context - as you approach the nights of the riots, it's replaced with tension, and a palpable sense of rage barely held in check, giving way to cathartic relief and hope in the third section.
For anyone interested in the civil rights movements of America, or the gay rights movement, this book is vital; it's our history.