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  • Writer's pictureNicholas Nelson

Stonewall by David Carter (2005)

In this nearly definitive work on the Stonewall Riots of 1969, David Carter combines interviews, newspapers, radio shows, pamphlets, and various other media to generate as clear a picture around the riots as possible.

Greenwich Village in 1969 was already changing, but when riots started outside the Mafia-operated Stonewall Inn, the queer community started a revolution. What started as a traditional bar raid quickly turned into violence, something which the police hadn’t experienced from the homosexual community before. Although the events of that day were monumental and started the formation of various LGBTQ groups, what the Stonewall Riots were truly about was so much bigger. Many of the events that lead up to that summer played an important role, from local political events to nationwide outrage. Stonewall was just the tipping point.

This book sets out to explain all the misgivings toward the queer community before that first day in June, 1969. It eventually gets to the riots about halfway through because the lead-up is half the reason they happened anyway. We hear many (male) accounts of homosexual oppression across the nation and how people (mostly men) were forced out of their homes. In search of a new start, they moved to Greenwich Village, in close proximity to The Stonewall Inn.

This book includes a history within Mafia-related politics as it pertains to gay bars, a general illustration of the types of men and women (mostly men) that would be present that night, and examples of what the Sixth Precinct in New York City looked like in the 1960s.

After hearing Saara Aalto’s 2018 album “Wild Wild Wonderland,” I couldn’t help but feel there was some kind of story behind the entire record. I couldn’t help but feel this album would bode well as a fictional interpretation of the Stonewall Riots. There’s love, anger, revolution, and power in this album that can’t be beat. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t know anything about Stonewall outside the fact that it happened and the queer community is better because of it. So upon several recommendations online and the most recent documentary “Stonewall Uprising,” I decided to pick up this one for my first stop hoping I could accurately say Aalto’s album would be a great fit for this historical event.

As an initial introduction into gay history of the 1960s, Stonewall provides a large picture of queer culture before, during, and after the riots. It is important to note that this book was published in 2005. Although more research has been done since 2005 on Stonewall, especially as it pertains to transgender and lesbian groups, I recommend this as a good starting point. This has given me the fire I need to learn more and delve deeper into queer history.

As someone who’s living somewhat peacefully because of this fight, I found it very humbling to circle back. When the world feels like we have one million problems to solve, this book reminds us that we are at least one step closer to finding a solution. And now being generally informed on the riots, I may be putting together something with “Wild Wild Wonderland” in hopes the two coincide…

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