Brooks’ novel, The Right Side of History: 100 Years of LGBTQ Activism looks at critical figures and moments in the history of LGBTQ people, predominantly in the United States. Many in the U.S. choose the Stonewall Riots of 1969 as the starting point of the LGBTQ rights movement, however Brooks takes readers farther back in History to catalogue a variety of colorful figures that worked t undo the mainstream discourse on sexuality and gender and moves through to the present day (at least until the book was published).
The work is set up not as a continuous narrative, but as a series of vignettes, many of which are written by other authors. Some are even transcripts of interviews with important figures or their relatives. This, if anything, heightens the readability of the work. As someone who enjoys history, a continuous narrative would have been more than suitable for me, however, the small vignettes give a more intimate and personal look at each figure and are short enough that you are thoroughly engrossed in each story and by the time you look up you’ve read 50 pages and it has felt more like 10.Â Brooks here gives us these fragments and the commentary on these figures in such a way that it elucidates a common narrative of the struggle of the LGBTQ community.Â
Beyond the pure readability of the work, what is most important are the characters themselves. LGBTQ history is one that is often swept under the rug and easily forgotten only to be pieced together by scholars and historians much later. This work is important simply for existing. For showing especially young members of the LGBTQ community that they have a history. They may have been written out of history (like so many other groups, which a later blog post will further touch on) but it is not because there is a lack of history.
I am an educator in Southern California, and as such, I have had many students that identify somewhere on the LGBTQ spectrum. I endeavored in my teaching to always bring in stories of LGBTQ figures, and even devoted some time in class to discussing the LGBTQ rights movement, which is currently in the state standards. Brooks’ work will be an invaluable resource to myself and future educators going forward on linking the events of standard curricula to the oft-overlooked history of the LGBTQ community.
Stop by your local bookstore and get one ASAP!