Between The Covers

By Terri Schlichenmeyer, July 2019 Issue.


anybody else, that tchotchke would be worthless.

To you, though, it oozes with

memories, and that’s why you keep it: because it represents special people,

remarkable times, or things you hold in your heart. One glance, and you

instantly recall something you want to remember, so in Stonewall

Riots by Gayle E. Pitman, take a

look at 50 objects that represent LGBT history.

Gaye E. Pittman

Ancient statues and classic

paintings can tell you a lot about what people did long ago, and what they

thought or liked. The same goes with items that are modern, although some

accounts get “complicated — especially if that story differs depending on who

tells it,” says Pitman. That’s what happened in at least part of the tale of

gay liberation: few records were kept, newspapers were mostly silent, and key

players have died. Even so, she says, there are enough objects to tell a story.

She begins with a basic

history of Greenwich Village in New York City, and the Jefferson Livery Stable,

which housed horses long before it became Bonnie’s Stonewall Inn, and then just

the Stonewall Inn.  There’s a possibility, says Pitman, that the word

“Stonewall” might have been “a coded welcome message to lesbians.”

Back then, being gay or

lesbian meant almost certain persecution but a gay man named Harry Hay and

three of his friends knew that the best way to work against discrimination was

to organize. They started the Mattachine Society in 1950, and Pitman includes a

photo of one of their early meetings. Five years later, Del Martin and Phyllis

Lyon started the Daughters of Bilitis, an organization for lesbians.

And yet,

the discrimination continued and “in 1966, resistance was in the air.” African

Americans had been fighting for civil rights for “quite some time,” and antiwar

protests were just starting to organize. Small uprisings had been staged on

behalf of LGBT people in California, while in New York, LGBT individuals were

getting pretty tired of police harassment, Mafia shake-downs, and raids on

their hangouts.

And on June 28, 1969, their

simmering anger boiled over.

The Stonewall Riots: Coming Out in the Streets

by Gayle E. Pitman c.2019, Abrams Books for Young Readers $17.99 / $22.99 Canada | 208 pages

Do 10-year-olds have

difficulty grasping happenings in their great-grandparents’ day? It may seem

so, which is why parents will be glad that The Stonewall Riots is written in the way that it


Using photographs, matchbook

covers, clothing, and other ephemera, author Gayle E. Pitman makes LGBT history

into something relatable for its intended audience because, as you know, kids

are big on keeping mementos and special objects.

Through the stories of

selected items, Pitman explains the events surrounding the night of the riot

and she draws a few threads between then and now, but she’s careful not to be

too hasty in filling in historical blanks. Those unknowns serve to leave kids

hanging a bit, and they heighten the excitement and outrage of what happened.

While this is a book for children ages 10 and up, this

book is also for anyone under the age of 55. You wouldn’t remember the Riots

first-hand, so reading The Stonewall Riots is absolutely worthwhile.

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