Review: Queer, There, and Everywhere

It's well known that adults have come to appreciate young adult literature—hello, Twilight, Harry Potter, The Raven Cycle—but what about young adult nonfiction? If you're queer and interested in history, you will definitely enjoy Sarah Prager’s Queer There and Everywhere: 23 People Who Changed the World. It goes far beyond the usual suspects, so although you may be familiar with Harvey Milk and Eleanor Roosevelt, you might know less about "scandalous teenage Roman emperor" Elagabalus (who was transgender circa 203–222 AD) or lesbian Mexican nun (!) Juana Ines De La Cruz (1651–1695).

The book kicks off with an introduction explaining that LGBT people have existed throughout the world from the beginning of recorded time, which is as powerful a reminder for a 34-year-old as it almost certainly will be for a tween or teenage reader. Seriously, I want this book in the hands of every young person questioning his, her, or their sexual orientation or gender identity. Prager was particularly taken with the revelation that Africa has a rich queer history that was suppressed and erased by colonialism, to the point that today homosexuality is considered "an import of the Western World." Prager also clarifies the method by which she applies modern day terminology to historical figures. She filters the people featured in the book through a modern lens as honestly and accurately as possible without distorting their experiences.

Frida Kahlo: "a bisexual Mexican woman paints her pain"

Each section opens with an illustrated portrait by artist Zoe More O'Ferrall and a "TL;DR" (cute) succinctly describing the featured person. For instance, Sylvia Rivera: "Early leader of the queer rights movement gets real about the issues." There's a vivid description of a pivotal moment in the individual's life, followed by a swift and engaging overview of their identity, life, and accomplishments. Prager uses clever, occasionally referential headings like "Mockingjay" for Jeanne d'Arc without getting too precious. If such winks get kids interested in history, I'm all for them. She also selects a diverse array of individuals including equal amounts men, women, transgender and nonbinary folk, and people of color. For added geek appeal, Alan Turing and George Takei are both included.

Queer, There and Everywhere is highly recommend for the unique and entertainingly presented information it offers. Even the chapters on familiar individuals taught me new things—I had read about Abraham Lincoln's sexuality before but got a much fuller picture from Prager, and while I attended St. Joan of Arc elementary school, you better believe the nuns never told me about Joan's cross-dressing or torturous imprisonment. Fortunately, kids and adults today can celebrate LGBT History Month with Prager's compelling collection.


Queer, There and Everywhere by Sarah Prager with illustrations by Zoe More O'Ferrall
HarperCollins
May 2017
272 Pages
ISBN: 9780062474315