As Pride Month begins to wind down, there’s always a desire to keep the vibe going — especially this year, since nearly all the festivities were and will be virtual (with the expansive Global Pride 2020 happening this weekend). And so, because one of the best ways to feel LGBTQ pride anytime is by expanding your knowledge of queer history, Yahoo Life has some book and film recommendations to help you stay inspired and engaged — and, in turn, a handful of additional suggestions from each of the authors and filmmakers, some of which deal with queer history directly, and others more tied to racism and otherness, that have influenced the artist. So, dive in, learn and feel the slow burn of Pride, which, depending on how you pace the following reads and flicks, could last you for the rest of the year.
By Matthew Todd
This beautiful, brand-new and illuminating coffee-table book is chock-full of stunning archival photos and history lessons, seamlessly documenting LGBTQ milestones in both the U.S. and the U.K., in the areas of politics, sports, nightlife, media and the arts, plus personal testimonies from activists and changemakers including Judy Shepard, Lewis Oakley, Jake Shears and Darryl Pinckney.
Todd also recommends…
The Celluloid Closet (1995)
Dir. by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman
This 1995 documentary, based on the book by cultural historian Vito Russo, is about the history of representation of queer people in cinema. “Despite not being up to date today, it’s beautifully made, highly entertaining and shows how starved we were just 25 years ago,” Todd tells Yahoo Life. “Things aren’t perfect now, but it shows how queer people were portrayed either as jokes to be laughed at or deviants to be feared.” Narrated by Lily Tomlin.
By Travis Alabanza
It’s the text of a play by a young Black British gender-nonconforming performance artist whose hit show toured the U.K. in 2019. “Their one-person show is about their experience of having a burger thrown at them by a stranger on a London bridge. From an apparently meaningless act of violence, Travis creates a powerful piece of theater which is funny, angry, moving, deeply human and highly thought-provoking,” says Todd.
Torch Song Trilogy (1988)
Dir. by Paul Bogart
This 1988 film about someone “who is out, open, defiant and unapologetic,” was highly influential, says Todd. “For me, growing up in the ’80s, it was the first I saw that was about gay love.” It’s based on the Tony Award-winning 1982 Broadway play and stars its author, Harvey Fierstein, plus Anne Bancroft and Matthew Broderick.
Dir. by Sam Feder
This just-released Netflix documentary, produced by and featuring Laverne Cox and directed by Sam Feder — also the filmmaker behind Kate Bornstein Is a Queer & Pleasant Danger — examines the history of transgender depiction in film and television, particularly Hollywood’s role in manufacturing the idea that trans people were to be loathed and laughed at. Also featuring Lilly Wachowski, Mj Rodriguez and Chaz Bono.
Feder also recommends…
Ethnic Notions (1987)
Color Adjustment (1992)
Dir. by Marlon Riggs
These documentary films — the first of which examines the deep-rooted racist stereotypes fueled by decades of film and pop music and advertising, the second of which looks at 40 years of race relations through the primetime TV lens — “changed my relationship to the media,” says Feder, “and inspired making Disclosure because I was able to see, for the first time, the roots of the visual racism I had internalized for decades.”
By Matthew Riemer and Leighton Brown
This expansive photo history of the LGBTQ equality movement comes from the pair behind the 622,000-followers-strong @lgbt_history Instagram account. An exhaustive, exhilarating introduction to the movement, the curated images trace the movement from pre-Stonewall 19th century Europe into the modern day, all through a refreshingly diverse lens.
Riemer also recommends…
Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches
By Audre Lorde
Riemer says the vision of Audre Lorde, “a Black lesbian feminist mother warrior poet, is infinitely relevant, and Sister Outsider represents the most accessible — and comprehensive — introduction to the ideas that continue to shape so much of our collective struggles for liberation. It is life-changing.”
A Restricted Country
By Joan Nestle
“Joan Nestle is an activist icon, an archivist trailblazer, a popular historian and a lesbian saint,” says Riemer. “In A Restricted Country, Nestle, co-founder of the Lesbian Herstory Archives [located in Brooklyn], leads her reader through the mid-20th century lesbian world while simultaneously articulating how the erasure and assimilation of history continues to damage our collective fight for liberation.”
Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution
By David Carter
“In his definitive account of the events collectively known as the Stonewall Riots,” Riemer says, “David Carter challenges decades of mythology with meticulous research and complicated truths. … Carter, who died just weeks ago, forever altered our understanding of ourselves.”
Paris Is Burning (1990; reissued in HD in 2019)
By Jennie Livingston
Digitally remastered by the UCLA Television Archive under Livingston’s direction and briefly rereleased in theaters last year, this glorious classic documentary delves into 1980s ball culture in New York City and the many struggles faced — from homelessness and anti-trans violence — by the self-created queer families of color during the height of the AIDS crisis. It would eventually serve as the inspiration for many other creations on the topic — most notably Pose, for which Livingston served as a Season 1 consultant. Available on iTunes.
Livingston also recommends…
Geography III (1976)
By Elizabeth Bishop
“I read and fell in love with this slim yet essential book of poetry by Elizabeth Bishop in college before I knew either the poet (or I) were queer,” says Livingston. “About travel, loss, childhood and the strangeness of the world ... from a New England poet who relocated to Brazil to be with her great love, Lota Soares.”
The Evidence of Things Not Seen (1985)
By James Baldwin
“James Baldwin’s searing look at the Atlanta child murders. If you want to understand some of the histories fueling the current Movement for Black Lives, and you’re a Baldwin fan (or a Baldwin beginner), this is an essential text,” Livingston says.
Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974)
Dir. by Rainer Fassbinder
If you’ve not seen this film, says Livingston, now is the time to see — or revisit it. “The great gay German filmmaker Rainer Fassbinder loosely based this film on Douglas Sirk’s Hollywood melodrama classic All That Heaven Allows,” she says. “Perhaps Fassbinder’s best film, it’s about a love affair between a young Moroccan guest worker (played by Fassbinder’s lover in real life, El Hedi ben Salem) and an older white cleaning woman (played by the great Brigitte Mira). Not a queer love story per se, but queer all the way. Fassbinder plays the racist son!”
By C. Riley Snorton
The multi-award-winning not-oft-told history lesson, through deep research, ties together notions of Black trans identity from as far back as the 19th century to today’s modern ideas of race and gender intersectionality. In the introduction, Snorton, a queer studies professor and the author of Nobody Is Supposed to Know: Black Sexuality on the Down Low, notes it was a 19th century ambiguous postcard, seen on the book’s cover, that inspired him to start mining the rich past.
Snorton also recommends…
This is the latest work from short-film artist/activist Tourmaline, now a part of the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection and premiering on its website Thursday. “I am very excited to watch the premiere of Salacia, which reimagines the life of Mary Jones, a figure I discuss in Chapter 2 of Black on Both Sides. Tourmaline has also made an important historical film about the work and life of Marsha P. Johnson [Happy Birthday, Marsha!] as well as films oriented around contemporary Black trans life.”
MY NEWS: The Museum of Modern Art acquired my film Salacia for their PERMANENT COLLECTION! Salacia premieres Thursday at 8PM on https://t.co/TZa1m7os35! Produced by Keanu Reeves & starring Rowin Amone, Salacia re-imagines Mary Jones in 1830s Seneca Village. 📸Matt Harvey pic.twitter.com/XnFYTgbvCg— 🐝Tourmaline🐝 (@tourmaliiine) June 22, 2020
Trouble on Triton: An Ambiguous Heterotopia
By Samuel Delany
By Octavia Butler
“I am deeply influenced by speculative fiction as a way to think about how other worlds are possible,” Snorton tells Yahoo Life, citing how two of his favorites, Trouble on Triton and Wild Seed, “both underscore how gender is not necessarily ‘given and natural’ but can function as a site for cultural and political maneuver.”
By Lillian Faderman
Faderman, a longtime lesbian historian and scholar whose other works include Harvey Milk: His Lives and Death and Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers, offered this meticulously researched history of the queer liberation movement a few years back, organized in eye-opening, far-reaching sections such as “Scapegoats,” “The Homophiles,” “Revolts Before the Revolution” and “Demanding to Serve,” each written with the pace and description of a mini-novel.
Faderman also recommends…
Dir. by John Sayles
“It was the first lesbian film I ever saw that wasn’t horrible in how it ended,” Faderman tells Yahoo Life, recalling how she had randomly walked into an NYC movie theater in 1983, not knowing anything about the film. She was pleasantly surprised to find it was about a married woman who takes a class “and suddenly has feelings for the professor, a really gorgeous woman who turns out to be a lesbian, and they have an affair. She goes on and she’s OK and she doesn’t kill herself like in The Children’s Hour or get killed by a tree, like in The Fox,” she says. “I’d been out since 16, so I was always anxious to find lesbian films. The few out there were always so depressing.”
Sex Variant Women in Literature (1956)
By Jeanette Foster
“[Foster] was a librarian who had worked at the Kinsey Institute, and these were books that deal with lesbians, from way back in medieval times. … I just happened to run across it in ’62 or ’63 and was so astonished by it,” Faderman recalls. “But I didn’t dare take it to where I was sitting in the small reading room … so I just stood there in the stacks and I read it and kept going back to it.”
Dir. by David Barclay Moore
This two-part documentary film from Moore — a filmmaker (who also made Dr. Al’s Rebels) and an author, of the novel The Stars Beneath Our Feet — profiles a young Black queer couple in Brooklyn, Tika and Nikki, as Tika is in the process of transitioning to male. The couple offers frank, engrossing discussion on femininity and masculinity, plus what a gender change means for their relationship.
Moore also recommends…
Tongues Untied (1989)
Dir. by Marlon Riggs
This seminal 1989 documentary film, Moore tells Yahoo Life, “is a work I keep returning to again and again for inspiration. Somewhat expressionistic, the film blends personal accounts, footage, poetry and image to attempt to portray the lives of Black gay men. It is an exploration. At the time of its release, it came under fire by conservatives for its frank discussions of sexuality and its unapologetic argument on behalf of Black gay identity.”
Invisible Life (1994)
By E. Lynn Harris
This, Moore notes, “is a fun and juicy tale of a Black gay man’s discovery of his sexual identity. The protagonist, Raymond Tyler, begins the novel closeted, or living an ‘invisible life,’ but he soon becomes stuck in a tangled web of lost loves and various new relationships between both men and women.” With its focus on the salacious secrets of Black middle-class society, the story in some ways predicts today’s fascination with the melodrama of reality TV and the Real Housewives franchise.
By Assotto Saint
“My final recommendation is a daring book of poetry by a radical individual whose activism foreshadowed these current times of social change in which we all live,” Moore points out, and is “a collection of powerful poems that make the Black queer voice sing in America.” A former member of the Martha Graham Dance Company, says Moore, “Saint was a consummate multi-hyphenate artist who continually forced the boundaries between art and activism.”
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