Today, we’re highlighting task number 12, which is to read a nonfiction book about BIPOC and/or queer history. This is a big topic and I wish I could give you a hundred books to try, but alas, there are not that many here for you. If you keep scrolling, though, there are a few links at the end to help you find others that might be of interest!
There are a lot of nonfiction books nowadays that focus on contemporary social justice, and in the past few years, especially, those have been heavily the focus when it comes to books by BIPOC and queer authors about BIPOC and queer people and concerns. But while we have to talk about contemporary issues, there’s so much history that we just don’t know, because nobody took the time to research it, or if they had, it was decided it wasn’t worth teaching. Thankfully, we’ve been able to discover the histories of more people, places, and movements than ever before, and there are countless options for this particular category.
So, in honor of that “and/or” in the task description, here are eight books that focus on the history of BIPOC members of the queer community.
Black on Both Sides: A Racial History of Trans Identity by C. Riley Snorton
This detailed history digs into the history of transness in the African American community by highlighting some of the Black trans folks who lived between the mid nineteenth century and the present day. It compares the exposure to the names of prominent and tragic white trans people to that of Black trans people living at the same time, and digs into the correlation between anti-Blackness and anti-transness.
Q&A: Voices from Queer Asian North America edited by Martin F. Manalansan IV, Alice Y. Hom, Kale Bantigue Fajardo
This is not a true history book, but does contain several perspectives on the history of queer Asians in the Americas through analysis, personal essay, poetry, and more. Its predecessor, Q&A: Queer in Asian America, was published by Hom and a different colleague, and was published in 1998.
This volume highlights the past and present of Ballroom culture, recently made famous by shows like Pose and Legendary. Using elements of oral history and archival study, Tucker discusses the connection between queer Black culture and the shifts and swings in house music and culture over several decades.
Reclaiming Two-Spirits: Sexuality, Spiritual Renewal & Sovereignty in Native America by Gregory D. Smithers
This is the book that “decolonizes the history of gender and sexuality in Native North America.” Delving into the precolonial history of how gender and sexuality were expressed in various Indigenous groups, Smithers explores the meaning of holding onto the traditions that were all but erased by settler colonialism, genocide, and erasure.
Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Riotous Black Girls, Troublesome Women, and Queer Radicals by Saidiya Hartman
Black women were doing a lot at the beginning of the twentieth century. “Free love, common-law and transient marriages, serial partners, cohabitation outside of wedlock, queer relations, and single motherhood were among the sweeping changes that altered the character of everyday life and challenged traditional Victorian beliefs about courtship, love, and marriage.“ Hartman looks into a group of Black women at the turn of the century and how they effected a whole century’s worth of change through their own desires for a better way to live.
Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza by Gloria Anzaldúa
First published in 1987, this combination of essays and poetry delves into life on the Mexican border, both in the past and in Anzaldúa’s present. She examines history and the future, and queer life in straight spaces, in language that will breathe the same full life into stories for centuries to come.
Queer Brown Voices: Personal Narratives of Latina/o LGBT Activism edited by Uriel Quesada, Letitia Gomez, Salvador Vidal-Ortiz
This collection of oral histories gathers nearly-lost knowledge of days past. Using oral history and personal essays, 14 queer activists highlight the work done in the 1970s, ‘80s, and ‘90s, by themselves and their (often lost) peers.
Black. Queer. Southern. Women.: An Oral History by E. Patrick Johnson
This oral history collection looks at the past and present of “racialized sexual minorities” in the American South, through their own words. E. Patrick Johnson has a whole catalog of books exploring the lives past and present of Black queer folks, so this one might just be a jumping off point if you’re interested in a deep dive into Queer Black Studies.
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There were about 30 other books about either BIPOC or queer history on this list before, including several from the [insert group] History of the United States series, so you know there are plenty books in this category to read. You just have to find the one that speaks to you!
And if you really need more, here are some links to check out:
- Historical Nonfiction: 30 of the Best Books in the Genre
- 20 of the Best World History Books
- Enter the Time Machine With These Books About Precolonial Life