History Comics: The Stonewall Riots | Review
History Comics: The Stonewall Riots: Making a Stand for LGBTQ Rights
written by Archie Bongiovanni; art by A. Andrews
First Second, $12.99 (paperback), $19.99 (hardcover)
I’m impressed and thrilled to see this subject included in a line of graphic novels about history for young people. The introduction to this volume, by professor Michael Bronski, sums up the importance of works like this one.
“We must acknowledge our history, reflect on the people who came before us, preserve their stories, and pass them along.”
Friends are helping Natalia’s grandmother move into an apartment when they discover that, before she was married to a man, she had a girlfriend. That gives the older woman an opening to tell this group of queer students what life for them would have been like in the 1960s — no acceptance, no being out, getting fired, the threat of violence, the possibility of being arrested just for being who you were…
Going back in time, envisioning themselves in those days, gives them a new appreciation for the hardships gay, lesbian, and trans people faced. They visit the Stonewall Inn, an accepting bar, on the 1969 night that customers clashed with the police during a raid. There, they meet Marsha P. Johnson as well as other people who show them what community means.
There are debates over how much to get involved, the best ways to fight oppression, and a wide variety of opinions, emphasizing that there are different kinds of resistance and no one right way to stand up for oneself. There’s also an overview of other struggles LGBTQ people have lived through in recent times, including mention of Gay Pride, the AIDS epidemic, and marriage equality.
The structure of this historical graphic novel is simpler than some of the others in the series, but the questions it raises are important and immediate.
Johanna Draper Carlson has been reviewing comics for over 20 years. She manages ComicsWorthReading.com, the longest-running independent review site online that covers all genres of comic books, graphic novels, and manga. She has an MA in popular culture, studying online fandom, and was previously, among many other things, webmaster for DC Comics. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin.
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