The book Stonewall: the Riots that Sparked the Gay Revolution by David Carter was a great book to read while learning about the 1969 Stonewall Riots. This book helped me gain insight into what it was like in the 50s and 60s, when there was still much to be done to give homosexuals the rights they deserved. It also helped delve into the multiple turning points which eventually lead to the Stonewall Riots.
Overall, it gave me important information that I’ll need in the future to compare earlier turning points in the timeline of gay history to the Stonewall Riots and to decide whether they were as significant as they are portrayed these days or whether they were just another one of a series of important turning points which helped propel the gay rights’ movement into the mainstream. This book has helped me understand the key turning points during and after the Stonewall Riots to a powerful degree, and therefore I believe that it’s a compelling read for anyone looking for information regarding this subject.
This book begins by describing the scene in Greenwich Village New York, where the Stonewall Riots took place. It then goes on to describe how homosexuals were treated in the early 1960s, even giving detailed anecdotes from the lives of those who were treated unfairly by the police at that time. Along with details about people’s firsthand experiences, it provides a history of the Stonewall Inn, describing how it was created from a restaurant that used to be separated into two different places; a stable and a bakery.
This beginning helps the reader understand how New York was back then, and sets the stage for the rest of the ‘story’. After describing the history of the city and the laws that were passed in the 50s to discourage (if not enforce the discrimination against) homosexuality, the author then goes on to describe the upbringing and growth of key characters in the Stonewall Riots (some of whom later went on to become leaders of the gay rights movement), including Craig Rodwell, Dick Leitsch, Bob Kohler, and a plethora of other characters.
The book’s intimate descriptions of life in the years before the Stonewall Riots is a key reason this book is essential to read for the purpose of learning about gay life in the years leading up to the Stonewall Riots. This long prelude to the actual conflict gives the reader a greater understanding of what was going on before the Stonewall Riots. The Stonewall Riots are often regarded as the key turning point in the gay civil rights movement, bringing about the ‘gay revolution’. However, as exemplified in the book, this was not the only major turning point in this time period.
There were other turning points which occurred before the Stonewall Riots, and these were almost, if not more, important than the Stonewall Riots in helping bring the issue of civil rights for homosexuals to the forefront of American society. One of the important events that the book describes is the condemnation of entrapment by New York City Mayor John Lindsay, who was the 103rd mayor of the city from 1966 to 1973. Entrapment (which was the police’s practice of pretending to be homosexuals so that they could arrest any gays who were ‘cruising’ other men [looking to hook up with them]) was a big issue back then.
It was unfair, since the police led gays on by making them think that the police were actually other gay men, and then arresting them for agreeing to perform in illegal sexual acts. Mayor Lindsay’s condemnation of this police practice resulted in its end. This was an important turning point, because it helped stop the enforcement of homosexual oppression. Another turning point which was explored within the book was the beginning of the Stonewall Riots. The author goes to great lengths to describe the events which led up to the beginning of the riots.
He starts this by describing how the Stonewall Inn came to be, chronicling its beginning as two different buildings and writing about how the buildings were put together to create the ‘Stonewall Inn Restaurant’. Then, the author writes about the founder of the Inn, an Italian mobster named Fat Tony, and the reasons behind turning it into a gay bar. The fact that the bar was ran by someone connected to the mafia is important, as it was the sole reason that Inspector Seymour Pine led the raid on the Stonewall Inn on the morning of June 28, 1969 which evolved into the Stonewall Riots.
In the book, David Carter writes that the main turning point in the raid began when the police forced most people out and forced transgender people into the bathroom to check their genitalia to decide whether they were male or female. Usually, this happened during every raid on gay bars; however, this time, the people put up more of a struggle, alerting the outside people of the situation they were in. Along with this, a lesbian who was arrested by the cops was being handled very roughly, and this caused her to fight back equally as rough.
As she was put in a cop car, she called on the rest of the people waiting outside to do something about what was happening. This was the spark which ignited the flame; as she was being driven away, the crowd began to fight back against the cops, throwing things their way and shouting obscenities at them. This angry lesbian’s call to arms was the turning point in the raid, and gave everyone else the will to fight back. This turning point began the riots, and therefore is an important aspect of them.
All in all, the Stonewall Riots were important in helping bring the gay civil rights movement to public view, and this book helps illustrate this within it. Overall, I believe that this book has done an excellent job of elucidating me on the subject of the Stonewall Riots, and is an excellent source of information on the topic. The amount of intricate descriptions of people’s lives back then in the ‘gay ghetto’ of Greenwich Village and the inclusion of many turning points that aren’t as well known as the Stonewall Riots makes this book an outstanding account of life during this period of time.
The anecdotes also make the book easier to read, as those parts of it make the book seem more like a novel and less like a textbook. Plus, the book described the Stonewall Riots as well as other, lesser known turning points in the gay civil rights movement. Stonewall: the Riots that Sparked the Gay Revolution was a great book to read, and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about the homosexual community in America before the mainstreaming of the gay civil rights movement.