That's the Stonewall.
The Stonewall Inn.
History walks through that door.
In 1969 being gay in the United States was a criminal offense. It meant living a closeted life or surviving on the fringes of society. People went to jail, lost jobs, and were disowned by their families for being gay. Most doctors considered homosexuality a mental illness. There were few safe havens, few places to go where it was okay to be gay. The Stonewall Inn, a Mafia-run, filthy, overpriced bar in New York City's Greenwich Village, was one of them.
Police raids on gay bars happened regularly in this era. But one hot June night, when cops pounded on the door of the Stonewall, almost nothing went as planned. Tensions were high. The crowd refused to go away. Anger and frustration boiled over.
The raid became a riot.
The riot became a catalyst.
The catalyst triggered an explosive demand for gay rights.
Ann Bausum's riveting exploration of the Stonewall Riots and the national gay rights movement that followed is eye-opening, unflinching, and inspiring.
Many of my books have been recorded as audio productions, but Stonewall's transition from text to sound was particularly charmed. Aaron Blank, an executive producer at Listening Library, directed the project's recording, but this simple statement overlooks all the countless ways he worked to make the end result irresistible.
For starters, he recruited a fantastic narrator for the project, Tim Federle. Readers (and listeners) may know Federle's pair of middle grade novels about Nate Foster, a loveable outcast from the suburbs of Philadelphia who wants to make it big on Broadway. Federle, who knows quite a bit about aiming for Broadway and landing well there, narrated Better Nate Than Ever and Five, Six, Seven, Nate! Both productions earned honor recognition from the Odyssey Award of the American Library Association, an award that commends the best audiobook productions of the year.
Bringing Tim Federle in to narrate Stonewall was a brilliant idea, and he nails his performance. I just about have the text memorized, but when I started playing the new audio edition, I couldn't stop listening. I still found myself mesmerized by Federle's dynamic delivery. Here's a link to his rendering of the opening pages of Chapter 1: "Flash Point."
Listening Library put together a video tour of the Stonewall neighborhood and the background behind their audiobook, including scenes of Tim Federle at work in the recording studio. You can watch their short film here:
Aaron Blank folded me into the production process, too, asking me to confirm pronunciation of key place names and people, and even verifying what cadence to use with the ACT-UP chant on page 87: "History will recall, Reagan and Bush did nothing at all." He prepped for every eventuality and even invited me to record my Author's Note and Acknowledgments, which are two of my favorite parts of the book. Even though I assisted from afar, I very much felt a part of the creative process and hope the audiobook will help introduce more readers to this history.
This Listening Library production almost immediately earned an "Earphones Award" from AudioFile, recognizing it as a "truly exceptional presentation." Here's a link to the AudioFile review.
Listening Library and Penguin Young Readers have launched a new website to connect young people and educators with their LGBTQ books, audiobooks, and related content. The site is chockablock-full of background material about Stonewall and other titles with LGBTQ themes. Visit Read Proud, Listen Proud to explore.
Some authors write while listening to music, but not me. Anyone who can write with music playing in the background has my admiration. In my case I just want the quiet of my thoughts.
All that quiet time at work, doesn't mean I don't listen to music at other times, though, and during my research for Stonewall I returned to a playlist from my youth. I wanted to remember how those old tunes sounded, focus on the lyrics, and appreciate the ones that got stuck in my head. My old vinyl collection languishes for lack of a record player, so I began checking stacks of CDs out of the library and traveling back in time.
Over the course of several months I recalled old favorites, listened to songs I'd read about during my research, and sampled the 1960s all over again. You can, too. I've created a playlist from the past that features popular artists whose songs were heard at the Stonewall Inn. You can find this virtual Stonewall jukebox listed below. Or use this link to the playlist on Spotify.
"(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction"
The Rolling Stones
"Stop! In The Name Of Love"
Diana Ross and the Supremes
"I Get Around"
The Beach Boys
"I Heard It Through The Grapevine"
Gladys Knight and the Pips
"For Once In My Life"
"If I Could Build My Whole World Around You"
"Like a Rolling Stone"
"(I Know) I'm Losing You"
"Knock On Wood"
Otis Redding and Carla Thomas
"Somebody To Love"
"The Tracks Of My Tears"
Smokey Robinson and the Miracles
"I'm Gonna Make You Love Me"
Diana Ross and the Supremes and the Temptations
"Give Him a Great Big Kiss"
"Dancing In The Street"
Martha Reeves and the Vandellas
"(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay"
"Under My Thumb"
The Rolling Stones
"I'll Bring It Home To You"
"Back In My Arms Again"
Diana Ross and the Supremes
"(Love Is Like A) Heat Wave"
Martha Reeves and the Vandellas
The Beach Boys
"Where Did Our Love Go"
Diana Ross and the Supremes
Here are several ways students and educators can creatively explore the history associated with the Stonewall riots of 1969 and LGBTQ history.
Discussion topic—technology then and now. In Chapter 4 of Stonewall readers learn how pay telephones played a central role in communication, including as a way to spread the word about the Stonewall riots. Consider how different the riots would have been if they had unfolded with today's technology. How would people use technology today to affect the outcome of similar events?
Design project—poster art. Chapter 8 of Stonewall opens with an illustration from 1979, a poster that commemorated the 10th anniversary of the Stonewall riots. The illustration is rendered in a style popular during that era. Note the intensive blending of text, balloon-style fonts, storytelling, and illustration. Can you use this illustration style to commemorate another historical event from that era? Alternatively, employ this style to promote a contemporary event with a retro look.
Musicology—the sounds of the Stonewall Inn. Visit the BEHIND THE SCENES—STONEWALL PLAYLIST tab of the Stonewall webpage and research some of these popular songs from the 1960s. Assemble a music collection from this era (without infringing on copyright protections) and test out the results. Can you find the groove of the 1960s? Earlier generations couldn't help but dance to these tunes. How about you? Want to add a dance component to the study? Research and practice some of the era's dance moves.
Audiophile—explore the Stonewall audiobook. Try reading with your ears and listen to Tim Federle's audiobook performance of Stonewall. Consider what his vocal rendering adds to the printed page. What emotions does he bring to his reading, and how do his emotions influence your own, as a listener? Do certain sections make you angry? Do others make you sad? Does he ever make you cry? AudioFile awarded this Listening Library production an "Earphones Award" as a "truly exceptional presentation." Here's a link to the review. How did your listening experience compare to the reviewer's?
Demonstrate—explore the ACT-UP approach. Review Chapter 9, "Gay Plague," to study the history of the AIDS epidemic. The chapter introduces readers to ACT-UP, an organization that used civil disobedience and protest to draw the attention of the general public, medical professionals, and politicians to the growing AIDS health crisis. This YouTube link offers footage from the Ashes Action protest of 1992, where demonstrators threw the ashes of loved ones onto the lawn of the White House. Here's a link to ACT-UP chants, including an explanation for how they were vocalized. Recreate the soundtrack for a protest with call-and-response chants (started by a leading voice then reinforced by all), drumbeats, and other sound effects. Alternatively, identify your own protest subject and draft chants that support this cause.
Stonewall Stories and the Fight for Gay Rights
Available as a program for teens and adults
By Ann Bausum
The story of the quest for social justice in the United States remains incomplete without paying homage to the generations of individuals who—even when condemned as social outcasts because of their sexual orientation—nonetheless fought to stand as equals in the American family. After a routine police raid at a gay bar in New York City sparked a riot by patrons and allies, the promotion of rights for lesbians and gays exploded into a national movement. Using archival stories and photos, this programs shares the drama of events from 1969 and offers perspective on what has changed and what remains constant in the struggle for equality by members of the LGBTQ community.
Many individuals influenced the making of Stonewall, and their stories are woven into the presentation, as well—from the teen whose suicide helped to inspire the writing of the book to the friends, living and dead, who affirmed that it was time to introduce young adults to an essential story from our nation's journey toward universal equality.
Length: 45 minutes for program, 10-15 minutes for questions
Technical requirements: LCD projector and projection screen
Audience feedback on this program:
"This was a great historical discussion regarding a neglected topic. I loved the analysis regarding being invisible—being in the closet—this is a great way to connect to the students. The students really appreciated hearing your personal connection to gay rights, and they were very interested in your writing/research process. Great PowerPoint!"
—High school educator, Illinois
"Your unique voice is incredibly important when it comes to social change issues."
—South Dakota Festival of Books host
"Very good content...I hope you never water down your work. Thank you for writing on very hard topics."
—South Dakota Festival of Books host
"Bausum begins her history of the gay rights movement with a careful, detailed exposition of the June 1969 Stonewall Riots....[She puts] together a candid linear narrative that takes into consideration the perspectives of both sides of the conflict....Bausum writes with the precision of a journalist; there is never any doubt as to what she wonders, what she conjectures, and what she knows. The resulting narrative integrity makes her observations and her conclusions about the persecution and resilience of the LGBTQ community all the more powerful."
—The Horn Book, starred review
"This powerful, well-researched work examines the Stonewall riots, which took place in 1969 in New York City....Bausum describes the restrictive lives that many gays and lesbians led in the 1960s....Quoting from a variety of firsthand sources (journalists, bar patrons, cops, and others), Bausum paints a vivid picture of the three nights of rioting that became the focal point for activists....Bausum describes the growth of gay and lesbian activism, setbacks, the impact of HIV/AIDS, and issues such as gays in the military and same-sex marriage, bringing readers to the present day and expertly putting these struggles into historical context. VERDICT: An essential purchase."
—School Library Journal, starred review
April 1, 2015
"...Bausum eloquently and thoughtfully recounts it all, from the violent arrest of a young lesbian by the police to an angry, mocking, Broadway-style kick line of young men protesting against New York's Tactical Control Force. Bausum not only recounts the action of the evening in clear, blow-by-blow journalistic prose, she also is careful to point out assumptions and misunderstandings that might also have occurred during the hot summer night. Her narrative feels fueled by rage and empowerment and the urge to tell the truth. She doesn't bat an eye when recounting the ways that the LGBT fought to find freedom, love, and the physical manifestations of those feelings...Enlightening, inspiring, and moving."
—Kirkus, starred review
March 15, 2015
"Bausum...offers a powerful and moving account of the pivotal Stonewall riots of 1969 and the struggle for gay rights in the U.S....Bausum's conversational storytelling whisks readers back to an era when homosexuality was criminalized....A fast-paced accounting....Final chapters bring the battle for gay civil rights up to the present, with particular attention paid to the AIDS epidemic, pride parades, and the fight for marriage equality. "
—Publishers Weekly, starred review
March 27, 2015
"...Bausum's account of the gay rights movement, from Stonewall through the AIDS crisis to the present, is told with heartbreaking candor, and Tim Federle's narration wrings all the emotion from this gripping history. With vocal intensity that is by turns fearful, angry, or touching, Federle takes listeners on this affecting journey through a shameful part of our national story that, while improved, still leaves much to be desired...."
—AudioFile Magazine, Earphones Award winner
"Author Bausum combines impeccably researched facts with a compelling narrative...[Tim] Federle's natural, conversational reading allows listeners to follow the timeline of events with perfect clarity...Captivating and heartfelt, this production complements and extends the print version through the seamless pairing of narrator's voice and author's intent."
—The Horn Book, Audiobooks
"It started with a thump on the door....and the thump announced a police raid, which—as Bausum dramatically demonstrates—turned from raid to riot as the customers of the bar resisted the officers, fomenting an incident that helped launch the gay rights movement....Though comprising little more than a hundred pages of text, the book is comprehensive in its coverage, filled with important information, and compassionate in its tone. It sheds welcome light on a subject that deserves greater coverage in YA literature."
April 1, 2015
"A history of the Stonewall riots sets the scene with a vibrant description of west Greenwich Village in 1969...Ann Bausum's riveting, detailed account includes an overview of activism in the years leading up to these events at Stonewall and a look on their immediate and long-term impact...A spare collection of black-and-white photos accompanies this fascinating history that includes source notes and an ample bibliography."
—CCBC Choices 2016
"...Stonewall...was written for young adults. But it should be required reading for all, especially 20-somethings who believe that gay rights started with marriage equality....Bausum's book takes readers through all of [the] essential history, beginning with the Stonewall riots....in a clear, direct style. It is filled with gripping, scenes that describe how a small raid turned into a full-scale riot....The book recounts in page-turning detail the events of June 28, 1969....drawing readers in with suspense and good storytelling....Readers can't help but be moved, swept up in the scope and achievements of this history...."
—Isthmus, Madison, Wisconsin
May 7, 2015
"Award-winning writer Ann Bausum brings a historian's quest for accuracy, a writer's gift for narrative, a poet's gift for color and beat, and a kind of righteous fury to this fascinating book....The details of the raid and subsequent riot read almost like a thriller....Along with a vivid play-by-play of what happened that night, Bausum offers an illuminating picture of the horrifying discrimination of that not-so-long ago era... "
June 7, 2015
"...Bausum's powerful work of nonfiction grounds events in both historic and contemporary context. Photos and first-person accounts add dynamism to the well-researched text."
"Based on deep research, this sobering history candidly handles the complexity of that turning point [Stonewall] ....Also covered is...50 years of dramatic social change."
—SF Gate, online affiliate of the San Francisco Chronicle
June 25, 2015
"...Bausum builds the tension and excitement as she describes what it was like for police officers and a reporter from the Village Voice to be trapped inside the bar while thousands rioted in the streets....The use of quotes and detailed descriptions of events, places and people bring the story to life....Bausum's research for the book is impressive....a powerful and important book about pivotal social justice events that few teens know about. The book deserves a place in high school and public libraries...."
—The Nonfiction Detectives
July 30, 2015
Advance praise for Stonewall
"Stonewall tells an important story, and does it with style and passion—my favorite kind of nonfiction. "
National Book Award Finalist and Newbery Honor-winning author of Bomb and The Port Chicago 50
"Do not read this book unless you want to be swept away by the gay revolution that ultimately led to a strong, political cohesive community. Ann Bausum gives us a gripping account of the Stonewall riots in this authoritative narrative."
—Susan Campbell Bartoletti
Sibert Medalist and Newbery Honor-winning author of Hitler Youth and Black Potatoes
"A driving beat pulses throughout Stonewall, propelling the narrative forward. Bausum masterfully grounds readers in historical context while dropping them right in the heart—and the heat—of the moment."
—Tanya Lee Stone
Sibert Medalist and NAACP Image Award-winning author of Almost Astronauts and Courage Has No Color
"Told with skill and humanity, this story of the Stonewall uprising and its aftermath adds an important piece to the annals of social justice history in young adult literature."
Award-winning author of Wheels of Change and Sally Ride: Life on a Mission
The Horn Book
School Library Journal
School Library Journal Best Books of the Year, 2015
YALSA 2016 Nonfiction Award Nominee
Society of Midland Authors
2016 Children's Nonfiction Award
Chicago Public Library Best Teen Nonfiction, 2015
Nerdy Book Club Winners List for Best Nonfiction, 2015
AudioFile Earphones Award winner
School Library Journal Top Ten Audiobooks of the Year, 2015
Tofte/Wright Children's Literature Honor Award
Council for Wisconsin Writers
Cooperative Children's Book Center, University of Wisconsin
42 Diverse Must-Have YA Titles for Every Library
School Library Journal, August 2017
AVERT—one organization's efforts to stop the spread of AIDS
Issues Snapshot—Military Service
President Barack Obama repeals "Don't Ask Don't Tell"
White House blog post
Lambda Literary Awards
Commending books with literary merit and content relevant to LGBTQ lives of all ages
Rainbow Book List
Recommended LGBTQ books for children and teens
American Library Association
Read Proud, Listen Proud
Connecting powerful LGBTQ stories with readers and listeners
Recognizing exceptional merit in LGBTQ books for all ages
American Library Association
Stonewall National Monument
National Park Service site
New York, New York
Tyler Clementi Foundation
Working to end online and offline bullying
Films and documentaries
Documentary film directed by John Scagliotti. New York: First Run Features, 1999.
Documentary film directed by Greta Schiller and Robert Rosenberg. New York: First run Features, 1984.
"The Boys in the Band"
Film adaptation of the 1968 Off-Broadway stage play by Mart Crowley, directed by William Friedkin. A period piece from the pre-Stonewall era.
Film directed by Gus Van Sant, starring Sean Penn as Harvey Milk. Focus Features, 2008.
A Q-Ball Productions documentary film for American Experience, WGBH Educational Foundation, 2011. Transcript and related resources available online.
Carter, David. Stonewall: The Riots that Sparked the Gay Revolution. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2004; St. Martin's Griffin edition, 2010.
Hirshman, Linda. Victory: The Triumphant Gay Revolution. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2012.
Shilts, Randy. And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1987; twentieth anniversary edition, 2007.
Shilts, Randy. The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1982.
• Stonewall: Breaking Out in the Fight for Gay Rights
• Publication date: May 5, 2015
• 128 pages, hardcover
• 30 archival photos and illustrations
• Back matter includes a note from the author, source notes, bibliography, index
• ISBN 978-0-670-01679-2, hardcover
• ISBN 978-0-14-751147-8, paperback
• Audio edition available from Listening Library