Real Queer America: LGBT Stories from Red States by Samantha Allen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is a combination travel book and memoir, with the common thread of finding and relating the stories of LGBT people in red states. The author was once a Mormon missionary before leaving the LDS church and transitioning, and the author tells both her story and the stories of others she finds on the road in an easy, conversational style.
This book is a bit of a revelation, as I'm sure many have heard the stories of queer people leaving their hometowns as soon as they possibly can, lighting out for big cities and more tolerant environments. Samantha Allen finds the stories of those who refuse to leave the places they love, and who are determined to drag those places into the 21st century. A lot of those places, needless to say, are in the Deep South--Texas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia--as well as the author's home state of Utah. She visits queer bars, clubs, and communities, and her friends in those states. The important point is made that it is the close-knit bonds of these people, their chosen families, and their determination to fight for change for themselves and others, that sets them apart.
There are some interesting and emotional stories in this book, and Allen captures them very well. Her use of description and setting to ground the stories she relates is also done well. Despite the understandable fear and anxiety LGBT people are feeling over the current occupant of the White House, this is an encouraging, uplifting and even optimistic book. As the author states towards the book's end:
In twenty years, maybe sooner, it will matter even less which parts of the country queer people choose to inhabit because this is the generation that will be in power--a generation that believes in facts, that sees anti-LGBT discrimination as an archaic holdover from the past, that refuses to erase their lived authenticity to satisfy their elders. Queer kids in the future won't think twice about going to school in Georgia because acceptance will be the new nationwide status quo. Like transitioning, change is not a thing that happens all at once. But these kids will make it happen faster than anyone sees coming.
More power to them.
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