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Pride Month Book Review – No Way, They Were Gay?

NO WAY, THEY WERE GAY?:

Hidden Lives and Secret Loves

by Lee Wind

(Zest Books; $18.99, Ages 12 and up)

 

No Way They Were Gay book cover

 

I knew I was going to love No Way, They Were Gay? when I first got the inside scoop about it during author Lee Wind’s book launch earlier this year. But I’d like to add that while I’m sharing my review during Pride Month, it should not by any means be read just in June.

Wind’s excellent young adult nonfiction book is clearly a labor of love and a book that will launch myriad meaningful conversations as it has done in my home. Top on the discussion list is how the history we learn is created by those in power. Wind reminds us that, as educated and questioning readers, we have to always carefully consider any historical information presented, its sources, along with motivations and biases. Were certain details related to certain historical figures’ gender identity, romantic and/or love interests withheld from public accounts to protect a person’s image or reputation such as that of English poet and playwright William Shakespeare, President Abraham Lincoln, India’s independence proponent, Mahatma Gandhi, or First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt? Were there other reasons influencing the decision to downplay, edit, or hide these and others’ true stories? This book delves deep and wide into the “why” and makes us rethink our knowledge of the people Wind has selected.

 

NoWayTheyWereGay Shakespeare int
Interior design and image from No Way, They Were Gay? by Lee Wind, Zest Books ©2021.

 

The exhaustive research collected and carefully conveyed in this book speaks volumes to Wind’s commitment to speaking truth to power while reaffirming respect for and the importance of the individuals included. Would Shakespeare’s sonnets be any less powerful and passionate if they were dedicated to a man? No. Does Gandhi’s relationship with another man mean he was any less of a leader? No. Does Roosevelt’s enduring relationship with Lorena Hickock detract from her contributions to society during an especially trying period in our history? No? So why then do the facts about who these people loved remain disputed or concealed? Wind presents his take with compelling proof and winning arguments, and then asks teens what they think.

 

NoWayTheyWereGay QueenAnne int
Interior design and photograph from No Way, They Were Gay? by Lee Wind, Zest Books ©2021.

 

 

No Way, They Were Gay? is divided up into three parts: “Men Who Loved Men,” “Women Who Loved Women,” and “People Who Lived Outside Gender Boundaries.” There’s an excellent and comprehensive Introduction, a Conclusion as well as an Author’s Note, Source Notes, Recommended Resources, and an Index. What I appreciated the most about the intro was that Wind included explanations about gender identity, the acronym LGBTQ and LGBTQIA2+, and labeling in a way that makes them easily understood. The book’s design, featuring fact bubbles, news clippings, images, photographs, and letters, adds to the ease of reading. Throughout the book, primary sources are presented in bold, another great idea. Additionally, there’s a suggestion at the end to read the book chronologically for those who prefer this approach. (See page 251)

Wind’s book is a great jumping-off point for further reading (which he provides) because after finishing each part readers may find themselves asking more questions. In fact, I love that Wind encourages them to. Speaking of further exploration, do not miss a visit to his website which is another helpful resource for tweens and teens. Though the suggested age range by the publisher is ages 12 and up, many 10- and 11-year-olds will welcome the information. I came away from my read of No Way, They Were Gay? both grateful that a thoughtful light has been shed on the lives of so many notable people in the LGBTQIA2+ community throughout history, and happy that Wind has written an indispensable book on queer history that will be embraced for years to come.

 

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National Women’s History Month

I wrote and posted this review last year, but wanted to repost it in honor of a most inspiring woman I had the pleasure to know – Sandra McLeod Humphrey. She died along with her husband in a fire this past November and I could not think of a more fitting tribute to her kindness, talent and gift for connecting with children than to share her last book with you all once again. I hope you, too, will take a moment to honor the remarkable women you have known in your life.

– Ronna Mandel

They Stood ALONE!: 25 Men and Women Who Made a Difference
(Prometheus Books, $14.00, ages 9-12) by Sandra McLeod Humphrey is reviewed today by Ronna Mandel.


Meet 13 men and 12 women who all marched to the beat of a different drummer, often disregarding outside opinion, and by doing so made enormous contributions to our world. Parents can spark the flame of discovery by reading this book to children younger than the recommended age range because the writing is uncomplicated and straightforward and each chapter brief enough to hold their interest yet packed with substantial information. Written in second person, there’s an instant feeling of you are there connecting children to the important personages described.

Since March is National Women’s History Month, here’s a chance to introduce boys and girls to some outstanding women whose names they’ve heard of, but about whom they know very little. Take Marie Curie for example, the first person to receive the Nobel Prize not once, but twice or Mother Teresa who at the age of 12 received a calling from God to become a nun and help the poor.

Whether you seek to learn about artist and inventor Leonardo da Vinci who barely had a formal education or the founder of modern astronomy, Nicolaus Copernicus, the inspiring people McLeod Humphrey has selected will leave the reader in awe and eager to know more.

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