Samantha Rosenthal discusses Living Queer History: Remembrance and Belonging in a Southern City and the LGBTQ community in Roanoke, Virginia, that the book documents and celebrates. Interweaving historical analysis, theory, and memoir, Rosenthal tells the story of their own journey—coming out and transitioning as a transgender woman—in the midst of working on a community-based history project that documented a multigenerational southern LGBTQ community. In conversation with Sarah Calise.
Presented as part of the Shelf Life series of virtual events from the Virginia Festival of the Book, a program of Virginia Humanities.
“A brilliantly blended book that, much like queerness itself, transcends genre and blurs boundaries. Using memoir to look outward and history to look inward, Rosenthal makes theory concrete, finds the past in the present, and brings Roanoke’s overlooked queer demimonde to beautiful life.”—Samantha Allen, author of Real Queer America: LGBT Stories from Red States
“This is an important book, speaking to some of the most contemporary queries and issues relating to LGBTQ people, cultures, and our histories. Carefully attentive to the ways in which race, ethnicity, class, and gender (among other identities and power systems) speak to and with LGBTQ identities of various stripes, the book delivers a persuasive challenge to continuing presumptions that the South has never been a space or place in which LGBTQ people or cultures or communities could emerge, let alone survive and thrive. Rather than a book ‘of history’ it is ultimately a book about history—how it is made, what gets missed or elided by even the most well-meaning of scholars.”—Leisa Meyer, author of Creating G.I. Jane: Sexuality and Power in the Women’s Army Corps During World War II
“A moving and necessary account of the way making history remakes ourselves, Living Queer History asks what it means for a queer person to have a place and to take up space in a straight world. With keen insight into their own queer life, Rosenthal combines personal narrative, oral history, activism, and queer theory to offer a fuller understanding of queer belonging.”—Jenn Shapland, author of My Autobiography of Carson McCullers
Based on over forty interviews with LGBTQ elders, Living Queer History explores how queer people today think about the past and how history lives on in the present. Queer history is a living practice. Talk to any group of LGBTQ people today, and they will not agree on what story should be told. Many people desire to celebrate the past by erecting plaques and painting rainbow crosswalks, but queer and trans people in the twenty-first century need more than just symbols—they need access to power, justice for marginalized people, spaces of belonging. Approaching the past through a lens of queer and trans survival and world-building transforms history itself into a tool for imagining and realizing a better future.