Book Shelf

John D'Emilio, Queer Legacies: Stories from Chicago's LGBTQ Archives

The variety of gay life in Chicago is too abundant and too diverse to be contained in a single place. But since 1981, the Gerbert/Hart Library & Archives on the city’s North Side has strived to do just that, amassing and cataloging a wealth of records related to gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer-identified people and organizations in the city.

In Queer Legacies, John D’Emilio—a pioneering scholar of gay and lesbian studies—digs deep into the collection at the Gerbert/Hart Library to unearth a kaleidoscopic look at the community built by generations of gay men and women in Chicago. Excavated from one of the country’s most important, yet overlooked, LGBTQ archives, the stories included in his book are populated by athletes, lawyers, publishers, artists, performers, and organizers, each offering their own fascinating contribution to Chicago’s historically vibrant scene. The breezy and enthusiastic essays that make up Queer Legacies range in focus from politics, culture, social life, and the history of institutions like Dignity—the foremost organization for LGBTQ Catholics—and the Gay Academic Union. Though the book is anchored in Chicago, many of the essays reach farther revealing the connections to events and issues of national import.

Queer Legacies illuminates how archives can be more than musty spaces far from the urgent concerns of the present day and shows that institutions like the Gerbert/Hart are a life-giving resource for the historically marginalized communities they serve. This book gives readers an inclusive and personal look at fifty years of a national fight for visibility, recognition, and equality led by LGBTQ Americans who, quite literally, made history. In these troubled times, it will surely inspire a new generation of scholars and activists.