A Quistory Lesson with Sarah Prager!

I can’t even tell you how excited I was when I opened an email a few months ago from Sarah Prager, asking if she could come speak at my library. This is a first for me – usually I am the one asking! Of course I said YES and we planned a visit. (I got lucky – her family lives nearby!) I had only recently become aware of her new YA book Queer, There and Everywhere: 23 People Who Changed the World, published by HarperCollins on May 23rd.

After more googling, I discovered Sarah was the creator of Quist, a free LGBTQ history app, and has some pretty amazing accomplishments under her belt, such as working with Apple and Google to be more inclusive of bisexual terms and being invited to the White House to speak, not to mention all the articles, committees, and public appearances….all in a day’s work for this girl!

But the book…..seriously, I think my coworkers are sick of me talking about it. I’m not typically one to pick up a nonfiction book, but this is not a typical nonfiction book. I was hooked on the first page – she had me at “Quick question: Was George Washington straight? Um…yeah?”  Nailed that first line! And after that, Sarah somehow manages to give an historical overview of queer language and terms, and a general history spanning a millennia of empires, countries and cultures in a simple, smart voice, while making you completely forget you are not reading a nonfiction history book and leaving you completely amazed that you have never even heard about most of it. And that is just the first 17 pages!

The rest of the book is made up of individual biographies in chronological order that read like mini stories. They are full of great info and are fun to read. This book should be in every library, in every school. It should be read by LGBT teens, straight teens, LGBT adults, straight adults and everyone in between. IT SHOULD BE REQUIRED READING/PART OF THE CURRICULUM IN HIGH SCHOOLS!

There is some incredible LGBT YA fiction out there that I can recommend to LGBT teens when they come to my library, and I am so thankful I have such a wide selection of great books to choose from. But Sarah’s book is unique in that the people in her book are REAL. They are queer people who commanded armies, ruled countries, and led revolutions. Another aspect of the book I found incredibly helpful was the history of queer language/terminology, as well as the glossary of terms at the end. Not only was it interesting, but it helped me to feel better about using terms correctly and confidently when discussing LGBT topics. I think that how we use terms, especially in a public library with teens, is so important. Words have power and it’s helpful to know the right way to use them.

Having the chance to meet Sarah and hear her speak was awesome. (I also got to meet her beautiful and incredibly well-behaved daughter!) As with most of my library author events, this one didn’t have a huge turnout – c’mon people! – but it was a great group of patrons who were all really excited about the book for a variety of reasons.  Because I have an MFA in Writing for Children, I always find it interesting to hear about an author’s experience working with publishers and editors. Sarah told the group that she was advised to read lots of YA books to get a feel for the “voice” she needed for the book, as the initial drafts were a bit dry. When I asked if she had found any favorites while doing her YA voice research, she said Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (one of mine too!) and she also loved the writing of Jandy Nelson.  We were also curious about the still-living people she writes about, the most well-known of these being George Takei. As of then, she had not heard directly from him about his appearance as a hero in her book, but hoped to someday!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Queer, There and Everywhere is such an important (and much overdue) resource to have as a teen librarian. And while it may be technically geared towards teens, it’s also a great read for adults. I want to buy a bunch of copies and leave them in random public places on the off-chance that someone who needs it will find it! Have you read it? What did you think?

Cheers! – Molly

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