The first gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community center has recently opened in the city. It has been successful, and has partnered with the local historical archive to bring about awareness to GLBT histories.
The medium-sized public library in which I work has a few GLBT reference books, mostly about law, self-help and family issues, but is lacking adequate coverage of GLBT history. The queer community here has not been very vocal in the past, but with the opening of the community center they have gained visibility in the general community. The library would like to be able to provide services that the community center is lacking, namely historical and academic reference. I have been given the task of building a GLBT reference collection to meet this need. We expect that the collection will be utilized by those looking for general GLBT history as well as patrons looking for assistance in scholarly pursuits.
Who’s who in gay and lesbian history: from antiquity to World War II, ed. Robert Aldrich and Garry Wotherspoon. Routledge, 2001. 502p ISBN 0-415-15982-2, $29.95.
Who’s who in contemporary gay and lesbian history: from World War II to the present day, ed. Robert Aldrich and Garry Wotherspoon. Routledge, 2001. 460p ISBN:0-415-22974-X, $29.95.
These two titles are companion books, spanning from ancient times to modern day. The well-written, detailed articles are easy to read, allowing accessibility to students as well as academics, while the use of cross-referencing allows for more in depth searches. Reference lists and signed entries by international experts in varying fields provide additional authority. Although the two bio-bibliographies are international in scope, the editors have focused primarily on individuals from westernized countries and countries that have been dramatically colonized by western countries. Both queer and straight individuals are indexed, as the scope is meant to encompass people who have affected and created gay and lesbian history. As women have been neglected in historical accounts (thus making it more difficult to find accurate information about women’s historical contributions prior to World War II), the focus is decidedly male-centered. Within each article, important events and contributions are listed, along with a description of the social and historical background.
One of the major pitfalls of these works (and of any Who’s Who title) is the complete absence of an index, appendix, or any search tools. Those who come to these volumes with a name in hand will find it easy to use, as the alphabetical entries are detailed and link to other entries or external works for further research, but one would be hard-pressed to find information about an organization or event if no major names are known. There has been significant action in gay and lesbian activism in the last five years, which is notably absent from these 2001 works, but the positive contributions outweigh the darker aspects.
Reader’s guide to lesbian and gay studies, ed. Timothy F. Murphy. Fitzroy Dearborn, 2000. 720p ISBN:1-57958-142-0, $125.00
This work acts as a reference to the existing canon of academic literature in gay and lesbian studies by discussing only secondary literature, not the original events. As an in-depth bibliography, books and academic articles are analyzed so that the advanced researcher can easily access works applicable to a certain study. The collection is comprised of works that have been cataloged in databases of existing academic literature, which means if there is not enough research on a topic (such as lesbians and rape, for example), it has been excluded from this guide. The articles are authored by scholars and seem to be well written but not inaccessible. Each topic is given 1-5 pages of discussion, depending on the amount of research and printed works devoted to the topic.
Some notable features are the addition of a thematic list (similar to a table of contents) in the introduction. As the articles are alphabetized by topic, finding a topic without knowing the specific keywords could prove troublesome. Each article heading is organized in the thematic index by theme or subject, which makes finding the specific subject heading keywords for an article much easier. Also of worthy mention is the booklist index (in addition to the general index), which lists all of the works cited in the text. This guide would be helpful for students and scholars researching special subjects.
Encyclopedia of homosexuality, ed. Wayne R. Dynes. Garland,1990. 2v, 1,484p ISBN:8240-6544-1, $150
This infamous two-volume encyclopedia was initially extremely well-received by the academic community, being hailed as an “outstanding title” by CHOICE Reviews. With a classic look and feel, Dynes was able to create the opus of all gay and lesbian encyclopedias. Elaborate thematic, topical and biographical articles are international in scope. The “no living persons” policy limits biographical entries, though living people are mentioned in other articles. The 65-page index is a marvel, indexing not just the main topics and biographies, but also those individuals who are just briefly mentioned in articles.
Many articles regarding women’s issues are lacking updated and pivotal references as well as proper author signatures and biographies, and Dynes validity has been questioned. Dynes has even been accused of contriving one of the female contributors who penned many of the articles on lesbian issues. Although there are mishaps and omissions in lesbian works, the overall contributions this volume adds to the existing body of gay and lesbian reference is undisputable. Extremely detailed and informative, this work can be utilized by the general public and academics alike.
Completely queer: the gay and lesbian encyclopedia, by Steve Hogan and Lee Hudson. H. Holt, 1998. 704p ISBN:0-8050-3629-6, $50
Hogan and Hudson have put together a glossy, more aesthetically pleasing version of Dynes’ Encyclopedia of Homosexuality rife with over 250 photos and illustrations. Though not as detailed and academic in nature as Dynes’ opus, Completely Queer details the “history, people, places and ideas important to lesbian and gay communities worldwide.” Though the work focuses on queer culture in the United States and has a western-bias, detailed country profiles provide excellent analyses of international issues. Hogan and Hudson wrote all of the entries, which attempt to balance gay and lesbian interest.
The introduction provides specific instructions on how to use the encyclopedia, and finding entries and cross-referencing is a quick and easy process. An interesting feature of this work is the 73-page chronology in the appendix, which lists a concise history of queer events, beginning with 12,000 B.C.
Encyclopedia of Lesbian and Gay Histories and Cultures, ed. George Haggerty and Bonnie Zimmerman
Garland, 2000. 986p ISBN:0-8153-1880-4, $140.00
In attempt to right the underrepresented and biased offerings of lesbian histories in Dynes’ Encyclopedia of Homosexuality, Haggerty and Zimmerman gave women and men each their own book in this two-volume set. In contrast to Dynes’ epic work, The Encyclopedia of Lesbian and Gay Histories and Cultures identifies all of the authors, with legitimate signatures on each entry. Concise and clear, the language is easy to understand and could be utilized by the general public and scholars alike, although it does not go into much depth beyond stating the facts. Subject guides and a good index, along with brief bibliographies and cross-references facilitate painless searching. The scope is global and pan-historical, though the editors concede that it is by no means comprehensive. With a very large majority of the authors hailing from the United States or other western nations, it would be impossible to be totally competent in an international scope.
Although the two volumes were meant to allow full and even coverage of gay and lesbian issues, the splitting of the work into two separate volumes is a bit problematic. Gay and lesbian histories overlap because they are not entirely distinct experiences. Articles only articulate the histories of those whose gender is encompassed in that particular volume. To get the full story you must check both volumes, which is quite a pain, as the volumes are not linked by cross-references or indexes. There are many inconsistencies between the two volumes, as if the editors collaborated on content but not on organization. There also seems to be no criteria for selections; gentrification and social work are included, but entries on pornography and The Village People are oddly missing. Even with these missteps, Haggerty and Zimmerman have put together an excellent reference source that has been recommended by Choice Reviews, the Library Journal and Booklist. Though not as easy to use as The Encyclopedia of Homosexuality, it is more balanced and comprehensive of both gay and lesbian issues.
St. James Press gay & lesbian almanac, ed. Neil Schlager. St. James Press, 1998. 680p ISBN:1-55862-358-2, $100.00.
The St. James Press Gay & Lesbian Almanac is a one of a kind. While most almanacs work as a quick reference to the fun non-essentials, Schlager’s work is of a more scholarly nature. This collection provides an in-depth analysis of specific aspects of queer history, community, and gay and lesbian culture. Focusing on the United States, the editors chose not to examine an international viewpoint of gay and lesbian lifestyles, but did provide a voice for both local and regional views.
The bibliography in each chapter is thorough, providing links to not only books, but to articles and Internet web sites as well. An interesting and helpful addition is the “Significant Documents” section, which spans the gamut of queer texts, from essays to legal documents. An extensive index and general bibliography allow for the pinpointing of specific topics in each chapter in addition to excellent cross-referencing. The ability of this text to provide both quick reference points as well as assistance in in-depth researching makes the St. James Press Gay & Lesbian Almanac an indispensable tool.