Debut Author Sarah Prager on LGBTQ History for Teens

Prager's Queer, There, and Everywhere celebrates LGBTQ history-makers, from Frida Kahlo to Harvey Milk.

Sarah Prager is no stranger to LGBTQ issues as the founder of Quist, an app dedicated to LGBTQ history, and as a contributor on the subject to such publications as the Huffington Post and the Advocate. In her debut work of nonfiction, Queer, There, and Everywhere: 23 People Who Changed the World (HarperCollins, May 2017), Prager pens an endearing romp through history, profiling a diverse array of individuals for teen readers.

Sarah Prager author photo_creditHarperCollins

Photo courtesy of HarperCollins

What inspired you to write a collective history of LGBTQ folks for teens?

This is the book I wish I’d had when I was a teen. After I came out in my freshman year of high school, I knew almost no other LGBTQ people. The individuals I’ve written about in this book were my queer community at that time: learning their stories is what gave me role models, a sense of community, a rooted identity, hope, and so much more.

Can you describe a bit about your research process?

Before I started writing this book, I had already been studying these figures for years for the content in my LGBTQ history mobile app, Quist. For my research for the book, I spent most of my days at my local library, the Wallingford (CT) Public Library,   reading biographies on loan from around the state. Besides that, I went online for a lot, from [reading] journal articles to using social media groups to ask questions of other researchers. It’s incredible to be able to type a historical figure’s name into YouTube and immediately see videos of them talking. I’m so thankful to all who created the documentaries, articles, archives, photographs, books, museums, and dissertations I consulted—and especially to the people who wrote autobiographies. Prager_QueerThere

You cover many different time periods in the book, was it difficult to narrow down your subjects? Extremely! I had an overabundance of individuals to choose from and it was painful not to include the fascinating and emotional stories of various pirates, kings, and inventors. But the book couldn’t be 1,000 pages long. [Most] people have no idea how much LGBTQ history there is out there. I think the 23 I chose show a wonderful diversity of history-makers.

Is there a figure with whom you identify most?

Not that I claim to be nearly as amazing as either of them, but I think I’m an Eleanor Roosevelt striving to be more of a Sylvia Rivera. Eleanor Roosevelt changed the world with a quiet power. Sylvia Rivera is the most fearless, badass activist I’ve ever studied. I’d like to be more daring like Sylvia but I’m an Eleanor at heart.

Do you have any suggestions for librarians on how to make their libraries safer, more inclusive spaces?

Take a look at your LGBTQ section and regularly purge outdated materials. I go to a lot of libraries that have wonderfully inclusive-minded librarians, but I find shelves stocked with older books on homosexuality that probably shouldn’t be in circulation anymore. Have a public display of your LGBTQ books and host events in June for Pride Month and October for LGBTQ History Month. Invite your local PFLAG [Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People] group, high school GSA [Gay-Straight Alliance], and GLSEN chapter and collaborate with them. And make sure the content blockers on your public Internet don’t blacklist LGBTQ terms (sometimes we get added for being sexual content). Most importantly, please know how grateful we are for all you do!

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