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Book Reviews

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Queer: A Graphic History by Meg-John Barker and Julia Scheele

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Meg-John Barker’s Queer: A Graphic History is very properly named. With comic illustrations by Julia Scheele, Barker provides an overview of the history of queerness, citing many players involved in queer activism and queer theory. This book is best used as a reference book or a springboard to delve into the many, many avenues queerness has taken over the years. I especially think it’s a good book, in an academic sense, for an introduction to queer theory, or queerness, or gender/sexuality studies. Readers and students can learn a lot from specific pages and then launch into their own research from there. In addition, Barker provides a Resources section of her research as well as other resources that may be helpful. As for a cover-to-cover read, well, there’s a lot to take in.

First, Barker defines the word queer and its use as different parts of speech, including a noun, verb, and adjective. What’s important here is how scholars and people queer an idea, or turn an idea around, twisting it into something different or strange or something one hasn’t thought of before, which can bring about change and positive thinking.

Barker then breaks down the differences between identity politics and queer theory; gender, sex, and sexuality; nature and nurture; and sex and gender. Most important here is the shift in the notion that the meaning of sexuality went from one of behavior to one of identity based on attractions and sexual preferences. To cover these topics, Barker along with Scheele provide a detailed yet concise overview of queer theory and activism (the gay rights movements similarities to black feminism and the struggles of multi-marginalized peoples) as well as key figures and thinkers in conversation with one another.

To make these ideas more accessible to the reader, Barker and Scheele put these ideas in cartoons and pop culture references. Barker claims queer theory is known to be hard for most people to understand and is full of multiple binaries to diffuse the idea of binaries, thus making itself contradictory and making it inaccessible to the common person, which is why it has not been as widely recognized as other fields of study. Barker concludes with the hope that this book makes the introduction to queer theory and queerness a bit easier to grasp, which it can when taken in small doses, like a reference book. Whether or not this book is successful is in how the reader uses the book and their explorations from there.

Find Queer: A Graphic History here.