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Queer in Arkansas: New book "The Un-Natural State" reveals southern state’s LGBT history

Even in the conservative red state of Arkansas, you will still find plenty of folk who are confirmed bachelors, old couples who live together, and even the first Miss Gay America. You’ll also find a rise of gay rights movements and a struggle between conservative Christians who want laws to reflect their version of morality, and the young LGBT activists and straight allies who want to be heard.

The previously- whispered history of Queer Arkansas is beautifully compiled in Native Arkansan and my personal friend Brock Thompson’s new book, The Un-Natural State: Arkansas and the Queer South. Thompson, a native Arkansan, historian and current employee of the U.S. Library of Congress, gathered the material for his book using friends, family and travels across the state – and found an interesting history. Drag and minstrel shows used to entertain the boys, “Womanless weddings” held as fundraisers, and all-female communes in the beautiful Ozarks.

Although the book would be excellent for any college history class in Gay and Lesbian studies, it is also a very important book for Arkansas. It does not hide our state’s broad history of the underground gay and lesbian communities, but at the same time, the book does not admonish nor praise them. Thompson uses his experience as a gay man growing up in Arkansas to share his astonishment and interest, so that with every new finding, you are just as excited as he is.

Thompson (It’s so weird to call him Thompson, since I’ve known him forever as Brock) begins his Arkansas book tour Wednesday, Nov. 17.

Tour stops are as follows:

Little Rock: 6 p.m. Nov. 17, 2010, Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, Little Rock Public Library, 401 President Clinton Avenue

Fayetteville: 7 p.m. Nov. 18, 2010, Nightbird Books, 204 W. Dickson St.

Conway: 2 p.m. Nov. 20, Faulkner County Library, 19200 Tyler St.

Texarkana: 7:30 p.m., J. Brown for the Home, 121 College Drive

I urge you to attend one of these dates, where he tells me he’ll be reading from his book and signing copies of it. If you haven’t purchased a copy yet, copies will be available for purchase at all speaking events. Come and celebrate and learn about some little-known Arkansas history.

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