The Stonewall Riots were one of the many historical references I understood only on a very superficial level, so I decided that this book offered the chance to learn more. Carter does a reasonable job taking a fragmented and complex narrative and organizing it into something more meaningful. The best part of the book is the first third. In it, Carter sets the stage for the riots by describing the circumstances – social, political, economic, geographical – that made the situation start to boil.

Carter loses momentum after that, sometimes sidetracked by what seemed like less than urgent issues and sometimes letting his own biases overwhelm his research. He mostly regains his footing in the final third of the book when he explores the impact of the riots as leaders in the community struggled to maintain the momentum that riots sparked.

I appreciated Carter’s unwillingness to oversimplify the narrative and his effort (though not really successful) to develop the ‘characters’ involved. In more skilled hands, this would have been a much better book. As it is, it’s a useful, if sometimes sluggish one.