Saturday, June 25, 2011

Under the Cover: Gay America

To mark the passage of same-sex marriage in New York, here's a look at the making of a book that honors the LGBT struggle for equality.

Book Summary 

Milestones of gay and lesbian life in the United States are brought together in the first-ever nonfiction book published specifically for teens.

Profusely illustrated with archival images, the groundbreaking Gay America reveals how gay men and women have lived, worked, and loved for the past 125 years. Gays and lesbians play a very prominent role in American life today, whether grabbing headlines over political gains, starring in and being the subject of movies and television shows, or filling the streets of nearly every major city each year to celebrate Gay Pride. However, this was not always the case, and this book charts their journey along with the history of the country. Providing a sense of hope mixed with pride, author Linas Alsenas demonstrates how, within one century, gay women and men have gone from being socially invisible to becoming a political force to be reckoned with and proud members of the American public living openly and honestly.

Cover Creation

I worked a little backwards in the Gay America design process, creating the title lock-up before I solidified the design. But in this case, the typography actually inspired the overall look.

For this book, I really wanted the typography to speak to the subject. I felt it was important for "GAY" to be prominent, looking embattled but strong, while "America" was smaller and more idyllic. But most importantly, I wanted the two words to be physically entwined, to suggest that these two worlds are intrinsically united.

"GAY" is set in Eroxion Roman and "America" is set in Bickham Script.

In these initial sketches, I played with the combination of both American and Gay Rights symbols: stars and stripes of all colors. 

Finally I found the best marriage of symbols: Stars on a field of rainbow stripes.

The missing element was photographic. We felt it was important to depict the many faces of Gay America in united celebration. After much deliberation, we decided on this image from

And the final cover and full jacket:


From Booklist: 
*Starred Review* "Alsenas’ landmark history of American gay life focuses largely on public attitudes toward homosexuality and the seemingly endless struggle for gay rights. After a brief survey covering pre–twentieth-century America, Alsenas narrows his focus to offer a closer examination of more recent events. Thus, Chapter Two deals with the period 1910–39; Chapter Three, with 1940–59; and so on until the final chapter brings the reader to the present—and beyond. In an effort to humanize his material, the author begins each chapter with an individual story told from a personalized (i.e., lightly fictionalized) point of view. While this succeeds in dramatizing factual material, the effort may be unnecessary, since the epic story the author tells of the gradual emergence of gays and lesbians from the shadows is itself a compellingly human drama. Alsenas’ often sprightly, always engaging style makes his history even more reader-friendly, as do the many archival photographs that enliven each page. This first-ever book to cover this material for young adults is essential reading for all young people—gay, lesbian, and straight. Grades 7–12." —Michael Cart

"Gay America is an amazing book: entertaining, informative, and endlessly fascinating. Thoroughly researched, beautifully written, and gloriously illustrated, the book puts the LGBT movement into its proper historical context and features many luminaries of our community. Whatever your sexuality, Gay America is YOUR America. This important and groundbreaking book should be required reading in every high school in the USA.” —LeslĂ©a Newman, author of Heather Has Two Mommies

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