Living Queer History

A brilliantly blended book that, much like queerness itself, transcends genre and blurs boundaries“—Samantha Allen
A moving and necessary account of the way making history remakes ourselves“—Jenn Shapland 
The Bitter Southerner – Summer Reading Roundup, 2022
Lambda Literary – Most Anticipated LGBTQIA+ Books of December 2021
Southern Review of Books – Best Southern Books of December 2021

Living Queer History is now available wherever books are sold. (Please consider paying a little extra and supporting Roanoke’s own independent bookstore, Book No Further!)


Queer history is a living practice. Talk to any group of LGBTQ people today, and they will not agree on what story should be told. Many people desire to celebrate the past by erecting plaques and painting rainbow crosswalks, but queer and trans people in the twenty-first century need more than just symbols—they need access to power, justice for marginalized people, spaces of belonging. Approaching the past through a lens of queer and trans survival and world-building transforms history itself into a tool for imagining and realizing a better future.

Living Queer History tells the story of an LGBTQ community in Roanoke, Virginia, a small city on the edge of Appalachia. Interweaving historical analysis, theory, and memoir, Gregory Samantha Rosenthal tells the story of their own journey—coming out and transitioning as a transgender woman—in the midst of working on a community-based history project that documented a multigenerational southern LGBTQ community. Based on over forty interviews with LGBTQ elders, Living Queer History explores how queer people today think about the past and how history lives on in the present.


Living Queer History is at once a guidebook for organizers, a memoir, and a manifesto for public history activism… Samantha [Rosenthal] makes the case for ‘living history,’ as contrasted with historical preservation, and thoughtfully explores the conundrums faced by activist-archivists who must navigate the ever-fine lines between inclusion and exclusion, memory and erasure, memorialization and trespass. Against the often harmful norms of history-making, she re-envisions history as an active, lived practice, rooted in community. To be a public history activist, she argues, is to not only look back but also to look around, to the physical spaces that can be present-day sites of connection and belonging.”—Emily Alex, Full Stop (read the full introduction to our interview here)

Living Queer History is no ordinary academic monograph… [This book] provides an inspirational example of the tangible differences LGBTQ+ public history projects can make in the lives of queer community members across multiple generations. Living Queer History provides a model of how we can collectively make the past usable—not for academic institutions or urban developers—but for queer people today and in the future.”—Lauren Jae Gutterman, QT Voices (read the full review here)

Advance Praise

A brilliantly blended book that, much like queerness itself, transcends genre and blurs boundaries. Using memoir to look outward and history to look inward, Rosenthal makes theory concrete, finds the past in the present, and brings Roanoke’s overlooked queer demimonde to beautiful life.”—Samantha Allen, author of Real Queer America: LGBT Stories from Red States

A moving and necessary account of the way making history remakes ourselvesLiving Queer History asks what it means for a queer person to have a place and to take up space in a straight world. With keen insight into their own queer life, Samantha Rosenthal combines personal narrative, oral history, activism, and queer theory to offer a fuller understanding of queer belonging.”—Jenn Shapland, author of My Autobiography of Carson McCullers

“In Living Queer HistorySamantha Rosenthal revels in the wondrous history of Roanoke’s storied queer past and present. At once deeply personal and political, this book reminds us that the South is not just home to sexual dissidents but is also a place of transition and transformative queer world-making.”—E. Patrick Johnson, author of Sweet Tea: Black Gay Men of the South

This is an important book, speaking to some of the most contemporary queries and issues relating to LGBTQ people, cultures, and our histories. Carefully attentive to the ways in which race, ethnicity, class, and gender (among other identities and power systems) speak to and with LGBTQ identities of various stripes, the book delivers a persuasive challenge to continuing presumptions that the South has never been a space or place in which LGBTQ people or cultures or communities could emerge, let alone survive and thrive. Rather than a book ‘of history’ it is ultimately a book about history—how it is made, what gets missed or elided by even the most well-meaning of scholars.”—Leisa Meyer, author of Creating G.I. Jane: Sexuality and Power in the Women’s Army Corps During World War II


Emily Alex, “Interview with G. Samantha Rosenthal,” Full Stop, March 28, 2023.

Wirt Confroy, “Virginia’s Queer Past is Alive Through Storytelling: Samantha Rosenthal,” Virginia is for Lovers, October 3, 2022.

Sonja Ingram, “An Interview with Dr. G. Samantha Rosenthal,” Preservation Virginia, August 8, 2022.

Kaitlin Smith, “10 New Books on LGBTQIA+ History and Contemporary Life,Facing Today, June 7, 2022.

Alison Law, “2022 Summer Reading Roundup,” The Bitter Southerner, May 24, 2022.

Mia Funk and Beila Ungar, “Dr. G. Samantha Rosenthal,” The Creative Process, March 8, 2022.

Karen Newton, “Living Queer History,” Style Weekly, February 15, 2022.

Roanoke College News, “Professor’s Book on Roanoke’s Queer History Resonates Locally and Nationally,” February 9, 2022.

The Academic Minute, “G. Samantha Rosenthal: Transgender History in Forgotten Places,” February 9, 2022.

New Books Network, “Gregory Samantha Rosenthal: Living Queer History,” February 3, 2022.

The Roanoke Times, “Editorial: An Appreciation of Roanoke Regional Arts, High and Low,” January 10, 2022.

Literary Hub, “Virtual Book Events Worth Streaming This Month,” January 4, 2022.

Book No Further, “2021 Bestsellers—Best Reads in Western Virginia,” December 19, 2021.

Southern Review of Books, “The Best Southern Books of December 2021,” December 15, 2021.

Clark Palmer, “New Book Highlights Roanoke City’s LGBTQ History,” WFIR News, December 10, 2021.

The Roanoke Rambler, “New Book Reveals Roanoke’s Hidden Queer History,” December 8, 2021.

Lambda Literary, “December’s Most Anticipated LGBTQIA+ Literature,” December 1, 2021.

Chris Murray, “EMU embraces LGBTQ+ Inclusivity on Campus,” The Weather Vane, November 8, 2021.