Len & Cub: A Queer History

Goose Lane. Apr. 2022. 192p. ISBN 9781773102641. pap. $27.95. HIST
On the surface, this book seems to be about one thing: pictures taken by amateur photographer Leonard “Len” Keith of himself and his intimate partner Joseph “Cub” Coates—both residents of the rural New Brunswick village of Havelock—between 1916–30. However, thanks to the skilled archival work by Batt (currently at New Brunswick’s Provincial Archives) and Green (formerly with the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick), and the authors’ local knowledge and dedication to honoring “their boys,” the volume contains many threads that tie the photos to the greater legacy of queer people in their many contexts. These numerous histories range from the broad (queer activity during the World Wars) to the niche (queerness in rural Canada, often told through one of the few available sources, criminal records). Len and Cub are the center of this web. Their relationship is laid out in dual portraits; intimate body language, and private poses, lying down together or hanging on each other during trips away from the prying eyes of their New Brunswick small town. The photos are stunning proof of queer resilience. However, they are also a reminder of the harsh realities, the story ending with Len’s outing and expulsion from their town. The authors’ contextual storytelling of the once-forgotten Len and Cub within queer history is a testament to the power and possibility of queer archival work.
VERDICT Recommended for any LGBTQ+ history collection.
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