The Love That Dares: Letters of LGBTQ+ Love & Friendship Through History

Ilex. May 2022. 288p. ISBN 9781781578292. $19.99. LIT
Archivists Vesey and Smith (both of Bishopsgate Inst., London) compiled letters, notes, and poems spanning 620 BCE to 2021 for this collection of correspondences written by queer people throughout history. Vesey and Smith meet their readers with transparency as to the book’s contents; in the introduction, they write that this collection is “eclectic,” but not comprehensive, particularly as gathering historical materials from marginalized people can be difficult when those voices have been continuously erased and silenced. Despite this, the letters in this collection push the envelope and uncover hidden histories of queer people from Sappho to Audre Lorde. Not all of the letter writers were well known, but each letter is preceded by a blurb that gives historical context. There’s an excellent range of subject matter, as the letters explore love in many forms—familial, romantic, platonic, and communal. Some letters are deliciously sensual, while others are brief and discuss mundane life; some express raw grief, and others exuberant joy. As for editing, Vesey and Smith masterfully balance readability and historical accuracy; their edits to the letters do not sway the originals’ historical integrity or change their tone but provide necessary clarification.
VERDICT This illuminating and important collection of hidden LGBTQ+ histories is also a joy to read.
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