Queer as Folklore

The Hidden Queer History of Myths and Monsters

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Pub Date Aug 22 2024 | Archive Date Sep 27 2024

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Queer as Folklore takes readers across centuries and continents which reveals the unsung heroes and villains of storytelling, magic and fantasy. Featuring images from archives, galleries and museums around the world, each chapter investigates the queer history of different mythic and folkloric characters, both old and new.

Leaving no headstone unturned, Sacha Coward will take you on a wild ride through the night from ancient Greece to the main stage of RuPaul’s Drag Race, visiting cross-dressing pirates, radical fairies and the graves of the ‘queerly departed’ along the way. Queer communities have often sought refuge in the shadows, found kinship in the in-between and created safe spaces in underworlds; but these forgotten narratives tell stories of remarkable resilience that deserve to be heard.

Join any Pride march and you are likely to see a glorious display of papier-mâché unicorn heads trailing sequins, drag queens wearing mermaid tails and more fairy wings than you can shake a trident at. But these are not just accessories: they are queer symbols with historic roots.

To truly understand who queer people are today, we must confront the twisted tales of the past and Queer as Folklore is a celebration of queer history like you've never seen it before.

Queer as Folklore takes readers across centuries and continents which reveals the unsung heroes and villains of storytelling, magic and fantasy. Featuring images from archives, galleries and museums...

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ISBN 9781800183360
PRICE £18.99 (GBP)

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Featured Reviews

"Queer as Folklore" by Sacha Coward is a whirlwind tour through the rainbow-lit corridors of queer history. From ancient myths to the glittering runways of RuPaul's Drag Race, Coward digs up the buried treasures of storytelling and magic. With a keen eye and a cheeky grin, each chapter unearths the hidden gems of queer characters, weaving a tapestry of resilience and rebellion. With papier-mâché unicorns and drag queens in mermaid tails leading the charge, this book isn't just a celebration – it's a riotous parade of queer identity and pride. Coward's lively exploration is a must-read for anyone ready to dive into the fabulous, untamed waters of queer folklore.

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Absolutely loved learning about queer history in folklore. I didn’t know so much was removed, hiding queer characters. But I’m glad this book exists, I feel like having this knowledge has added a little extra charm in my life.

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I thought this book was so much fun to read. I love reading about folklore and mythology, and reading about the queer aspects and characters from mythology and folklore was so much fun. It was a great and fun read. I found it so interesting just how much queer history and characteristics were taken out of folklore and mythology in many aspects because, as a queer person myself who loves this topic, I like to see it.

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Queer as Folklore explores all the different aspects of LGBT representation in folklore, myths and other stories that have been told through the ages. It mentions direct representation, but also queer and trans allegories and discusses the authors, the reasons why one could suspect them to be queer and how it affected their works.

I highly recommend this to anyone who wants to write speculative fiction, especially if it will have queer or trans representation. This book touches on many sensitive subjects and highlights how LGBT people have been negatively represented over time, sometimes in ways one might not even realise. By being aware of them, one can make sure they write a story that doesn't shed a negative light on queer people. Additionally, the folklore discussed can serve as a great source of inspiration.

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Thank you to NetGalley and Sacha Coward for an ARC of this title!

Wow, this was such a fun and really informative read. I was so intrigued by the concept alone, and the material covered here did not disappoint! I think the exploration of queer identity in folklore was approached really well here in particular - in addition to thorough review of whatever historical records could reasonable be explored, I really like that the author tied in their own insights/personal experiences in the beginning/ends of chapters, and that they also interviewed other figures regarding the topics of each chapter. I also really liked how detailed they were in how they approached the exploration of queer folklore and their definition of "folklore" in context of the book. This was helpful in reframing the idea of TV shows, superheroes, etc. in "folklore" and really added some very good discussions to what could have been a shorter book.

I also think that "Queer as Folklore" does a tremendous job of exploring the queer history behind well-known characters in folklore (and, more interestingly, the people behind their development in some cases) without getting too into the nitty-gritty of specific legends (which would probably be an interesting second book with enough research), and without falling into the habit - as the author points out many times in the book - of "assigning" certain gender identities to specific characters, real or imagined. I think this really helps keep the discussion throughout the book in the realm of "academia" but also feels inclusive for people who may have differing thoughts/feelings on where a certain subject "belongs".

Overall, this was a very thoughtful and engaging look into the mythos of mythical creatures, that was both detailed enough for those who want to get into the background of certain figures, but is also approachable enough for the lay reader. It also includes an index of topics for those who may want to read about specific creatures, real-life persons, etc., so I think it would be a great reference work for those who are looking to learn more about specific topics. Fantastic job, and I will be buying this when it comes out!

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I was kicking myself for not contributing towards this during its Unbound campaign, and now that I've been able to read it, I wanna scream from the rooftops that this book is a delight. I'm like an appreciator of mythology more than I am an aficionado, and Sacha Coward makes much of the material incredibly approachable and easy to read. It's comprehensive without being overbearing, and covers more ground than I ever really expected (at least from the Unbound pitch).

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A triumphant examination of folklore and how queer our backstories are. It is easy to read with witty writing that feels like an old friend telling stories.

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This was an immensely enjoyable work! The language is both inviting and accessible. Coward presents frames these myths in interesting ways, drawing parallels with modern culture. I couldn't put this down and it really tickled the queer child in my heart.

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I've never took the time to learn about how queer people lived in history beyond what we already know and learn from history class, so this was a breath of fresh air. I absolutely adored reading about these deep dives into folklore, and how much of it was edited over time. Sacha Coward does an excellent job of presenting information to the reader by drawing parallels to our contemporary world. They've compiled a lovely collection of stories curated from across the world. It felt well-researched, and I'd love to buy a copy when it comes out!

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I love this book so much. It is definitely more dense and academic than I had expected, but that isn’t a bad thing. It’s a fascinating read and one that I think I will come back to frequently.

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Five stars for the premise alone. As a bisexual person who loves fantasy and grew up identifying with mermaids, vampires, etc., this was the book I never knew I needed. Coward provides deep, thoughtful analysis of each of the myths he explores, as well as how the meanings of those myths can differ between segments of the LGBTQ+ community. Despite this complicated task, the author's writing was rarely muddled and confusing, and I was easily able to understand the point Coward was trying to make. I never knew about a lot of the information the author presents, and reading it was affirming and empowering as a queer person.

In addition to the subject matter, I appreciated the way Coward didn't speculate about the sexualities or gender identities of the real-life people he discussed. He stuck to the facts about their lives and didn't deviate from those facts in order to make a point. He acknowledged the different ways these people could have identified, but he didn't cross the line by saying "this person was probably..." etc. He also acknowledged the limitations of his own argument. Rather than strictly providing European examples and saying his argument was the complete literary history of queerness in folklore, as so many authors before him got in trouble for doing, he told readers upfront that his understanding of certain myths/cultures was limited, and he didn't want to risk portraying something wrong and contribute to the erasure many marginalized cultures experience on a regular basis. He did explore certain myths from non-European cultures, but he always did so with imput from those communities.

The first critique I have of this book was that section on werewolves and other shapeshifters got a little convoluted. While the majority of Coward's book was excellently organized, this section wasn't broken up as well as the others, and the various myths he was trying to discuss blended together.

The second critique I had is that Coward didn't explore modern examples when he very easily could have. The most current examples of how folklore positively impacts the queer community, and how the queer community uses folklore to validate their identities, were from the 1980s to the early 2000s. It was very obvious that Coward was writing for a Millennial audience, thus ignoring a lot of potential material. I would have liked to see more about how these myths exist in the present day and how their meaning has changed over time.

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From unicorns and mermaids to pirates and superheroe... and even aliens! This book covers a wide range of folklore or adjacent histories through a queens lens in a delightful manner. Even though the subject can get dark and a bit sad at times I found the book to be overall enjoyable. It's an informative and sometimes funny book that I connected with.
The author's writing style is something I found entertaining and I liked the voice in it. The sections within chapters flowed well together and overall I liked how wide ranging the topics were. There's not much I can gripe about, maybe a couple spots I thought could've had a bit more information. But far and few between.
I would recommend this to any queer person interested in queer history or queer stories. I'm definitely purchasing a copy upon release.

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A masterful piece of scholarship, told with great skill and huge amounts of warmth, this explores the connection between myth and queerness in great detail, combining history with folklore and exploring community and humanity with beautiful creativity. A must read for those interested in myth or folklore, who are queer or know queer people, or simply wish to be moved and entertained by a brilliant piece of work

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I received this book for free for an honest review from netgalley thank you for the opportunity.

Wonderfully written and I was really surprised by how the book flowed and it was really amazing I highly recommend.

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Fascinating work analyzing folklore with a queer lens! Combined two of my favorite things in a way that was informative AND fun. Coward did an excellent job researching while also maintaining a great sense of humor and not bogging down the reader in too much density.

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A mix of my two loves, queer history and folklore!

An interesting mix of past and present interwoven together from fairytale creatures, Greek mythology to demons across cultures to queer discussion around modern media such as The Exorcist, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Alien.

Very refreshing to read how much queer history actually runs through our fairytales, myths and legends.
Removing the usual ‘they were really good friends’ treatment in other historical works.

All of the sections were excellently written and informative, you can tell a lot of work and research went into this.

The passion from the author came through, feeling more like a discussion rather than a rigid text.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher 5/5 ⭐️

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I always love reading about queer history, and this book seemed especially made for me. I found the way the author told their story to be incredibly interesting, and that all the ways in which folklore has been queer to be enlightening. I plan to share this with others and buy multiple copies when it comes out.

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Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for allowing me to read an advance copy.

This book was exceptional. It navigates the complex hidden links between the mystical creatures we’re all familiar with (mermaids, unicorns, vampires, faeries, etc.) and the queerness inherent in their usage in mythology and literature. It was pleasing to see bisexual and transgender links to mythological creatures being given equal weighting to lesbian and gay representations, as these are often forgotten in these discussions.

This is clearly an academic exploration, but it is written in a more conversational style, thus allowing a much wider audience to access it; the comparisons between historical figures and the myths they helped to create was delivered as if simply sitting around the same dining table, surrounded by friends, with a glass of wine, having a “did you know?” chat about why Ursula was modelled on Divine, rather than feeling as if being lectured to or as if one required a degree-level understanding of Queer Studies to understand.

Highly recommended.

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This was great!! You can tell the author knows and loves what he’s writing about. I love when fellow history nerds write about their passions. I learned so much about queer lore and history. I would buy this book and put it on my coffee table. It’s engaging and reads like a book of mythology instead of nonfiction analysis. Fascinating! Funny! 10/10. I highly recommend

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"Queer as Folklore" by Sacha Coward is a delightful romp through fairytales, myth, and legend, uncovering the rainbow history hiding all around us.

Reading it isn't like reading a boring history book I'm University. It feels more like you are sitting with Sacha at a party, and he is geeking out over mermaid lore, the history of pirate marriages, and the mythology of bisexual Greek gods, and you are being swept up in his enthusiasm and passion.

Reading this book was deeply healing as a queer person, realizing how far back and how pervasive our history is. 5 stars!

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This book is great if you want an in depth review of queer representation in folklore across the world. I really enjoyed the fact that the lore was not only focused on a Euro-centric history, but rather expanded across many different cultures and countries. There are also a couple of photos, which I love in non-fiction books :).

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This book does a wonderful job of blending different kinds of folklore into one book. It also nicely blends history and folklore and expertly explores the real-life connections to the stories that build us as a society. The artwork is fantastic and mixes the fantastical and horror elements and captures the elements that tie queerness and folklore together. The book also does an excellent job of teaching new facts and elements about history and folklore for even experienced fans of folklore and history. The writing is interesting and engaging and makes the reading fun.

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This was fun and fascinating, and I appreciate the author's obvious care and consideration, and for utilizing the quotes from people outside of the Eurocentric scope of folklore.

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This is such an engaging and well written book. It was a joy to read and I learned so much. Thank you for taking the time to bring together stories I may not have been able to access otherwise

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