A 2018 Chicago Writers Association Book of the Year Honorable Mention
Lambda Literary Award LGBTQ Nonfiction Finalist
A history of gay Chicago told through the stories of queer men who left a record of their sexual activities in the Second City, this book paints a vivid picture of the neighborhoods where they congregated while revealing their complex lives. Some, such as reporter John Wing, were public figures. Others, like Henry Gerber, who created the first “homophile” organization in the United States, were practically invisible to their contemporaries. But their stories are all riveting. Female impersonators and striptease artists Quincy de Lang and George Quinn were arrested and put on trial at the behest of a leader of Chicago’s anti-“indecency” movement. African American ragtime pianist Tony Jackson’s most famous song, “Pretty Baby,” was written about one of his male lovers. Alfred Kinsey’s explorations of the city’s netherworld changed the future of American sexuality while confirming his own queer proclivities. What emerges from The Boys of Fairy Town is a complex portrait and a virtually unknown history of one of the most vibrant cities in the United States.
About the Author
Jim Elledge is the author of twenty-four books. His most recent nonfiction book, Henry Darger, Throwaway Boy: The Tragic Life of an Outsider Artist, received the Georgia Author of the Year Award in biography and was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award and the Randy Shilts Award for gay nonfiction.
“A first-rate look at the queer history of the Second City. Spanning the century between 1840 to 1940, Jim Elledege—with expert research and keen writing—has unearthed a myriad of now-forgotten people, events, and communities. That few of these people are vaguely known today—Eugen Sandow, J.C. Leydencker, Henry Gerber—only highlights the fact that so much of this material will be completely and shockingly new to readers. The Boys of Fairy Town vividly illuminates the past so we can see where we have been as we boldly move into the future.” —Michael Bronski, author of A Queer History of the United States
"A fascinating glimpse into the missing century of queer history in Chicago. Jim Elledge has mined vast personal correspondence and news stories from his research and woven them into an insightful tapestry. Enlightening and often quite entertaining, The Boys of Fairy Town fills a huge gap in our understanding of how we got to where we are, and reminds us that—good times or bad—we have always been fabulous!" —Victor Salvo, Executive Director, The Legacy Project
“A thoroughly researched, invaluable, and vastly entertaining tale of lost Chicago.” —June Sawyers, Booklist
"…The Boys of Fairy Town deftly mixes biographical anecdotes from diary entries with accounts from journalistic and scholarly sources, creating an often-intimate portrait of life during the period." — Newcity
“We can thank historians like Jim Elledge for bringing back to life this period of sexual and cultural vibrancy in Chicago and America. It provides a glimmer of hopefulness in our current pendulum swing to the right.” --The Gay and Lesbian Review