The Harvey Milk Story

The Harvey Milk Story
Age Range
Release Date
June 19, 2022
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A hopeful and inspiring biography of the historic gay activist Harvey Milk, who gave people the courage to be proud of who they are.

On a rainy day in January, on the steps of San Francisco's City Hall, Harvey Milk was sworn into office, the first openly gay elected official in the United States of America. Harvey Milk had made history.
From his childhood on Long Island, through college, his service with the Navy, and years as a schoolteacher, Harvey Milk was always popular, intelligent, and energetic. But he was also hiding a secret: He was gay. He eventually moved to San Francisco, where there was a strong LGBTQ community and he could be free to be himself. As he talked to people in his neighborhood, he realized many people who were usually ignored by the government deserved better protection: gay, lesbian, and transgender people, people of color, people with disabilities, and more. He decided to run for public office, and eventually won election to the city's Board of Supervisors. Though his career as a public servant was sadly and suddenly cut short, his pride as an openly gay man and his passion for equality has inspired countless people to continue his work. Harvey's legacy is everywhere today, especially in the hundreds of openly gay elected officials in every level of government.

One of the first picture book biographies for children about a gay leader, this is a perfect introduction to one of the most important figures in the fight for LGBTQ civil rights. Backmatter includes further details about the struggles faced by different groups mentioned in the story, other sources readers can turn to for more information about Harvey, and more books about LGBTQ+ history.

Editor review

1 review
Picture Book Biography of LGBTQ Icon
Overall rating
Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
Learning Value
This paperback reissue of the 2002 original introduces this classic biography of an influential LGBTQIA+ pioneer to young readers. Milk, born in 1930, inhabited a very different world. Born to a Jewish family in New York, he played sports and was a charismatic young man who had to hide the reality of his identity because of the social mores of the time. He eventually moved with his partner to San Francisco, and set up a camera shop in the Castro, a largely gay community. Things were changing in society enough that he was able to try to help fight the oppression and problems that the gay community was facing. He ran for office and had broad support, but didn't win his first few elections. Sadly, after being elected and serving as a force for change, he was assassinated by an angry political rival in 1978. While treatment of the LGBTQIA+ community has changed in the last forty years, there are still enough challenges that it is important to highlight individuals like Milk and the experiences they had.
Good Points
The illustrations have a sunny, chalk pastel quality to them that is very much of its time but also has a classic feel. Gardner does a particularly good job at portraying place, and the building in San Francisco are well rendered. The styles of the times come through clearly, and I especially appreciated the sepia tones used for Milk's 1930s baby picture. There are not photographs, but those are easy enough to find online.

The epilogue and author's notes on the text will help younger readers put Milk's life into a historical perspective. The book is short enough to make a good read aloud; not all picture book biographies lend themselves to this type of delivery.

Lee and Low publishes excellent biographies of Civil Rights leaders, and has good titles like Haskins' John Lewis in the Lead and Abouraya's Malala Yousafzai: Warrior With Words that would be a good accompaniment to this book, and there is a great bibliography of other resources on LGBTQ history at the back .
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