No Place Like Home
Lessons in Activism from LGBT Kansas
Far from the coastal centers of culture and politics, Kansas stands at the very center of American stereotypes about red states. In the American imagination, it is a place LGBT people leave. No Place Like Home is about why they stay. The book tells the epic story of how a few disorganized and politically naïve Kansans, realizing they were unfairly under attack, rolled up their sleeves, went looking for fights, and ended up making friends in one of the country’s most hostile states.
The LGBT civil rights movement’s history in California and in big cities such as New York and Washington, DC, has been well documented. But what is it like for LGBT activists in a place like Kansas, where they face much stiffer headwinds? How do they win hearts and minds in the shadow of the Westboro Baptist Church (̶Christian” motto: “God Hates Fags”)? Traveling the state in search of answers—from city to suburb to farm—journalist C. J. Janovy encounters LGBT activists who have fought, in ways big and small, for the acceptance and respect of their neighbors, their communities, and their government. Her book tells the story of these twenty-first-century citizen activists—the issues that unite them, the actions they take, and the personal and larger consequences of their efforts, however successful they might be.
“A compelling, complex narrative of the interlocking lives and efforts of a small group of activists working for the seemingly impossible goal of a queer-friendly Kansas.”
“The narrative [Janovy] pens is one of bravery and resilience in the face of very long odds, and eventually, one of triumph. She documents the transformation of a state that supported a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, to one where gay pride events take place in notably conservative towns like Salina and Wichita. . . the story she tells has lessons in it for anyone trying to work towards social change.”
—Stanford Social Innovation ReviewSee all reviews...
“This exquisitely written book captures the experiences and emotions of everyday activists and shows how politics informs personal lives. This work reveals how losses regarding pro-LGBT policies and protections ‘in the long game, often built to victories.’ A riveting, insightful love letter to Kansas’s unsung LGBT heroes. Highly recommended.”
“With fine prose and a big heart, No Place Like Home reminds us—once and for all—that flyover country is destination travel for those of us interested in contemporary American LGBT life. In Janovy’s beautiful book, curious readers encounter wide-ranging responses to queer ‘Kansas lifestyle’ as it politically evolved over the past two decades. The individuals that she painstakingly chronicles across these pages will not be forgotten anytime soon.”
—Scott Herring, author of Another Country: Queer Anti-Urbanism
“At heart, all politics are local. No Place Like Home: Lessons in Activism from LGBT Kansas is invaluable for insisting we understand that the battle for LGBT rights is vibrantly enacted and fought at the state and local levels, as well as nationally. C. J. Janovy has written a compelling, meticulously researched and sweeping tapestry of heroic moments—small and large—as women and men stand up to their municipalities, friends, colleagues, and neighbors to do the right thing. No Place Like Home is a masterful account of how issues such as marriage equality, AIDS, discrimination, transgender issues, and anti-gay violence shape the lives, politics, and actions of these brave everyday activists. This is a vital addition to the ever-growing body of literature on LGBT history.”
—Michael Bronski, author of A Queer History of the United States
“A work of both meticulous research and heartfelt experience, No Place Like Home tells the story of the fight for justice for LGBT people, and does so with passion, insight, and wisdom. Using the Sunflower State as the bellwether for the country’s long struggle for human rights, C. J. Janovy’s book shows us that the moral arc of the universe is long—and it bends toward Kansas.”
—Jennifer Finney Boylan, author of She’s Not There: A Life in Two Genders and Long Black Veil: A Novel
“Whats the matter with Kansas? Pretty much the same thing that’s wrong with most of America these days: irrational fear, willful ignorance, and a pervasive sense of resentfulness that seems to bring out the worst in everybody at some point or another. As C. J. Janovy’s No Place Like Home makes perfectly clear, however, there’s much to admire about the Sunflower State, including the tireless resolve of its many, many LGBT citizens and activists. A meticulous and thoroughly engrossing account of queer Kansans’ fitful and often inspiring journey through the maelstrom of the contemporary culture wars.”
—Colin R. Johnson, author of Just Queer Folks: Gender and Sexuality in Rural America
“This close-to-the-ground account of the battle for LGBT rights in twenty-first-century Kansas brings this recent history alive through the stories of ordinary people who bravely fought for justice against tremendous odds. As Janovy demonstrates, defeats transformed them into tireless activists who took risks, spoke out, found each other, built community, and changed Kansas. Their stories are inspiring.”
—John D’Emilio, author of Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin and Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America
“If you read What’s The Matter with Kansas? and thought there must be more to the story, read C. J. Janovy’s No Place Like Home, a moving tale of generations of LGBTQ Kansans brilliantly fighting conservative attempts to legalize discrimination. Janovy lovingly and vividly portrays quiet, determined advocates who contradict the stereotypes and stand as exemplars of American democracy.”
—Carol Mason, author of Oklahomo: Lessons in Unqueering America
“C. J. Janovy promises the reader lessons to be learned from a detailed study of recent activism, and she more than delivers. Using a wide array of fascinating individuals to demonstrate the necessity of acting locally, organizing, and using a variety of leadership styles, Janovy reminds us especially that we LGBT people are indeed ‘everywhere.’ No Place Like Home is an important contribution to the overdue but growing number of studies of ‘flyover’ America.”
—Vicki L. Eaklor, author of Queer America: A People’s GLBT History of the United StatesSee fewer reviews...
With its close-up view of the lives and work behind LGBT activism in Kansas, No Place Like Home fills a prairie-sized gap in the narrative of civil rights in America. The book also looks forward, as an inspiring guide for progressives concerned about the future of any vilified minority in an increasingly polarized nation.