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Brooklyn Author Series: Hugh Ryan and "The Women's House of Detention: A Queer History of a Forgotten Prison"

Wed, Oct 05


BCPC - Crown Heights

Brooklyn Author Series: Hugh Ryan and "The Women's House of Detention: A Queer History of a Forgotten Prison"

Postponed! Regretfully, this event will be postponed to a new date TBD.

Time & Location

Oct 05, 2022, 6:30 PM – 7:45 PM

BCPC - Crown Heights, 1561 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11225, USA

About the event

Author Hugh Ryan (When Brooklyn Was Queer) returns to Brooklyn Community Pride Center to read from his new book The Women’s House of Detention: A Queer History of a Forgotten Prison.

“Hugh Ryan’s crucial new book will change how you think about LGBTQ+ history…the most thorough collection of pre-Stonewall queer lives I’ve ever read.”—The Advocate


THE WOMEN’S HOUSE OF DETENTION, a landmark that ushered in the modern era of women’s imprisonment, is now largely forgotten. But when it stood in New York City’s Greenwich Village from 1929 to 1974, it was a nexus for the tens of thousands of women, transgender men, and gender-nonconforming people who inhabited its crowded cells. Some of them—Angela Davis, Andrea Dworkin, Afeni Shakur—were famous, but the vast majority were incarcerated for the crimes of being poor and improperly feminine. 

Today, approximately 40 percent of the people in women’s prisons identify as queer; in earlier decades, that percentage was almost certainly higher. Historian Hugh Ryan explores the roots of this crisis and reconstructs the little-known lives of incarcerated New Yorkers, making a uniquely queer case for prison abolition—and demonstrating that by queering the Village, the House of D helped define queerness for the rest of America. From the lesbian communities forged through the Women’s House of Detention to the turbulent prison riots that presaged Stonewall, this is the story of one building and much more: the people it caged, the neighborhood it changed, and the resistance it inspired. 

Hugh Ryan is a writer and curator. His first book, When Brooklyn Was Queer, won a 2020 New York City Book Award, was a New York Times Editors’ Choice in 2019, and was a finalist for the Randy Shilts and Lambda Literary Awards. He was honored with the 2020 Allan Bérubé Prize from the American Historical Association. In 2019–2021, he worked on the Hidden Voices: LGBTQ+ Stories in United States History curricular materials for the NYC Department of Education. 

Space is limited! 

If you’d like to purchase a copy of the book for Hugh to sign after the event, we are thrilled to once again team up with our local bookseller partner, Greenlight Bookstore, to provide that option. Just select your book purchase as an add-on from the registration page ($32.95 plus processing fees). 



We’re looking for more opportunities to spotlight LGBTQ+ Brooklyn-connected authors in our Crown Heights space. If you have a new book coming out, and you think it would appeal to our audience, reach out to Jere Keys at to discuss.

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