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Hugh Ryan

I am a writer, historian, and curator in New York City. My current project, entitled THE WOMEN’S HOUSE OF DETENTION, is a queer history of the Women’s House of Detention in Greenwich Village. It is the story of one building: the people it caged, the neighborhood it changed, and the resistance it inspired.

My first book, WHEN BROOKLYN WAS QUEER, was called a “boisterous, motley new history” and “an entertaining and insightful chronicle” by the New York Times, who made it an Editor’s Pick in 2019. In 2019, I was honored by the Brooklyn Historical Society, the Committee on LGBT History of the American Historical Association, and the Brooklyn Borough President for my work on the queer history of BK.

I have received the 2016 Martin Duberman Fellowship at the New York Public Library, several New York Foundation for the Arts grants in Nonfiction Literature, the 2019-2020 Allan Berube Prize for outstanding work in public LGBT History from the Committee on LGBT History at the American Historical Association, and the 2019 New York City Book Award. In 2021, I was an artist in residence at Yaddo (a truly incredible experience). In 2017, I was a resident artist at The Watermill Center, and an alumni teaching fellow at the Bennington Writing Seminars, of which I'm a very proud graduate. I regularly teach Creative Nonfiction in the MFA Program at SUNY Stonybrook. I am currently on the Board of Advisors for the Archives at the LGBT Center in Manhattan and The Stonewall National Museum and Archives in Ft. Lauderdale.

A few favorite pieces include Crush Notes (about the Pulse Massacre, my family, the origins of homophobia, and an 8th century Arabic poet named Abu Nuwas), Downton Abbey’s Thomas Barrow and the Future of the Gay Past (that one’s pretty self explanatory), The Three Lives of Malvina Schwartz (a look at one of the most famous NYC drag kings of the 1940s and '50s), My Year of Sarah Schulman (a deep dive into everything Schulman ever wrote), and Power to the People (a profile of activist and artist Marsha P. Johnson).

I'm delighted to be represented by Robert Guinsler at Sterling Lord Literistic.

If you enjoy my work, please consider becoming a supporter on Patreon, where you can get access to early drafts and behind-the-scenes stories from my deep dives into archives across America.

In 2010, I founded the Pop-Up Museum of Queer History, a grassroots organization dedicated to helping local communities create engaging exhibitions rooted in their own experience. Through Pop-Up, I’ve curated shows around the country and had the opportunity to give lectures and lead workshops on queer history, AIDS activism, and museum praxis at museums, colleges, community centers, and punk houses of all kinds. The proudest moment of my life might be the day that George Chauncey told me, “You’re making history cool.”

“The proudest moment of my life might be the day that George Chauncey told me, ‘You’re making history cool.’ ”

I’m also a development associate with the Urban Justice Center, an Advisory Board member of the academic journal QED: A Journal in GLBTQ Worldmaking and of the Museum of Transgender Hirstory and Art, and a proud alumnus of Team Awesome / The Rude Mechanical Orchestra. In previous lives, I ghostwrote twelve young adult and middle grade novels, worked with queer youth at The Hetrick Martin Institute, was a professional house-sitter, volunteered on a rape crisis hotline, and typed emails for lawyers late, late at night.

20TH Century Carceral History LGBTQIA+ History

The Women's House of Detention in Greenwich Village

June 13, 2022

The 12-story Women’s House of Detention, situated in the heart of Greenwich Village in New York City, from 1932 to 1974, was central to the queer history of The Village. The House of D, as it was known, housed such inmates a…

Guest: Hugh Ryan