REVIEW: Speak Now by Kenji Yoshino

Originally published 2015-07-22: The history of the marriage equality movement in Speak Now by Kenji Yoshino


Those of you who follow my blog and social media accounts probably know that I’m a die-hard supporter of civil rights and equality. For as long as I can remember, I knew that I was different: I didn’t subscribe to the racism, rigid gender roles, and relationship ideals that my elders and peers held on high. If anything, I actively rebelled against them from a very young age. (I talk more about that in a Smashwords author interview.)

As an adult, I came to understand that there were others like me out there, and most of us fall somewhere in the LGBT/queer spectrum.

image of a rainbow LGBT flag flying on a white house

In the past few years, I have been active in supporting change for my fellows and myself; whether it was through writing inclusive fiction, signing and passing on petitions, or just spreading information, I have tried to do all I could to bring the injustice of marriage inequality and homophobic animus into the open.

Anyone who hasn’t been lodged firmly under a rock, or with their head in the sand for the past several years is probably aware that the debate over marriage equality was slated to come to a head in June of this year (2015).

So when the book, Speak Now: Marriage Equality on Trial, was recommended to me in May, I jumped at the chance to read and review it.

cover of Speak Now Marriage Equality on Trial by Kenji Yoshino

Book Description

This book tells the story of a watershed trial that unfolded over twelve tense days in California in 2010. A trial that legalized same-sex marriage in our most populous state. A trial that interrogated the nature of marriage, the political status of gays and lesbians, the ideal circumstances for raising children, and the ability of direct democracy to protect fundamental rights.

My Rating

What do I have to say about it?

First, I want to point out that this is not my typical reading fare. I don’t normally read books about law, legislation, or politics. In fact, in a lot of ways, I actually avoid those topics in books, and choose instead to inform myself in the shorter pieces one can find on news sites. Reading about the law, and the way that it has in the past been used to hold down minority or disfavored groups, makes my skin crawl and robs me of my sleep at night.

image of a glass with alka seltzer in it

With that said, I really enjoyed this book. Part I was understandably slow, but necessary, and took me a while to get through. It went into the “Before” of the trial, explaining who the plaintiffs, the movement lawyers, and the proponents were long before Hollingsworth v. Perry.

By the time I was a few pages into part II, however, I was hooked. The actual trial was a masterpiece; few others could have orchestrated nothing as thorough or informative as the trial Judge Walker presided over in Hollingsworth v. Perry. In “Curtain Up,” the plaintiffs testimony lighted on something that hit incredibly close to home for me.

Zarrillo gave the example of walking into a bank and saying, “My partner and I want to open a joint bank account,” only to have the bank employee respond, “Is it a business account?”

Before we were engaged or married, I remember the internal debate with myself any time I chose to speak about my wife. “Girlfriend” sounded young and naïve, but “partner” sounded cold and formal. Either way, I had to decide whether to be open with people and draw attention to my sexuality, or remain aloof — depersonalized, even — in order to keep my sexuality from becoming part of the equation.

Unless you have to deal with that, unless you have to go through a constant validation of self, there’s no way to really describe how it feels.

From the history of discrimination to the ideal family, several serious hot-button issues were covered in the Hollingsworth v. Perry trial and in this book. To say that Speak Now is light reading would be a lie. Readers should settle in for an onslaught of information that will leave them speechless and reaching for a search engine to learn more about the people and events discussed.

I give Speak Now a solid four-and-a-half of five stars. Highly recommended for anyone with even the smallest interest in the subject of the fight for marriage equality and civil rights in America.


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I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books for my honest review.