Reading Elisa Rolle's impressive bio offers a glimpse into how much work she must have done in putting together this exhaustive tome. The multi-lingual career woman, who currently lives in Italy, is a respected book reviewer and archivist: her personal website My Reviews and Ramblings serves as a comprehensive study of the history of LGBT art and literature.
At more than 750 pages, Rolle's “Days of Love” is a stunningly researched volume of gay, lesbian and bisexual love. For 725 pages, she chronicles the two thousand year history of same-sex love — over 700 couples are included. A thirty-page index follows.
She begins at the beginning, in ancient Greece, with Alexander the Great. From throughout the centuries, she chronicles some of history's better known same-sex love stories. Some of these relationships have already been common knowledge, such as the love shared between the great 19th century playwright Oscar Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas — Wilde famously served time in jail for the crime of homosexuality, which left him a broken man.
Rolle, who clearly did her homework, takes her history lessons even further — she informs her readers who Douglas loved in the years following Wilde's death. Douglas, who was bisexual, married poet Olive Custance, also bisexual. They remained together for 27 years.
Some of the better known names in “Days of Love” make for a fun read. Looking back, it's hard to believe that 1940s cinema lovers actually believed that movie stars Cary Grant and Randolph Scott were “roommates.”
Some entries might surprise readers, such as the inclusion of Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan.
The beginnings of the 49 year live-in friendship between Sullivan and Keller was chronicled in William Gibson's play The Miracle Worker — which became an acclaimed, Oscar winning film in 1962. KELLER was totally blind and deaf since the age of 18 months, and so Sullivan became Keller's teacher, and taught the child how to read and write braille, and how to communicate. The two became world famous disability and social justice activists, and were inseparable until Sullivan died in 1936. Though Sullivan had a failed marriage to a man during her lifetime, she and Keller never lived apart and functioned as a single unit.
Is it really a stretch to suggest that they may have loved each other?
From Alexander in ancient Greece all the way to writers/editors/publishers Lorna Hinson and Shawn Squires, who were married in 2014, Rolle beautifully documents one love story after the other, from many different circles of life. Artists, politicians, celebrities, social justice activists — if Rolle was able to document a same sex relationship they'd had, it was included in the book, with photos where available.
Some of these loves may or may not have been sexual — lifelong friends Marlon Brando and Wally Cox being such an example. Brando was one of cinema's most respected actors, Cox a popular TV personality of the 1950s and 60s. When Cox died in 1973 Brando was devastated. Until his own death some thirty years later, he kept Cox's ashes by his side. Both their ashes were eventually scattered together. Was this a platonic love? In his later years Brando admitted to being bisexual.
Other loves are more obvious, such as the 28 year relationship between Radclyffe Hall and Lady Troubridge, (Hall penned the classic lesbian novel “The Well of Loneliness” in 1928), or writer Christopher Isherwood, who lived with the much younger artist Don Bachardy as an openly gay couple for 33 years beginning in 1953 — the couple's life together was chronicled in the 2008 documentary “Chris and Don: A Love Story.”
Some of the more recent couples featured in the book are quoted. It's heartwarming to see their wedding photos, which serve as a reminder as to how much harder previous generations were forced to live. We've come a long way.
“Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time” is a wonderful and lovely addition to the annals of LGBT historical literature.
The book is now available at Amazon.com.