Pride Month Inspires Events and Festivities at Indie Bookstores

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June marks LGBT Pride Month, and booksellers across the nation are planning in-store events and displays to recognize and celebrate their vibrant and diverse gay and lesbian communities this month — and year-round.

Brookline Booksmith in Brookline, Massachusetts, began the month of June with a dedicated e-mail to customers highlighting the outstanding LGBT titles on the bookstore’s shelves, from the graphic novel favorite Fun Home by Alison Bechdel (Mariner) to the children’s book This Day in June by Gayle E. Pitman, illustrated by Kristyna Litten (Magination Press).

This is the first time Brookline Booksmith has done an e-mail blast for Pride Month, said children’s bookseller Alex Schaffner. “We’ve been trying to highlight more national celebrations, such as Black History Month and National Poetry Month. I was very excited to continue this initiative with Pride Month. There’s such great literature out there for all ages, and it’s wonderful to have a chance to highlight that,” she said.

Schaffner also posted a list of LGBT+ titles for children and young adults on Brookline Booksmith’s blog on June 1. “In general, when an LGBT+ title comes into the store that we’re excited about, we try to bring it up on the blog and give it in-store visibility with hand-selling and shelf talkers,” she said.

Within the store, a temporary expansion of the LGBT section displays booksellers’ favorite titles, and a bookmark directs readers to LGBT titles shelved in various sections of the store; in the Used Book Cellar, a display features LGBT titles that are less commonly available. This year, the store has also hosted several author events to feature LGBT-themed titles.

“I think the most important thing with any minority literature is to remember that the need and the value and the sheer reading goodness of it lasts all year, and it’s worth being vocal about,” said Schaffner. “People won’t pick up books they never hear about. It’s up to us to make noise! Not only does that help the books find their audience, but it helps our customers know that we are a safe and informed place to shop.”

In Salisbury, North Carolina, Literary Bookpost is a sponsor of Salisbury Pride Week, a series of celebrations — from a drag brunch to a 5K race — that culminates in the Salisbury Pride Festival on June 20. Literary Bookpost will be on-site to sell books at the festival and will be hosting fundraisers throughout the remainder of the year on behalf of Salisbury Pride, Inc.

During Pride Week, Literary Bookpost is hosting a “Drinks with Dorothy” event. The Salisbury community is invited to come dressed as their favorite Wizard of Oz characters and to mix and mingle. A screening of The Wizard of Oz will take place on the bookstore’s lower level, and the back patio will be open for socializing and enjoying the store’s new beer and wine offerings.

Leslie Cataldo, who became manager of Literary Bookpost in February, is thrilled to be bringing a Pride event to the bookstore. “We just wanted to give people a fun event that they don’t have to spend a ton of money on,” said Cataldo. “Of course, it will introduce a lot of people to the bookstore who have not necessarily been here before.”

In Cataldo’s new role at the bookstore, she has made an effort to ensure the shop is a welcoming place for any member of the community. “We have a huge [LGBT] population here in Salisbury and surrounding counties. We want to make this a place that people want to come to, to hang out and have a glass of wine or a beer and look through the books,” said Cataldo. To that end, Cataldo has created a store section dedicated to books written by LGBT authors or on LGBT subjects, plus a shelf of informational books on LGBT themes. “I started it slow, but we’re getting a good response,” said Cataldo.

Booksellers looking to be more mindful of their local LGBT communities should try reaching out to nearby LGBT or ally organizations to discuss opportunities for collaboration, said Cataldo. Within the bookstore, “You have to be extremely welcoming to everyone to make sure that people do feel comfortable, and you have to listen to your clientele,” she said.

Oblong Books & Music in Rhinebeck, New York, is holding an LGBTQ event in July to celebrate diversity as part of its monthly Hudson Valley YA Society author event series.

The touring panel for the LGBTQ in YA event includes Dahlia Adler (Under the Lights, Spencer Hill Contemporary), Robin Talley (Lies We Tell Ourselves, Harlequin Teen), Lindsay Ribar (The Art of Wishing and The Fourth Wish, Speak), Adam Silvera (More Happy Than Not, Soho Teen), and Becky Albertalli (Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, Balzer + Bray).

An in-store display, up now, features the books that will be highlighted at the event. “Our readers in the YA section just devour these titles,” said owner Suzanna Hermans. “We’re really excited to celebrate these books.”

“More and more, LGBTQ titles are no longer ‘issues’ books. They’re just great books about great kids who identify as LGBTQ,” Hermans said. “It’s been a wonderful thing over the years to see such an increase in the publishing of these books as we all work to support diverse titles.”

When the LGBT bookstore A Different Light went out of business several years ago, Skylight Books in Los Angeles tried to up its game in serving the LGBT community, including hosting a popular panel discussion leading up to LA’s Pride Weekend that featured gay writers talking about the authors that influenced them.

“In general, we do try to have events with people from the LGBT community,” said general manager Mary Williams, as Los Angeles has a large population identifying as LGBT. “For us it’s not really about Pride Month, it’s really a yearlong engagement. It’s just a part of Los Angeles — it’s a part of our community.”

Nearby, Book Soup, in West Hollywood, has programming to cater to the LGBT community throughout the year, said Assistant Promotional Director Dan Graham. “We have a lot of LGBT shoppers because of the neighborhood we’re in, so it’s just part of the everyday life of the store.”

The bookstore hosts many gay and lesbian authors and frequently partners with the Los Angeles LGBT Center, which brings prominent authors to the neighborhood for events as well. A newer partnership with WeHo Reads, a community author series, has also helped by featuring diverse writers and promoting LGBT titles.

A notable change over the years, said Graham, is that many stores have done away with dedicated LGBT shelves, instead incorporating those titles into general categories. “I remember years ago that there used to be large and obvious LGBT Studies and LGBT Literature sections, and they’re a little more integrated now,” he explained. The authors in Book Soup’s LGBT Literature section have been rolled into fiction, which, Graham said, leads to “straight readers reading gay books because [the titles are] not being marginalized. There’s less stigma about reading those authors if they’re just in the fiction section.”