Jason Villemez at the Bay Area Reporter reports today on the expansive history of LGBTQ bookstores, tracking their humble beginnings at the cultural outskirts of bookselling, their rise as community hubs during the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and the new roadblocks they’re facing now in the age of chain-driven bookselling consolidation.
Some of my favorite details from the story:
—Giovanni’s Room in Philadelphia, the oldest LGBTQ bookstore in the US, opened in 1973 with a collection of hand-picked titles from a wholesaler in the West Village.
—These bookstores printed and distributed accurate information about HIV/AIDS at a time when others wouldn’t. “At the height of the epidemic, when newspapers and society were savage in their fear and loathing of gay people and people affected by HIV/AIDS, we managed to retain our sanity and provide a welcoming environment,” Jim MacSweeney, manager of Gay’s The Word in London, told Villemez.
—Queer bookstores are now adapting to financial challenges by offering different services, including a “pop-up queer barbershop” at Category is Books in Glasgow, which frankly is awesome.
[h/t Bay Area Reporter]