During my freshman year in college, I worked at Lambda Rising, a gay bookstore in Washington DC. I worked in the warehouse in back, fielding phones orders from guys in Alaska who would order about $300 worth of gay novels from us once a quarter. This was 1990/1991, so there was no Amazon.com, and we were a lifeline for queer folks in all sorts of far flung places.
Lambda Rising, like many of the great gay book shops, is long gone, a part of our culture lost, perhaps because it is no longer needed in quite the same way that it once was. I will always be grateful to be old and lucky enough to have known it and other spaces like it.
Which is why I can’t let the announced closing of Philadelphia’s Giovanni’s Room pass without comment. Currently the oldest surviving gay bookshop in the nation, Giovanni’s Room will close on May 17.
Erin and I maintain our writing office in Philadelphia, because it’s between our two cities. We had hoped to do a reading there one day. Instead, another piece of the community will be gone.
If you’re in Philly, please visit the shop before it closes. If you’re somewhere else, please let us know about whatever LGBTQ bookshops still exist in your communities.
Wild Iris Books in Gainesville is the only feminist bookstore in Florida and also serves as a LGBTQ+ bookstore and community safe space — and yes, this is one of those places where the B and T are definitely not silent.
They had to relocate but are now thriving in the new, if tiny, space in a building with several other progressive establishments.