To help celebrate Pride Month, many bookstores around the nation are doing special displays of LGBT books and authors. I found news mention of this fact as far afield as the U.S. Consulate in Chennai, India! Mainstream organizations like the American Library Association always note the unique diversity that our literature has achieved in both fiction and nonfiction.
This achievement continues in spite of the negative impact that recession and book-store closings are having on book sales. So there's a lot that we need to do, if books are to continue creating our legacy in the United States.
On the eve of Pride Month, the Lambda Literary Foundation just announced their current award-winners, the Lammies, at their traditional venue -- BookExpo America in New York City. Check out their winners' list to know what's new and hot in every category, from gay mystery to lesbian erotica and transgender.
Sad to say, LGBT books are being hurt on other fronts besides the economy. Anti-gay activists redouble their efforts to intimidate bookstores from doing displays. They try to censor our books off public-library shelves, and remove them from university and high-school reading programs. Saddest of all, in recent years, the LGBT community has softened its support for books. Print literature has gradually become the stepchild of our culture -- today our demographic is very "entertainment oriented." So our books get way less reviewer and consumer attention than do films and TV shows with LGBT content.
All the more reason to support our books and authors in every way possible. Why? Because books can deal with the LGBT experience, and provide information about it, in creative ways that movies and TV can't duplicate.
Books are now available in digital and audio form, but they are still abundantly available in their ole-timey low-tech and non-digital paper form ... meaning they will never be the victim of computer meltdowns. A well-printed-and-bound book can last for a century, even two or three, on a safe shelf -- whereas a digital file can go bad in a blink.
What Can We Do?
Want to buy LGBT books? The most community-minded choice would be a local LGBT store, if there is still one in your city. A list of the surviving LGBT bookstores is available at Lambda Literary.
If no gay bookstore is left standing in your city, then take your business to a gay-friendly independent bookstore. In Los Angeles, for instance, all the gay bookstores have vanished...alas. So conscientious bookbuyers now go to Skylight Books, a long-established independent in West L.A.
If there isn't even a brick-and-mortar indie store left in your city, and your budget demands that you look for discount books, by all means shop at Barnes & Noble. Even the big bookstore chains are having their recession woes -- and you'll be lucky to find a Borders store, since that chain has been on the verge of Chaptger 11. B & N doesn't carry as many LGBT books as they used to ... but they also stock fewer books generally, a symptom of the recession's soft retail sales.
For cyber-shopping, go to the Web and search for the gay- and gay-friendly indie stores that sell books online. Try the online sales page of Lambda Rising in Washington D.C., one of the oldest and most distinguished LGBT bookstores still in business. Or try Alternaqueerbooks, an online sales site. Or go to the gay/lesbian section on the website of Powell's in Portland.
Many LGBT authors also maintain their own websites, where they sell their books, and offer autographed copies. There are too many to list here. But you can Google your favorite author to see if he or she has a website.
If you're looking for deep discounts online, buy at Amazon.com. Some gay people bash Amazon because they're "big and corporate." But they are sadly misinformed to do this. Amazon has been 100-percent gay-friendly since its beginning, and they sell just about every LGBT title there is. So they're a major resource for people who can't find gay books in their local communities.
You can find out what's hot at Amazon by going to their top-100 GLBT bestseller list. And you can browse a complete listing of over 25,000 titles that can be found if you do a general search under "gay lesbian."
Six additional ways to support LGBT books:
- Go to your public library this month, and ask them to add a few more LGBT titles to their collection. If they have no funds to buy new titles, offer to donate a book or two yourself.
- Get active in any local book-censorship fights that are going on.
- Join a local LGBT book club -- or start one yourself.
- Post a reader review on Amazon.com, if you like a book.
- Encourage your favorite local LGBT organization to pay attention to authors. Especially youth groups ... since our young people have little opportunity to find out about our books in school.
- Last but not least -- try to buy new books, if you can afford it. Authors and publishers do not receive a penny of royalties from sales of used books.
In short -- you can be creative in supporting LGBT books and authors. After all, our books have made a major creative contribution to American culture and history for many, many decades. It's an achievement that should turn a few pages of Pride in all of us.