Friday, December 11, 2009

queer literary community: our time is coming

Elliott Bay, one of Seattle's storied independent book shops, is moving from Pioneer Square to Capitol Hill. It's good news for me. I haven't been able to give a reading at Elliott Bay for years; the old space is inaccessible and has no parking. The new digs, however, will have dedicated parking and will be fully accessible. So I'm happy. The retailers of Pioneer Square, though, are bummed: their daytime foot traffic will plummet without the famous destination-bookshop pulling in the tourists.

Kirkus Reviews is closing. Nielson, the parent company, is selling a bunch of other business-to-business media journals (Hollywood Reporter, AdWeek), but it's not even bothering to try with Kirkus: a sad commentary on the state of print publishing and its secondary market. Strangely, I'm excited. Change--real and serious change--is in the air for Publishing As We Know It. I'll find the time to talk about that in more detail at some point. But not today.

Today I want to talk about the closing of Lambda Rising.

Lambda Rising bookstore was where, in 1988, the Lambda Literary Awards were born. It's where the Lambda Book Report began. Those two programmes are what the Lambda Literary Foundation was incorporated to support. In other words, without Lambda Rising, without L. 'Deacon' Maccubbin, there would be no LLF. So this is the end of an era; sad in many ways. But it's not a calamity, not the End of Everything. It's the end of the beginning.

Lambda Rising and other LGBTQIA (quiltbag) and feminist independent stores were (and many, of course, still are) the incubators and hubs of thriving local queer communities. They function/ed as de facto community centres, places for us to meet others like ourselves, to know--by seeing real live writers and readers, by touching actual books, by laughing and crying in recognition at authors' stories--that we weren't alone.

But now we know we aren't alone; now we know we are everywhere: on TV, in Congress, wearing bishops' collars, getting married. We have the Lammy Awards, we have HRC, we have marches on Washington and websites galore. We are many, we are strong, we are fine.

We are pretty pleased with ourselves. More of our stories are being written and read than ever. They're just not being bought and sold on the High Street.

While most of our book commerce has migrated online, its community hasn't. Yet. But, oh, it will. The time is coming to take the next step, to pick up the torch kindled by Charis and Lambda Rising and Giovanni's Room and A Room of One's Own and OutWrite and Women and Children First and all those other stores, past and present: the time is coming to take this sense of belonging national. We know we're many, and strong, and fine. It's time for the rest of the book world to know it, too. Stay tuned.

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