Pride in Your Shelf
By Katie Horsfall, Jess Emery and Billi Jones
There is nothing that can get you through a hard time, quite like a good group of friends and an excellent book. So it was no surprise that, when the pandemic and national lockdown hit a year ago, people turned to books. Book clubs, old and new, popped up on Zoom screens across the world.
LGBTQ+ book clubs are safe and welcoming spaces, celebrating inclusive writing which champions the queer experience whilst providing necessary representation for readers. This article shines a spotlight on a small handful of the many LGBTQ+ book clubs who went digital, refusing to let a pandemic stop them from discussing good literature with great friends.
Manchester LGBTQ+ Book Club
Mancunian book bloggers Sarah and Sophie have been best friends for over half of their lives. Back in 2015, they combined their passion for all things ‘bookish and gay’ and created their blog, The Little Contemporary Corner. Six years later, they have started a book club, gained new friends and followers, and their blog has been longlisted three times for Champion of Diversity by the UKYABA Awards!
Sarah and Sophie were in quite a unique – and lucky – position at the beginning of the pandemic; their Manchester-based LGBTQ+ book club started online four years ago, before moving to in-person meets the following year. So, when the pandemic hit, they were already experts in the art of virtual book-clubbing.
Sarah and Sophie love the “inclusivity of book club.” They recently read Carol by Patricia Highsmith, enjoying the deep conversation the book provoked.
They meet on the last Thursday of every month. For more information, please visit: @TLCCBlog or their site here.
London LGBT Book Club
For well over a decade, the London LGBT Book Club has provided a safe space for the queer community to meet and share literature. The shift to virtual meetings in the wake of the pandemic has presented both a challenge and an opportunity for host Jo Impey:
“It was the first time many of us had used Zoom, and I, for one, was sceptical about whether it would work out. But in fact, our numbers have swelled ever since,” Jo said. “In the physical meetings, we used to get maybe ten or twelve people coming along; on Zoom, we get twenty-five or thirty. We have to use breakout rooms to make the discussion manageable.” In addition, the convergence to web-based interaction has made the book group more accessible to queer readers across the country and beyond.
“It’s great that people are turning to groups like ours for connection and discussion, especially as many queer people are particularly isolated by the pandemic. If you are LGBT+ and love reading, book groups can be a great opportunity to come together, learn about our collective histories, and exchange with others.”
Meetings are held on the first Friday of every month. You can join the group or sign up to their monthly newsletter by emailing LondonLGBTbooks@gmail.com.
Queer Book Box
An alternative to the conventional book group, Queer Book Box is a subscription-based service that aims to get the best queer books into their readers’ hands.
This queer-owned, independently run business delivers one book every month, written by a queer author and centred around queer main characters and themes. Depending on the subscription that you opt for, they’ll also send you some related bookish extras.
Queer Book Box proudly source their books from Gay’s the Word, the UK’s first and oldest lesbian and gay bookshop. The bookshop was used as a community and information resource for lesbians and gay men from the opening of their doors, providing information on gay organisations and forthcoming events. In collaboration with Gay’s the Word, Queer Book Box promises to send subscribers contemporary queer literature, especially that of lesser-known and up-and-coming authors.
You can subscribe on a month-to-month basis to pay the standard price, or alternatively, you can subscribe for a year and pay a lower monthly price which gives you one box free! To see their array of options and sign up, visit their site.
Sapphic Stories Bookclub
Beginning in January 2021, Sapphic Stories BookClub has provided monthly reading “for, by and about sapphics”. Open to those fifteen or older and identify as LGBTQ+ or as cis-women, but who ensure that sapphic members’ voices are uplifted. Books are chosen through Instagram polls on founder Gillie’s Instagram page.
Gillie’s love for LGBTQ+ bookstagram and book clubs, in combination with the dominance of male-centred books, provided a foundation for the book club. “What prompted me to start this book club is my love for sapphic books and the lack of spaces specifically for and by sapphics to celebrate our love of women.”
Thanks to a combination of two meetings at the end of the month, a Discord server and an Instagram hashtag #SapphicStoriesBookClub, members have an active community to engage with. More information on how to join the book club is available on Gillie’s Instagram (@gillesbianreads) and in her bio.