|October 2019 Member Spotlight|
Books Change Lives
Years ago, I signed up for the University of Missouri – Kansas City’s Rainbow Roos newsletter. It focuses on upcoming events and resources available to LGBTQIA+ students and faculty in Kansas City. They have a Pride Alliance group, an LGBTQIA Staff & Faculty Affinity Group, Bisexual/Pansexual Visibility Tabling, and so many other wonderful, supportive programs and groups for queer students. As I was scrolling through the newsletter on my iPhone, I noticed a tiny picture of a lounge area that had a few chairs and a bookshelf that looked bare. I thought, hey, I went to school there. Why don’t I drop off a few books and ask my social media family to donate if they can?
The response has been overwhelming. When donations started pouring in, I thought this is wonderful! This will fill up the bookshelf in no time. I was so happy and proud of my friends for donating not only their own books but books that affected them. Books they read that they could recycle to younger readers who were just becoming aware of queer fiction.
Flashback to my college years. There was nothing available on campuses other than the standard groups – fraternities, sororities, intramural sports, academic clubs, and theatre clubs. The internet was relatively new to me. I didn’t have a home computer until I was a sophomore, so all of my papers were typed on a word processor. I didn’t know that lesfic or any queer fiction was even out there in the world. I always joke about the Midwest being twenty years behind either coast, but there is definite truth there. AOL was the way I met other lesbians in my town. We had one bookstore that sold m/m fiction, T-shirts, and a tiny section that sold f/f erotica. I was too shy and nervous to look or ask for any support groups.
We’ve come a long way since then. Now I see LGBTQIA+ support groups on high school and college campuses everywhere. There are Pride parades in cities and towns and Pride weekends where we can be out and show the world that we love unconditionally, too. I love that there are so many resources for our youth and in our communities for all queer people today.
It is amazing to me how many young readers hit our booths at Pride events excited to find gay and lesbian literature. We ask them what they like and guide them to the genre of their choice. Historical? We have books over here. You like lesbians in space? Here, read these. I see how excited they are. I also know that books aren’t cheap and when you are twenty years old, and you want to buy six books, it’s hard to drop $100 when rent is due, and you’ve been eating Ramen noodles and fast food off the dollar menu for weeks.
I know there are young readers out there. They just need to know about us. When I attended ClexaCon in Vegas this past April, there were so many young queers in attendance that I smiled the entire time. I loved seeing their faces and their excitement at being a part of something big and predominately gay. They attended our panels and bought our books and were so eager to learn about lesfic and the love we talk about in our books. Some were new readers, and some were budding writers wanting guidance and advice.
I want our youth to reach out to us. Not only are they future readers, but a percentage of them are future writers. Future Goldie winners. Future GCLS members who will keep our organization running in the years to come. That’s why I reached out to universities and colleges around me and to our lesfic community. It just takes one reader to find us, read us, reach out to us, and spread the word on social media and to their friends. And if there are books available in their safe spaces at college where students really breakout and explore the avenues that interest them, then we’ve done a great thing.
I delivered 9 boxes of books to UCM’s Prism group a few weeks ago (approximately 250+ books). The Director of the Multicultural and Inclusivity Center ordered bookshelves for Prism’s Lavender Lounge just for the donations. I ended up talking to the students for about thirty minutes and just as I suspected, many didn’t know queer fiction was out there. They were curious about the writing process and how I got published. All of them claimed to be readers and when I mentioned the different genres, there were claps and excited faces around the room. It made me feel happy. Genuinely, honestly happy (side note: lesbians in space received the most applause).
Park University reached out and said they would love to receive donations, but they were still trying to figure out a place to put them for their students. There is a new wing being built on campus and the Coordinator for Student Advocacy, Amanda, is working hard to get room for Park’s Spectrum group. In the meantime, she’s going to stock them in her office as a lending library, or try to work something out with the campus library.
As the donations continued to arrive, I had to divide them again. I’m waiting for UMKC to schedule a time for me to deliver (120+) books, and just heard back from the University of Kansas’s Coordinator for Sexuality and Gender Diversity. They will receive (120+) books as well. Hopefully I can get all of this done before Women’s Week in Provincetown, MA in October.
Here are some very important stats to know:
1. UMKC has 16,000 students
2. UCM has 14,500 students
3. Park University has 9,600 students
4. The University of Kansas has 29,000 students
Here’s another stat to think about. 550+. That’s how many books were donated to these four schools. That shows you how generous we are as a whole. I love our community. We are very giving and kind. I’m proud of us. We are making a difference. Maybe one day, you’ll get an email from a student who read your book from one of these groups, and they might tell you how your book made a difference to them. It might be years from now, it might be at a Pride event, or it might even be at a GCLS conference.
So, I want to thank everyone who donated books. Who took the time to box them up, write little thank you notes to me, and spend the money to ship them. I received boxes from Australia, the UK, Canada, and all over the United States. I know this effort will change lives, so thank you for participating and making me love our community even more.
Are you interested in being a featured member or featured business partner in our new Membership Spotlight section?
Each month, we will share a spotlight featuring a member or business partner within our GCLS community. This spotlight will highlight accomplishments, writing tips, reader interests, and other aspects of the wonderful world of lesbian-themed literature. It's a chance for members and business partners to share their story.