It's hard to imagine, but Manhattan no longer has a single bookstore dedicated exclusively to queer people and topics. Since the closing of the landmark independent bookstores of Oscar Wilde and A Different Light, the borough has been without a bookstore specifically dedicated to serving the queer community. Enter the Bureau of General Services – Queer Division, the now realized dream of co-owners Greg Newton and Donnie Jochum. The couple is creating a permanent bookstore and community space, complete with readings, events, a highly curated collection, and more. Currently, the BGSQD exists as a pop-up store in the Strange Loop Gallery at 27 Orchard Street but they are raisisng funds to open a permanent space.
and be sure to visit BGSQD at Strange Loop Gallery until January 31 2013!
How has the reaction been from the neighborhood? Any surprising responses from locals who suddenly get a queer bookstore on their block?
We've felt very welcomed by the neighboring residents and businesses with whom we've interacted, but I think a lot of locals barely notice us. They're probably used to gallery exhibitions changing, which I'm guessing is how this registers for many. But quite a few people have stopped in to ask what's going on with our host, Strange Loop Gallery. Strange Loop has been incredibly supportive. This really is a collaboration with them. The owners, Claire Fleury and Alesia Exum organized the current show with Shane Shane. Electric Eclectic Beauties of the Glorious Nightlife opened on Wednesday, 12/12/12, and is up until 1/6/13. The opening party was amazing! And the photos make for an excellent party atmosphere. A couple of business owners have said that it's nice to have a bookstore in the neighborhood and that we're a compliment to the area.
What's the geekiest thing you have on your shelves?
FAQNP, FAQNP's A Queer Nerd Publication. It's been selling very well! And Joe Mama-Nitzberg's poster Judy Chicago (see below) is perfect for art geeks like myself. For literary geeks I recommend Eve Fowler’s poster Rub Her Coke (see below), which is a line from a Gertrude Stein poem.
What have you got for younger readers?
We have a growing selection of young adult fiction with lgbtq characters: James Howe's The Misfits and his follow up book Totally Joe; Tricks, a story of five teens (one of whom is gay) told in poems, by Ellen Hopkins; Gone, Gone, Gone by Hannah Moskowitz; Boyfriends with Girlfriends, by Alex Sanchez; Putting Makeup on the Fat Boy, by Bil Wright; Parrotfish, by Ellen Wittlinger; and Becoming Nancy, by Terry Ronald, to mention just a few.
As far as non-fiction goes, we have Kate Bornstein's Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks & Other Outlaws (I wish this had existed when I was an anguished teenager!) and the book I'm from Driftwood, compiled by Nathan Manske, creator of the IFD website, which is a site for queers to share stories about growing up, coming out, first loves, and social interactions.
We've got a few titles for the very young: And Tango Makes Three, King & King, My Princess Boy, Mommy, Mama, and Me, and the coloring books Sometimes the Spoon Runs Away With Another Spoon and Girls Are Not Chicks.
Is there a particular piece of obscure or forgotten queer lit you're proud of selling?
Merle Miller's On Being Different: What It Means to Be a Homosexual, from 1971, may not be obscure, but I wasn't aware of it until the Lambda Literary Review wrote about it in October. This was an essay that Miller wrote for The New York Times in response to a homophobic article in Harper's Magazine. And we have the 1950 Lesbian pulp novel Women's Barracks, by Tereska Torres, based on her experiences as part of de Gaulle's Free French forces in London. This is from the Femmes Fatales series by the Feminist Press consisting of reprints of women's pulp from the '30s, '40s, and '50s accompanied by contemporary commentary.
What if I'd like to get someone a gift from BGSQD that isn't a book?
The photos in the current show, Electric Eclectic Beauties of the Glorious Nightlife, make excellent gifts! Shane Shane gave disposable cameras to 14 beauties (listed on our website) and asked them document their night lives. The photos were then developed and selected by Strange Loop owners Claire Fleury and Alesia Exum. Subjects include: portraits, self-portraits, preparations for going out, decked out partiers en-route to events, club scenes, and blow jobs. Each of the 100 framed 4 x 6 archival pigment prints is only $25! The four 30 x 19 archival pigment prints are $200 each. These larger prints are signed by the artists and are not framed.
All the multiples that Scott Hug selected for our first month are still available (checklist here). Some of my favorites include Alex Jovanovich’s Faggot’s Fangs poster (18 x 24", digital print, open edition), for only $20.
And as I stated above, I also love Joe Mama-Nitzberg’s Judy Chicago poster ($40).
And Eve Fowler’s poster using a line from Gertrude Stein’s poem “Objects” in the 1914 book Tender Buttons is so cool. Especially for the literary geeks in your life. Letterpressed posters, 22 x 28″. $100 each.
We have several more excellent art works available. Images of some of these drawings, collages, ceramic plates, prints, and one painting are on our website, but not all. So come on down to the store to see what we’ve got.
You're raising funds to open a permanent location. In your dreams, what's it like?
It will be a space where queers can gather, feel included in the conversation, meet to socialize, have a cup of tea or coffee, sit and talk, have access to books from our artists that won't be featured in other stores, discover new talents, where there is a sense of our history, our struggles, our celebrations. We will have art exhibitions, book and zine launches, author readings, theatrical and musical performances by beautiful queers of the NYC nightlife, talks with queer community leaders, writing workshops, health seminars, and movie screenings. We want a street level storefront with a big window that lets in lots of light and provides a sense of openness inviting queers and our allies into our space. We want a bench out on the sidewalk, randomly placed seats in the store encouraging you to have a seat and read, explore, and be a part of it all. Our dream space is a place where our friends would meet and visit with us. Our dream space is a place where meeting strangers who become friends is part of everyday life.
Thanks, BGSQD! Queer geeks everywhere wish you the best of luck!