Why Don’t You Just Ask?

Yesterday, I was in a bookstore. An independently-owned bookstore, Harvard Books, actually, the one in Harvard Square. I was very happy to be there. I love to read, I love books, and I am so glad that there are still a few independently-owned bookstores around for me to go into.

However.

Neither in the upstairs (new books) nor in the downstairs (used books and remainders) could I find an LGBTQ section of any kind. Gender studies, nothing. Ok, just because I couldn’t find it doesn’t mean it’s not there, but I’m pretty good at finding things in bookstores, so the fact that I couldn’t find it probably means it’s tiny or in a weird place or they don’t have one. And I went to the place it used to be downstairs and it wasn’t there anymore.

Why don’t you just ask?

I have asked, sometimes I ask, I do sometimes ask, ok? I have been shown where the section is (weird place, dusty, near the floor, miniscule), I have been told that they don’t have a section because that would be ghettoizing queer books, or that they don’t have enough space, or that you really can’t tell what a queer book is anymore these days, they don’t have a women’s studies section, a black studies section, so they don’t have a queer section either. All this and more I have been told when I ask.

Why didn’t I just ask yesterday?

Well, looking at queer books isn’t the only thing to do in a bookstore. I batted around looking at cards and other things, checked out the new books, all the while keeping my eyes peeled for my elusive section. I made a purchase, a nonfiction book about collaboration. I also bought the only queer book I could find, a reprint of “Albert Nobbs”, George Moore’s novella on which the movie of the same name is based, a movie Tex and I recently viewed. But I really wanted to see a bunch of queer books, I really did.

Why don’t you just ask if it’s so all-fired important to you?

Sometimes, I just don’t fucking feel like asking. Sometimes, I don’t feel like raising awareness, being “on”, having to put myself out there again and again in order to feel like I exist. I would like to go into the bookstore and browse new queer books. Discover old queer books. Make a purchase or two. Not feel so alone in the world, literary and otherwise. I have said it before and I’ll say it again now: we have not yet reached the point where queers don’t need to know where to look to see themselves. An independently-owned bookstore in Harvard Square should have an easily-found section on queers, a big, fat section on queers. Don’t whine to me about how you can’t tell what books are queer – there are any number of places to see what the new queer books are and you should damn well know that. You’re a god damn book store with book store resources! You know what I think? I think the people who decide what books go where are straight people for whom queerness is no longer an issue. You know, people who say, “I never think of you as queer, I just think of you as you!” And for them, it’s fine to have queer books mingled in amongst the huge, endless sea of straight books, because for them, literature is literature. I’m happy for them, I really am, but I still need to be able to see my people somewhere. I know literature is literature, but I’m looking for a certain kind – one in which the characters are queer, ok? – and I just didn’t see it yesterday. Feminism is not passé. Racism is alive and extremely well. And don’t fucking disappear my queer books!

I suppose the next time I go in there, I’m going to have to ask.

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Published in: on February 17, 2012 at 8:23 PM  Comments (1)  
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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Don’t just ask. Show them this column.


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