Epilogue Books Chocolates Brews is offering free queer literature for young adult and middle grade readers through a carousel of books called Reading Rainbows.
The idea was inspired by the Pay It Forward Program and Savoy Book Shop & Cafe’s Queer Little Free Library. One of the goals of the carousel is to knock down barriers, such as cost or an unsafe environment, that prevent queer youth from accessing queer literature.
Gaby Iori, the Epilogue events coordinator, said the books are pre-purchased and donated by the shop's customers.
“We really try to focus on uplifting, marginalized voices,” Iori said. “I hope that the store is a safe space for queer youth to come in and feel seen — see books that make them feel seen.”
Customers can contribute books to the carousel in store by letting a bookseller know a book they're purchasing is for Reading Rainbows. When checking out online, they can write a request to donate the book.
“I actually just recently used some of the donations to put up one of the books that I really enjoyed up on there,” Sylvie Moon, a bookseller at the store, said. “It's been great. Just the idea that it's even here."
If a customer doesn't have a specific book they want to donate, they can choose either paperback or hardcover, and a bookseller will choose one for them.
“I think that having stories like that normalized and making it feel like it's an okay thing to be gay or is an okay thing to be queer is really important and helps a lot of people on their journeys to becoming who they are,” Sarah McElroy, a UNC student and customer at Epilogue, said.
Reading Rainbows also provides an option for those who feel uncomfortable or unsafe picking out a book on their own.
Customers can tell a bookseller or hand them a slip of paper, and they will discreetly pick out and package a book. The slips can be found on top of the carousel, according to Epilogue's website.
Epilogue also offers Queer Reader, a monthly book club that aims to provide an affirming space for LGBTQ+ readers to come and discuss queer literature by queer authors.
The club is hosted by Iori and the next meeting will take place on Nov. 22 at 7 p.m. The discussion will be about “A Girlhood: A Letter to my Transgender Daughter” by Carolyn Hays.
“Not everything about a store has to be about selling you stuff,” Jaime Sanchez, co-owner of Epilogue, said. “Going with our mission of creating this inclusive space, it doesn't mean a space just to sell you books or sell you coffee, but to create safety for you in many other ways.”
Sanchez said he is happy to be able to set up these kinds of campaigns and hopes the carousel will continue to support a vision of unity and inclusion for the community, open people’s eyes and help others realize we need to support each other.
“If I get to see that this possibly affected the community or maybe a community adjacent to us, and I think we're on the right track, I hope that we can highlight the LGBTQIA+ community in a very beautiful light that will make others more compassionate,” Sanchez said.
To learn more about Reading Rainbows or contribute a donation to the carousel visit Epilogue’s Reading Rainbows website.
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