Granta Books is leading a campaign featuring independent publishers and bookshops to celebrate and promote LGBTQ+ titles in the lead-up to the annual Pride festival on 8th July.
Created to celebrate and create a conversation around LGBTQ+ literature, independent publishers including Granta, Faber, And Other Stories, Scribe and Serpent’s Tail, will be teaming up alongside bookshops including branches of Foyles, Waterstones and Blackwells, to promote and highlight LGBTQ+ titles and authors.
The campaign, launched this weekend, is running on social media using the hashtags #LGBTlit and #booksthatmademe. It will also see book bloggers and vloggers discussing LGBT literature and writers.
Granta’s publicity and marketing assistant Natalie Shaw, who is spearheading the campaign, told The Bookseller: "For Pride 2017, we wanted to celebrate LGBT literature and to introduce readers to new authors and titles and issues or themes which they’d not thought of before. It’s especially important that we in publishing don’t just publish books that are inclusive, but that we actively create spaces spaces for the people who the books are for and about to be able to discuss them, critique them. We decided to share this predominantly over social media, in the belief that through searchable hashtags (#LGBTlit and #booksthatmademe) this would make for greater accessibility and openness."
Of its own titles, Granta will be recommending: Catherine Hall’s Days of Grace, Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta, Paulina & Fran by Rachel B Glaser, and Children of the Sun by Max Schaefer. The publisher will also be promoting other titles including: The Color Purple by Alice Walker (W&N), Trans: A Memoir by Juliet Jacques (Verso), The Gender Games by Juno Dawson (Two Roads), Mundo Cruel by Luis Negrón (Seven Stories Press), and Fingersmith by Sarah Waters (Virago).
Granta magazine has also commissioned and curated a number of articles around the topic which are also being shared using the hashtags.
Fellow independent publisher And Other Stories will be recommending a raft of titles including Michelle Tea's Black Wave, Elvira Dones's Sworn Virgin, and César Aira's The Proof (all And Other Stories) and titles from other publishers including Eileen Myles' Chelsea Girls (Serpent's Tail), Maggie Nelson's The Argonauts (Melville House), and Audre Lorde's Your Silence Will Not Protect You (Silver Press).
The publisher will also publish a blog post about LGBT people in publishing as part of a new series of blog posts about publishing life.
Nichola Smalley, publicity, sales and marketing manager at AOS, told The Bookseller: “We're participating primary as a way of highlighting a load of really good books and getting them into the hands of new readers! But it's also a way of celebrating the role of LGBT+ people in contemporary society, and literature in particular, and acknowledging the huge and ongoing struggle of LGBT+ people (struggles that have cost many their lives) to be accepted and acknowledged for their vast contributions.”
As well as highlighting titles, Scribe will be posting an extract from Breakthrough by Jack Andraka on its website, in which the author discusses his experience of realising he was gay and coming out as a young teen.
Sarah Braybrooke, m.d. of Scribe, said: “We love the idea of indie publishers joining forces to showcase books that tell LGBTQI stories, especially during Pride. Having said that, we are proud of those books all year round and it’s a good reminder to keep shouting about them, even - or especially - when the rainbow flags have been put away. It feels to me that in the industry there is significant interest in publishing books that explore LGBTQI issues, but that sometimes we aren’t that good at connecting the books we publish with the wider conversation - this is a great opportunity to do that.”
Bookshops are also participating in the campaign, with Blackwell's Oxford revealing plans to expand its LGBTQ section and also to highlight a number of titles for the campaign.
James Orton, head of philosophy and education at Blackwell’s Oxford, told The Bookseller: “We're big supporters of all publicity campaigns and try to be involved with all aspects of promoting different genres across the shop. LGBTQ is now also gaining in popularity both within the shop but also within the publishing industry at large with some fantastic books being produced every month. This is why we feel that [our LGBTQ area] warrants a larger space within the department and is now easier to label and for our customers to browse than under the general heading of 'gender studies'. I feel that the industry will champion LGBTQ outside of Pride month as it's such a key area, particularly in Oxford. Any subject that is continually being explored, questioned and even celebrated can only be for the good.”
Foyles Birmingham will be highlighting titles including Judo Dawson’s The Gender Games (Two Roads) and This Book is Gay (Hot Key), Queer by Kathy Belge and Marke Bieschke (Zest Books) and Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin (Walker Books).
Jay Moran, head of fiction, biography, poetry and graphic novels at Foyles Birmingham, discussed the difficulty in finding adequate representation in LGBT literature when growing up and how the industry has progressed. “Growing up as a queer individual was hard. As a teenager, I'd seek out films, TV shows, books that featured LGBTQ+ people, and whilst there were some great examples I found at that age, most of them weren't really meant for me. Most of them were far too adult for me to comprehend, and roughly 90% of them had sad, tragic storylines. Ten years on and a bookseller for Foyles in Birmingham, there is now an array of great LGBTQ+ fiction and nonfiction, depicting characters of various identities, which makes me incredibly proud to be a part of the book world.
He added: "It makes me so happy to think that the likelihood of a young person picking up a book and finding themselves reflected in it and makes them feel valid, in spite of what they're probably told on a daily basis at school, at home, on the street, etc. We've come a long way and we still have further to go but we're even stronger and even prouder.”
Meanwhile, Waterstones Manchester Deansgate will be putting together displays of LGBTQ fiction and running an online campaign which will feature the shop’s booksellers holding up an LGBTQ title that has influenced them. Events co-ordinator Jordan Taylor-Jones will also be reviewing a couple of LGBTQ titles, and discussing these on his blog with a fellow bookseller.
Taylor-Jones told The Bookseller: "On a professional level, I think it's important for bookshops to highlight titles both by and about LGBTQ people as minority voices and stories do need to be heard, especially in such a fraught political age. LGBTQ campaigns around Pride events is of course, inevitable, but here at Waterstones Manchester Deansgate we have such an inspiring team of booksellers who make sure that work by a diverse range of authors is always promoted, talked about and shared with our customers. Personally, there's a worry that a more structured move toward continuous LGBTQ literature campaigns could become tokenistic and any nuance that is valued in the promotion of any new publications, may get lost. However there are so many exciting LGBTQ authors being published at the minute that I don't doubt the importance publishing houses and bookshops are placing on the diversity of literature."
The campaign will run until the day of the Pride festival, 8th July.