Immerse Yourself in the Samantha Irby Experience with Ann Arbor District Library’s Big Gay Read

Annual month-long community book club set to kick off in July

Marketplace Story
Sarah Bricker Hunt

You could think of Ann Arbor District Library’s upcoming Big Gay Read as a community book club on steroids. Like a traditional book club, participants will read the same book (this year’s pick is Samantha Irby’s earnest book of essays, “We Are Never Meeting in Real Life”), followed by an opportunity for discussion. Unlike a traditional book club, the “discussion” portion of this book club will take place over the entire month of July, through immersive — and often hilarious — group experiences, a book reading and talk by the author and several other fun activities put together by the AADL team. 

AADL staffer Jacob Gorski told Pride Source that the fourth annual Big Gay Read will have a celebratory vibe. “Samantha Irby’s writing lends itself to this wonderful kind of energy that fits today’s climate so perfectly,” he says. “Yes, life is pretty hard, but at least we can have a good laugh.”

Irby, a Chicago native who now lives with her wife in Kalamazoo, is known for her acerbic wit and her sometimes painfully honest (but always relatable) retellings of embarrassing and poignant moments in her life. “We Are Never Meeting in Real Life” takes a deep dive into Irby’s pre-marital dating life as well as the childhood experiences that have shaped her into the delightfully awkward, powerfully compelling presence she is today. In addition to writing New York Times bestselling books like “We Are Never Meeting in Real Life” and “Wow, No Thank You,” Irby has garnered praise for her work in television writing for shows like “Shrill” and the “Sex and the City” reboot “And Just Like That.” 

Irby frequently writes about her judgmental cat Helen Keller, a detail Gorski says library staffers working on the Big Gay Read were quick to seize upon. “So, we’re having a cat craft symposium,” he says. “You’ll be able to come to the library and crochet a coaster — that looks like a cat’s butt.” Having read every word of every single Samantha Irby book, I can tell you that it’s hard to imagine a craft that would better capture the Samantha Irby vibe. Bravo, AADL.

Ahead of a series of live events, the library will release a YouTube video titled “Recipe Share: Easy on the Tummy,” a nod to Irby’s openness about her struggles with chronic illness and Crohn’s disease. Viewers can check out several recipes that might (or might not) help with their own digestive quirks.  “In no way do we claim that we can cure your digestive issues but we do have some recipes that may or may not be easy on your tummy,” the video description reads. The event will be pre-recorded and appear on the AADL website and YouTube on July 5 at 4 p.m.

Gorski says the book is readily available for checkout at all five AADL branches (Downtown, Malletts Creek, Pittsfield, Traverwood and Westgate) and as an ebook or audiobook, so grab your copy and plan to attend all of this year’s Big Gay Read Events, outlined below and at

The Big Gay Read Author Event: Samantha Irby
Sunday, July 7 • 6-7:30 p.m. • Downtown Library

Irby will visit AADL for a talk, Q&A and book signing on July 7. The library will offer books for sale and may provide a livestream (check for updates).

The Samantha Irby Experience: Zumba
Thursday, July 11 • 6:30-7:30 p.m. • Downtown Library

Exercise can be fun, or, at least according to Samantha Irby, it doesn't have to be complete torture,” writes AADL. “See for yourself as The Big Gay Read presents a one-off Zumba class at AADL. Dress accordingly, whatever that means to you!”

The Samantha Irby Experience: Cat Craft Symposium
Thursday, July 18 • 6-7:30 p.m. • Downtown Library

Like Irby, the AADL staff loves cats. Or, as Irby writes, it’s “something like love.” In addition to the previously mentioned cat butt coaster craft, participants at the cat craft symposium can create no-sew catnip toys, wand toys and heat-pressed totes.

The Samantha Irby Experience: Bad Date Cabaret | A Comedic Evening of Crafting and Storytelling
Tuesday, July 23 • 6:30-7:30 p.m. • Downtown Library

The Bad Date Cabaret will have you turning your bad dating experiences into artistic masterpieces that you can share with the class. Don’t be shy — brave AADL staff will kick things off with their own bad dating stories and create art alongside participants. The library invites guests to chat about their best-worst dates with their tablemates and, optionally, with the whole group. Not feeling the show-and-tell aspect? Simple commiseration is also completely acceptable. 

The Samatha Irby Experience: Vegan Snack Taste Test
Friday, July 26 • 6:30-7:30 p.m. • Downtown Library

As Samantha Irby will have us know, there are still a lot of trash foods you can eat while trying to be vegan,” writes AADL. Help crown the winner of the vegan snack taste test with a bracket-style competition focused on vegan junk food options.

This content is made possible through our partnership with the Ann Arbor District Library. Partnerships like these enable Pride Source to produce free, quality storytelling for the LGBTQ+ community.