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Why a Local Academic Is Fostering Queer Discussion and Community Through an Old-Fashioned Book Club

Ypsilanti library's queer book club meets monthly

Queer books on public library shelves have come under fire across the country in recent years, but you wouldn’t know it at the Ypsilanti District Library (YDL), where local readers can join a monthly book club focused on books with LGBTQ+ themes.  

Z Kathryn, a genderqueer academic who goes by Dr. Z, started the monthly Ypsilanti Library Adult Queer Book Club after a career of teaching LGBT studies, gender and women's studies at the Women's Huron Valley Correctional Facility and Eastern Michigan University. Dr. Z decided to form the group after switching from the university to the library at the start of the coronavirus pandemic as a natural extension to their career. “I wanted to continue that intellectual work and queer discussion, centering it around my passion, which is books. Fiction, non-fiction, science fiction, poetry. That’s where I got the idea,” Dr. Z said. “I’m thrilled by the turnout and popularity of it.” 

"I’m new to the area and it’s just been so welcoming. Ypsi in general has been so welcoming and the book club has been the number one thing for me," book club member M.C. Perin told Pride Source. “I’ve made friends, some career connections, and it’s just so nice to be able to go somewhere where you can speak your mind freely and even if people disagree, they’re not going to judge you for it.”



Each title centers on people who are queer in some way, ranging from novels, to memoirs, to graphic novels. Books are available at the library for a month before the regularly scheduled meetings at the Whitaker Branch in Ypsilanti Township. 

“I really enjoy going to book group and actually discussing the books. I feel like we get into really in-depth discussions and just talk about queer theory in the book … and I feel like I learn more about the book every time I go to the group,” book club member Naomi Pomerantz said. 

Bans and challenges to books about or mentioning the existence of LGBTQ+ people have been on the rise nationally for years now. The American Library Association counted 695 attempts to remove books about LGBTQ life or the points of view of racial minorities in libraries just in 2023. 

“It has become a response to that. My supervisor is encouraging that that is a response. Participants in Ypsilanti are also saying that this a welcoming space, a space full of diversity and it’s a space that the library fosters, not just for queer folks, but for folks of all backgrounds as general space for library activity,” Dr. Z said. “But when I put it together, the uproar around the nation wasn’t as severe as it is now, and it has grown since. In Ypsilanti, we haven’t had any pushback. We’ve only had marvelous support for it.”

Alex Speakerman, a non-binary pansexual member, said that being part of the club has opened them up to more books they may not have otherwise picked up. “We’ve read a lot of memoirs, like ‘All Boys Aren’t Blue,’” Spakerman said. “One of the ones I really liked was ‘The Lost Cost,’ which was about a lesbian in the closet who went to California to see the redwoods and came across this magic group, which I thought was super interesting.”

Upcoming titles include “Manhunt” by Gretchen Felker-Martin (April), “Let’s Talk About Love” by Claire Kann (May), “Giovanni’s Room” by James Baldwin (June) and "Frankissstein" by Jeanette Winterson (July).

The group is open to anyone of any gender or sexual identity, 18 or older. Learn more at attend.ypsilibrary.org/event/9326312.



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