Interview: Do We Need a Book Club in the Castro?


I can’t believe it’s been almost two years since I was first approached by Magnet to help moderate their monthly book club. In that time, we’ve read fantastic fiction and non-fiction spanning generations, from queer classics by Gore Vidal and Andrew Holleran to contemporary favorites by John Waters and Patti Smith.

I’m incredibly grateful to Magnet — a men’s health center in the Castro — for aiming beyond their conventional role, picking up where A Different Light left off and being supportive of creating a literary community in the neighborhood. Huge thanks are also in order to the SF AIDS Foundation, the Huffington Post, the SF Bay Guardian, Queerty, Lambda Literary, LitSeen, Accidental Bear and Dorothy’s Closet for all their support.

In 2012 we decided to raise the bar by reaching out to local queer authors and inviting them to participate. These photos were taken by Alex Bernardin at our our first meeting with the author of We the Animals, Justin Torres, whom I interviewed beforehand for SFBG.com. In February, we will welcome Kemble Scott, author of SoMa. And in March, we’ll host K.M. Soehnlein, author of The World of Normal Boys.

The Castro Courier featured our book club on the front page of their February issue. Here is the complete, unedited interview I did with writer Lisa Gunther:

What inspired you to start a book club?
The Castro — so that it doesn’t turn into a neighborhood of crowded bars, tacky 2-4-1 sunglass stores and over-priced soup shops.

Why do you think the Magnet is a good venue for a book club?
Because Magnet has done a great job of making a community centered around the arts and self-improvement. If there were a similar community space for every bar in the Castro that hasn’t passed a sanitary inspection, imagine the culture we could create.

Was it a challenge to get together? How did you reach out to the authors?
Getting together was not a challenge. Every person I talked to was excited to join. There was definitely a need for an event like this. I used to be the events coordinator at A Different Light bookstore, which originally partnered with Magnet to do this book club so I had met a lot of queer authors over the years. Justin Torres I met at the Lambda Literary writer’s retreat.

Why is this good for the Castro community?
Because we won’t ever be taken seriously if we embrace being a community of day-drinking, materialistic illiterates.
BOY TOYS TALK BACK: What are some queer-themed books that would make for lively discussion in a book club setting?
Oscar Raymundo
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Comments (16):

  • Interview: Do We Need a Book Club in the Castro? | QClick Radar
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  • I’m so excited there’s a space to be a gay white male and reading about my people.

    • Justin Torres’ book deals heavily with growing up mixed race and we strive to bring in a racially diverse selections. But thanks for your contempt.

  • I’m so excited there’s a space to be a gay white male and reading about my people.

    • Justin Torres’ book deals heavily with growing up mixed race and we strive to bring in a racially diverse selections. But thanks for your contempt.

  • i think instead of published works… have some self published, or hoping to be published authors share their work. of course invite the literary agents and successful local writers… but i think that way it could be a way to discover new talent.often times what gets published and out there is all based on politics… and if it was more amateur aimed you’d not only get different voices and different perspectives… but it could also help somebody for the better.
    just a thought.
    i was gonna write something snarky about Castro NEEDING a little racial diversity… but i see that’s already been covered lol!!!

    • I think that’s a great idea. Although to be frank, a lot of self-published books are just not that good. And an event with authors sharing works in progress is more like a workshop than a book club.

      • sure not every single self published book is great, but the same can be said about published books to be honest. the same can be said about some of the ny times bestsellers.but you’re right, that does seem more like a workshop.
        maybe Castro should try more open mic poetry readings and things of that nature.

  • i think instead of published works… have some self published, or hoping to be published authors share their work. of course invite the literary agents and successful local writers… but i think that way it could be a way to discover new talent.often times what gets published and out there is all based on politics… and if it was more amateur aimed you’d not only get different voices and different perspectives… but it could also help somebody for the better.
    just a thought.
    i was gonna write something snarky about Castro NEEDING a little racial diversity… but i see that’s already been covered lol!!!

    • I think that’s a great idea. Although to be frank, a lot of self-published books are just not that good. And an event with authors sharing works in progress is more like a workshop than a book club.

      • sure not every single self published book is great, but the same can be said about published books to be honest. the same can be said about some of the ny times bestsellers.but you’re right, that does seem more like a workshop.
        maybe Castro should try more open mic poetry readings and things of that nature.

  • Event: Reading Why I was ‘Born This Way’ at Books, Inc in the Castro « Confessions of a Boy Toy
    Reply

    […] at Books, Inc. in the Castro. Greg Zhovreboff, who was instrumental in helping me start the Magnet Book Club, will also be reading his submission, so I’m looking forward to that. Won’t you join […]

  • Event: Reading Why I was ‘Born This Way’ at Books, Inc in the Castro « Confessions of a Boy Toy
    Reply

    […] at Books, Inc. in the Castro. Greg Zhovreboff, who was instrumental in helping me start the Magnet Book Club, will also be reading his submission, so I’m looking forward to that. Won’t you join […]

  • Event: Reading About Being ‘Born This Way’ at Books, Inc in the Castro « Confessions of a Boy Toy
    Reply

    […] at Books, Inc. in the Castro. Greg Zhovreboff, who was instrumental in helping me start the Magnet Book Club, will also be reading his submission, so I’m looking forward to that. Won’t you join […]

  • Event: Reading About Being ‘Born This Way’ at Books, Inc in the Castro « Confessions of a Boy Toy
    Reply

    […] at Books, Inc. in the Castro. Greg Zhovreboff, who was instrumental in helping me start the Magnet Book Club, will also be reading his submission, so I’m looking forward to that. Won’t you join […]

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