Inside the New Giovanni’s Room

Back in May I shed a little tear when I read that Giovanni’s Room in Philadelphia, the oldest LGBT bookstore in the country, was closing. It could be read as the final chapter in a tragic tale of low book sales and disappearing queer spaces.
Then news came that Giovanni’s Room, or at least the building it once lived in, would be taken over by a new gay-friendly vendor. Earlier this month, Philly AIDS Thrift, the local equivalent of Out of the Closet, opened in the space and continued the legacy left behind by the venerable bookstore. Sort of.

GPhilly took a tour of the new Giovanni’s Room and found that books, once the store’s bread and butter, were not as prominent. Instead, Halloween costumes, vinyl records, Christmas decorations and other thrift trinkets made up a lot of the merchandise.

“Although I applaud the efforts of Philly AIDS Thrift for trying to operate the building in as authentic a way as possible, the end result really feels more like you are picking through a flea market or a garage sale,” writes GPhilly. At least it’s better than an American Apparel, no?

Fortunately for Philly bibliophiles a new community initiative is looking to fill this queer lit void. The women behind Queer Books who were actually in the running to take over Giovanni’s Room are starting pop-up shops all over the city dedicated to selling LGBT books. Their next pop-up is taking place at the Gender Reel Festival October 4.

Oscar Raymundo
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