- Santa Barbara Public Library (Faulkner Gallery)
Did you know that The Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop, a gay liberation bookstore, opened in New York City two years before the famous 1969 Stonewall Rebellion? Gay and lesbian bookstores, some of which were founded by key homophile and gay liberation activists like Craig Rodwell, are forgotten spaces in LGBTQ+ history. Queer bookstores are more than a location where books are sold. During the late-twentieth century gay and lesbian bookstores served as de facto community centers for queer customers and fostered business, artistic, and political networks devoted to organizing for gay liberation. Across the US, Canada, and the UK, a transnational network of queer booksellers founded bookstores that created queer communities, organized early Pride events, and fought the impounding of queer publications by customs officials. Looking at archival materials like bookstore newsletters, correspondence, business records, photographs, and newspaper articles allows us to recreate the vibrant dynamics of now-closed queer bookstores and to understand their impact on the fight for gay liberation in the twentieth century.
Sarah Dunne is a doctoral candidate in the history department at UC Santa Barbara. She was awarded a UCSB Graduate Humanities Research Fellowship and is also serving as a 2023-2024 Mendell Graduate Fellow at UCSB’s Walter H. Capps Center. She is spending this academic year conducting archival research for her dissertation: The Migrating Queer Bookshelf: Queer Bookstores and the Making of Queer Communities in the United States and Canada, 1945-present.
This event is co-sponsored by the Santa Barbara Public Library, UCSB History Associates, UCSB Affiliates, and UCSB Resource Center for Sexual & Gender Diversity.