opinion
3 min

An open (love) letter to Glad Day Bookshop’s queer history section

In which Jeremy Willard gets weird about some books

Hello my darling,

This letter has been a long time coming. I really couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve made the trek to Glad Day Bookshop, Toronto’s LGBTQ bookstore, just to see you.

“Can I help you with anything?” they ask me, when I stagger up the steps.

“I just wanted to check out the queer history section,” I respond with a nervous giggle, before making my way to the back corner to stare at you for what seems like hours.

Do you notice me there? I can’t say, but I hope you do. Cynics will say that a section in a bookshop can’t think or feel, but I don’t believe them. On the other hand, perhaps it’s better if you can’t sense the urgency with which I trace your spines and fondle your hard covers, searching for inspiration for my monthly queer history columns.

Why do I adore you so? For starters, you are uniquely beautiful. Few other bookstores have much of a queer section at all, let alone a section dedicated to queer history.

That reminds me — you’ll never believe what happened the other day, when I visited that big mainstream bookstore chain we all love to hate (don’t worry, my darling, I would never betray you; I went only to confirm my suspicion that it pales in comparison to you).

“Do you have a queer history section?” I asked the salesperson.

The Wars, by Timothy Findley,” he responded. My darling, I know you must be thinking — if you can think — how ridiculous! I didn’t ask for a novel about a Canadian officer in World War One. But, you see, he wasn’t talking to me — he was talking through me, to somebody who’d walked up behind. Just poor customer service, really.

Anyway, when I finally got him to quit fiddling with his headset and focus, he took me to the general queer section — not a queer history section —  and that’s when he really revealed the store’s deficiency. “I don’t know what sort of — ,” he stammered. “LGBT rights, or?” You see, he was struggling with the concept of queer history — what was this strange thing? Queer plus history equals what? Soup? Tree? Hatbox?  

After giving him a short lecture, I ascertained there was no dedicated queer history section, and that the general queer section had fewer than a dozen such books. If there were anything more on the subject, he thought they were probably mixed in with the other history books. So typical.

So, do you see that you might almost be one of a kind, my darling? But it’s not just that you’re a rarity; I also adore your complexity.

You consist of at least 13 voluptuous shelves, and there’s a space in the middle where the Canadian books lounge enticingly. But on top of that, because the whole store is dedicated to queer books, every nonfiction book on something that happened before today is queer history. That includes two robust biography sections and one of memoirs.

Finally, I have a hunch that — if you feel for me as I do for you — we would have a polyamorous relationship. Some of the relationships I’ve had with sections in bookshops put such a strain on me, but I know there are others who would also care for you — namely, the Glad Day staff. My latest visit to the store illustrates my point.

“What can I help you with?” your manager Scott Dagostino asked.

“Looking for history books,” I responded.

“Looking for inspiration?” he replied. He showed me a box filled with copies of a new book on Canadian queer history, that happened to sit next to him. He told me about the book’s launch, which was planned for that night. Glad Day often launches new books, and keeps interesting books on the shelves that most mainstream stores wouldn’t even bother with. As a result, I think I’d never have to worry that you’d be neglected, my dear. And that gives me great comfort.

I suppose it’s time I came to an issue that’s been distressing me slightly. I understand that when Glad Day moves to its new location in Toronto’s Village at Church and Wellesley you’ll go with it. I’m a little worried how you’ll fare. Will the corners of your many volumes be bent in the move? Will there be enough room for you? Will you return to anything like your former glory, display-wise?

I suppose only time will tell, but at least my concern has prompted me to finally profess my feelings for you.

Forever yours,

Jeremy

PS: I took some naughty photos of you last time I visited. I hope you don’t mind.