It’s no surprise that Michael Erickson, one of the co-owners of Glad Day Bookshop, is well read.
“The poetry of Audre Lorde was really important to me when I discovered her,” Erickson says. “Dancer From the Dance by Andrew Holleran made a pretty big impact on me at an important time.”
When he was older, Erickson found comfort in the labyrinthine prose of critical theory; Michel Foucault, bell hooks and Roland Barthes.
And then there were the immersive worlds of fantasy and science fiction.
“Sometimes people don’t need hard truths,” he says. “Sometimes we need a place to escape to.”
Erickson is hoping that other queer youth will be able to have similar journeys of literary discovery. That’s one reason that Glad Day Bookshop is helping Sprott House —which will open as Toronto’s first LGBT youth shelter in February — create a library.
“If someone is homeless and they’re struggling and they’re dealing with trauma, I still think that books and stories play an important role in healing and empowerment,” he says.
Glad Day, which is described as the world’s oldest LGBT bookstore, will be donating $800 worth of books to Sprott House. But that only comes out to around 60 books total, so the bookshop is also soliciting donations from the community.
Erickson says that he’s already received emails from community members who want to donate books in the names of other people, or want to pass on books that were given to them during tough times.
“For a lot of people, their donations are going to come from an emotional place and thinking about what was the book that got them through and that’ll be the book that they’ll pass on,” he says.
People can drop off any LGBT book in good condition to Glad Day by Feb 15 and receive $1 in store credit. Or they can buy a book for the Sprott House library and Glad Day will take 30 percent off the sticker price.
According to Erickson, the books that Glad Day is donating will represent a diversity of identities, experiences and reading levels.
“It would be great if we had a robust trans collection as part of the library,” he says. “And of course, we are the most diverse city in the world, so having books from a variety of cultural backgrounds is important.”
Erickson says that the donations are an extension of some of the supports that Glad Day already provides queer youth. Glad Day staff often give referrals to shelters or for mental health support.
“I think that people actually underestimate how many people use Glad Day Bookshop as a safe space and as a community source,” he says. “We actually see a lot of people who are street-involved coming into the bookstore and spending sometimes hours in the space looking through books.”
Erickson hopes that the library will be a comfort and inspiration for the young people at Sprott House.
“A lot of times people feel like they’re the only one who’ve gone through something, but in fact, there are generations who have come before,” he says. “And a lot of their stories are in books.”