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Little Sister’s named Specialty Bookseller of the Year

Famous gay bookstore wins prestigious award

Vancouver’s Little Sister’s Book & Art Emporium has been named Specialty Bookseller of the Year at the Canadian Booksellers Association’s (CBA) Libris Awards.

CBA executive director Susan Dayus says Little Sister’s was honoured because it is an excellent bookstore.

Dayus says the store “has been a trusted resource for more than 25 years, offering a well-considered selection of books, as well as the kind of expertise and customer care that has made influential within its local community and the wider GLBT community.”

The award was announced last week at the association’s meeting in Toronto Jun 20-21.

It was accepted by store manager Janine Fuller on behalf of the staff and owners Jim Deva and Bruce Smyth.
Deva says he’s pleased with the recognition.

“After 26 years of bookselling, it’s nice to be recognized by booksellers,” he says. “We’ve been around a long time doing good stuff.”

A store profile statement penned by Deva for the awards’ website says Little Sister’s has retrenched to the basics of bookselling in these tough economic times, emphasizing not only product knowledge, but also product passion.

“Our books can change people’s lives and indeed at times save people’s lives and our customers need to tell us what they are looking for and management and staff absolutely must know the right book for the right situation. Whether coming out, understanding the fluidity of gender or looking for the perfect travel book, product knowledge rules,” the statement says.

Little Sister’s became nationally — and indeed internationally — known as a result of its 20-year fight against Canada Customs’ seizures of gay books and other materials.

It’s a fight that extended the freedoms of other importers to provide materials for Canadians to see and read with fewer hassles at the border.

“We have also stood proudly shoulder to shoulder with our community to fight for basic human rights that most Canadian citizens take for granted,” Deva’s statement says.

“If a small camera shop in the Castro could be such a powerful tool for change, a small gay and lesbian bookstore on Davie Street has had a significant impact on LGBT rights and freedoms in Canada,” the statement says, referring to slain San Francisco gay activist Harvey Milk’s camera store.

“The owners and staff of Little Sister’s have been dogged defenders of freedom of expression — a principle at the heart of the book industry — and their battle with Canada Customs in defence of this principle has certainly won them the respect of fellow booksellers,” Dayus says.

The store has long been the unofficial centre of Vancouver’s queer community.

In addition to stocking our stories and sex toys, it provides a place for people to meet, sells tickets to community events and has been the centre for the organization of countless demonstrations and rallies through its 26 years.