Aesop’s Queer Library returns this Pride month with a list of banned or challenged books in the US and Canada written by LGBTQIA2S+ authors. From June 20th-25th, visitors in select Aesop stores can choose a complimentary book from the shelves while supplies last. Participating locations include Aesop Silver Lake, Los Angeles; Aesop Williamsburg, New York; and Aesop Yorkville, Toronto.
This year’s Queer Library is more important now than ever, as the US and Canada face increasingly hostile discourse towards the queer community, especially in literature. The American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom reported that 2022 saw a 38% increase in titles targeted for censorship, most of these books either written by or about members of the LGBTQIA2S+ community or by and about Black people, Indigenous people, and other people of color.
To further assist, the Aesop Foundation has donated USD $100,000 to the American Civil Liberties Union, which works to defend freedom of expression. “The Aesop Foundation is proud to support the ACLU to end classroom censorship, challenge book bans and promote access to public libraries,” chair of the Aesop Foundation Catherine O’Dea says. “The grant reflects our shared commitment to supporting literacy and education and we stand in solidarity with the ACLU’s Right to Learn campaign, and other activities that defend freedom of expression to advance equity.”
Aesop team members selected this year’s Queer Library books, including classics from James Baldwin and Audrey Lorde, along with modern works by writers such as George M. Johnson and Maia Kobabe. Books were sourced from independent queer-owned bookstores—Glad Day Books in Toronto and Bookwoman in Austin—along with titles donated by Penguin Books. Aesop hopes that this year’s picks will reinforce how valuable queer voices are to society while offering hope and courage that will last long after Pride month ends.