Calamus Brings History of LGBTQ Literature to Its Shelves

photo courtesy of calamusbooks.com

In the early nineties, when this editor was a mere college freshman, there was a bookshop on Boylston Street in Boston called Glad Day. It was, as far as I knew then, the only queer bookstore close to me and my dorm. I can still remember, 20 years ago now, the heat I’d feel from the anxiety and excitement, starting in my chest and rising to my head in successive flashes, as I made my way up the staircase, around the banister, and through the beads hanging in the doorframe. I thought of it as a great and somewhat terrifying reveal: identifying myself as a queer kid to everyone who saw me walk in and out of that door, and to every patron and employee inside. This was striking to me only because I had just come out as gay, but had been keeping it secret for…oh…years and years.

I don’t know exactly when Glad Day moved from Boylston, but I do know that it still survives in some form. Ex-Glad Day manager John Mitzel owns Calamus Bookstore, which is located between the business district and Chinatown on South Street. A co-worker tipped me off to its location, although I had seen the rainbow flag rippling in the wind from my office window for years, but never thought to walk its way.

With the official launch of Go Deeper Press coming soon, I wanted to visit Calamus to see what was stocking the shelves. I made plans to meet Lana there after work to check it out, view the selection, and spend some money in a good place. (In case you’re wondering, upon arrival to Calamus: no anxious heat, unless you count the feeling you get when putting your lips on a loved one for maybe a second too long in a public space, but that’s a very different kind from the type I experienced years ago.) Here’s what I found: The store is not only beautiful and staffed by kind folks, but it is a literal archive of queer literature, featuring books that were required reading in a gay and lesbian issues class I took at Emerson College in 1993. I held books I never thought I would again. I was mind-blown. Right here, in downtown Boston, there is a shop that mindfully and purposefully stocks a veritable history of queer writing in the name of providing a resource to the LGBTQ community. It’s a place to go to browse and breath amongst a history of our printed words, as well as a hearty selection of books from new authors making their marks today, even in this day and age of Amazon and e-readers.

And that’s not a knock on Amazon or e-books. Go Deeper Press, after all, will offer hot erotica for all in a digital format, to start. There’s something to be said for the privacy and security of purchasing books online. Really, considering how much of an introvert I am, and a shy kid back then to boot (confession: still shy kid), I would likely have bought all my queer history, queer lit, and hot Patrick Califia novels from the safety of my computer, too. There’s no shame in taking the steam out of learning more about yourself, your desires, or your identity by staying home and clicking “buy now.” I’d imagine that, for folks young and old that can’t yet muster up the strength it takes to walk into a queer anything when you’re just not ready to do so, for whatever reason, it’s a lifesaver.

Go Deeper Press will soon offer short stories and novels that will contribute to the LGBTQ community’s growing and thriving written history. In fact, we’ll contribute sexy, transformational writing that will serve a number of communities. That’s our mission. But for those who still enjoy the weight of a trade paperback or hardcover in your hands, and to support a Boston-based business that has its heart in all the right places, make your way to 92B South Street and tell them Go Deeper sent you.

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