How Bookstagram Reviews Connect and Build Community Among LGBTQ + Readers

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When Anna Sward joined Instagram in 2014, she knew she was gay but had not gone out and did not yet have the language to define her identity. Isolated in her small town in Michigan, she initially published only her baked goods, but quickly began adding queer authored books to her feed. His mini-reviews and book races have proven to be popular. By the time Sward moved to a book-focused Instagram page, she had built a community around her who not only shared her love of literature, but guided her through the release process as a asexual.

“I probably wouldn’t be the same person if I hadn’t started my bookstagram,” she said. “The community I found there inspired me to go out and discover my own identity. [It’s] one of the most favorable places I have ever found.

The Instagram subculture that Sward unexpectedly found himself in is colloquially known as the queer bookstagram. On the surface, this online community reviews literature by and for LGBTQIA + people. But in recent years, it has evolved beyond a space to simply sharing stacks of color-coordinated books and reading lists. Today, the queer bookstagram is a haven for many readers, who link to books in one of the few literary spaces aimed specifically at people with marginalized identities. In this accessible and welcoming community, queer people like Sward, who might not otherwise have access to like-minded peers, find a chosen family they so badly need.

Star, who primarily reviews books written by and for queer people while wearing rainbow wigs on her account @ petitemissstar55, grew up in a desert town in rural South Australia. The star knew sapphic novels existed, but without even a bookstore in town, she had no access to it. When she searched for book recommendations on Instagram, she noticed that the same critics promoting Achilles romance (a genre of romance centered on two men) neglected to promote Sapphic books – a trend that has so irritated and frustrated Star that she jokes that she decided to cast it. own bookstagram account, “out of spite”.

“The number of people who have texted me and said, ‘I’ve never seen myself portrayed in a book, and it’s so wonderful not to feel alone’ warms my heart. “

Star

The community that has formed around its cheerful and inclusive book reviews is nothing less than ‘life changing’. Isolated in her small town, Star says most of her friends are people she met through her bookstagram, people like her who were looking for connections and camaraderie online and found them through books.

“The number of people who have texted me and said, ‘I’ve never seen myself portrayed in a book, and it’s so wonderful not to feel alone’, it warms my heart.” , she says. “[My Instagram] is not only for people who are looking for themselves, but also for other people to realize that these [stories] also exist in the world. They open your mind and give you more empathy and show the true diversity of humanity.

On the one hand, the queer bookstagram primarily serves as a channel through which queer people find books that reflect their experiences, but it also serves another purpose. Its very existence demonstrates that there is a huge appetite for books run by homosexuals, and mainstream, The Big Five should be careful, especially because diversity still escapes the staff of most publishers: 2019 survey found that “81% of publishing staff identify as heterosexual or heterosexual” while “78% of people working in publishing identify as cis women. “

“It really is a popular review movement,” Janai, who directs @janaireadsbooks, tell me. She started her account because she felt the bookstragram was “saturated” with white, straight women. “Gay-run accounts promote books to audiences that aren’t exclusively queer, and as a result more and more people are choosing [queer] pounds until they become mainstream. It was really exciting to see books like The charm offensive and Delicious girl become very popular.

These two books in particular have become some of the most popular and highest rated on the queer bookstagram, appearing multiple times on multiple accounts – as well as Hani and Ishu’s guide to fake dates by Adiba Jaigirdar, Sunrise by Leah Johnson, and One last stop, by the author of smash hit Red, white and royal blue, Casey McQuiston.

The queer bookstagram feels like a public online book club, where readers can collegially exchange opinions and views on books. For example, on her account, Star wrote that One last stop “absolutely blew me out of the water, shattering all my expectations,” while Janai admitted that “the book’s element of magical realism in this story … isn’t always my favorite.” The only requirement for admission is that you enjoy reading and treat authors with kindness and respect.

Some authors of gay-centric novels agree that the bookstagram is a productive space, where readers can more easily access their books. especially during the early days of the pandemic, when people were less likely to browse the shelves of a library or bookstore.

“Bookstagram is a great place to have more eyes on books,” Dahlia Adler, author of the favorite queer bookstagram Fresh for summer, wrote in an email. “It’s so easy, especially during the pandemic, to get lost in a sea of ​​other versions, so when people take the time to present your book, or include it in a pile of similar titles to make recommendations, that makes it really special. and validate. It was also very difficult during the pandemic not to be able to see my books in person, in stores or libraries, so bookstagram has been a very nice substitute that reminds me that my book is really there. “

Adler’s book has amassed an impressive number of followers on the queer bookstagram, but as Star puts it, queer people are “hungry” for even more literary portrayal. There are a lot of efforts underway to ensure that these books have a chance in the spotlight, and this corner of the bookstagram isn’t the only place that pushes for more diverse literature.

We need various books donates books for children and young adults featuring “LGBTQIA, Indigenous, People of Color, Gender Diversity, People with Disabilities, and Ethnic, Cultural and Religious Minorities” stories and characters to classes. On TikTok, book reviews have dubbed the videos under the hashtag #queerbooks “queer BookTok”; an user coined the expression “it’s gay and it slams” to describe his taste for literature. If the popularity and success of these efforts (there are nearly 29,000 posts under the #queerbookstagram tag on Instagram, for example) only proves one thing, it’s that these stories resonate with readers everywhere. horizons and identities. The queer bookstragam connects marginalized people with stories that make them feel seen, while presenting queer books to readers who would never have met them otherwise.

“I think the queer bookstagram has the power to keep pushing for more diversity,” Janai says, “both in its reviews and in the books we want to read.”

For now, however, the bookstagram community remains a critical space to ease the isolation queer people feel offline (especially during the pandemic, which has shut down many spaces where queer people traditionally hang out, such as bars and concert halls). Book reviews are just the beginning of what the queer bookstagram can do: These accounts have the power to bond strangers and help anyone who feels invisible recognize their self-worth.

“When a person sees themselves portrayed in a book, there is no better feeling,” Star says. “Everyone deserves to have their story told. “



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