Way before Netflix, queer characters could only be found in the printed pages. That’s why Query Books has set out on a mission to bring back those stories before they are completely forgotten.
Query Books is a new LGBT publisher dedicated to finding classic works of LGBT literature – novels, biographies and memoirs – that don’t deserve to be out of print and republishing them so that a new generation of readers can benefit from their timeless insight. It’s a similar mission that guided the founders of Valancourt Books, another indie press that recently republished Teleny by Oscar Wilde, the first (and perhaps finest) work of gay erotica.
Query Books was founded by Ken White, a former employee of several San Francisco bookshops, including the historic A Different Light Bookstore in the Castro. (Fun fact: I once worked there as well, right before it’s unfortunate shutdown).
Ken was inspired to start his own indie publishing company after speaking to Emma Donoghue, the author of Room, and learning that a lot of her earlier novels – considered seminal lesbian literature – were out of print.
When the queer bookstore disappears, where else can you find 40-plus years of LGBT culture? Hint: it’s not on Netflix.
“[Donoghue] happened to mention her mild frustration that her first novel Stir-Fry is out of print, even as her writing career is on the ascent,” Ken told Lambda Literary. “I was shocked, really, as it was a pretty good seller, as I recalled from my earlier days at A Different Light.”
Ken then launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise the funds needed to create the publishing company, and it even became a Staff Pick after securing the support of Mx. Justin Vivian Bond, Jim Provenzano and Grace Towers. The success of the Kickstarter signals a resurgent interest queer literature even though LGBT bookstores and indie publishers have struggled.
Related: Who’s Your Gay Lit Daddy?
“When the queer bookstore disappears, where else can you find 40-plus years of LGBT culture? Hint: it’s not on Netflix,” Ken said. “And when those books are robbed of their rightful place in the market, they also risk being forgotten.”
The first book to be republished by Query Books is the James Broughton memoir, Coming Unbuttoned. Broughton was an experimental filmmaker who inspired the Beat poets, the Radical Faeries, Burning Man and even George Lucas.
Query Books’ wishlist of LGBT books it would love to republish include Myra Beckinridge by Gore Vidal, Ceremonies by Essex Hemphill and Street Zen: the Life and Work of Issan Dorsey by David Schneider.