To highlight the necessity of self-expression, this year’s ephemeral library of works by LGBTQIA2S+ writers features books that have been banned or challenged in various settings across the US and Canada. Each visitor is invited to select a complimentary book from the shelves and take it home, while stocks last.
This quote by journalist, activist and author George M. Johnson comes from their book All Boys Aren’t Blue—a memoir-manifesto about growing up Black and queer—which has been banned in public libraries and schools across several states. It is a sentence that succinctly captures the spirit of the 2023 Aesop Queer Library, where shelves are cleared of amber bottles and jars to make way for books that have become targets—rather than the channels for empathy and understanding that they were written to be. It is through such literary works that identities may be affirmed. The Aesop Queer Library opens 20 to 25 June at:
Against a backdrop of increasingly hostile and reductive discourses about LGBTQIA2S+ representation, the Queer Library celebrates the transformative power of literature—its ability to affirm, uplift and illuminate. According to the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, 2022 saw a 38% increase in titles targeted for censorship. Of those titles, the vast majority were written by or about members of the LGBTQIA2S+ community or by and about Black people, Indigenous people, and other people of color. In 2022, 90% of reported book challenges were to censor multiple titles, and 40% were requests targeting over 100 books at once.
Our long-standing reverence for literature is rooted in a belief that the sharing of personal stories—from all perspectives—provides fertile ground for individuals and communities to flourish together. This is why the Aesop Foundation supports organizations protecting intellectual, creative and civil freedoms. As part of this continued focus on amplifying underrepresented voices, the Aesop Foundation has donated USD $100,000 to the ACLU Foundation, which works to defend freedom of expression both in the courts and beyond.
The works included in this year’s library were selected by Aesop team members, with recommendations provided by the ACLU Foundation. Over 1,200 books were sourced from independent queer-owned bookstores—Glad Day Books in Toronto and Bookwoman in Austin—along with titles donated by Penguin Books. From classic queer texts by James Baldwin and Audre Lorde, to contemporary titles by writers such as Maia Kobabe and Malinda Lo, the collection reveals how valuable these voices are to society as a whole.
‘You sometimes don't know you exist until you realize someone like you existed before.’George M. Johnson