San Francisco bookstore fights censorship of LGBT books

Step inside Fabulosa Books in San Francisco’s Castro District and you’re immediately greeted by what’s known as The Big Gay Wall.

“I’ve seen people’s jaws just drop when they first see this wall,” said Becka Robbins, the bookstore’s Event Manger.

It was that stack of shelves overflowing with LGBTQ books, she said, that recently sparked a novel idea.

After watching LGBTQ books being banned in state after state, Robbins decided to turn flip the script on censorship, shipping many of those very same titles to conservative areas for free.

“I can’t go to these meetings. I can’t pass legislation. What I can do is send books,” she said.

A recent report by the American Library Association shows nearly half of the 4,240 books targeted for censorship last year were LGBTQ.

Her program, called Books Not Bans, allows customers to buy and send books to dozens of queer organizations in places like Oklahoma, South Carolina and Florida, with each box worth about $400.

Her books have been a godsend for people like Patton Furman, the principal and superintendent of Magic City Acceptance Academy, the only LGBTQ-affirming school in Alabama.

“To receive books is a way to receive love and acceptance and to feel whole, like I’m part of something bigger than myself,” she said.

These days, Robbins grassroots campaign, which ironically operates out of the store’s closet, is getting love from all over the world.

While visiting from London, Catherine Hennigan made a point to stop by the store.

“When I was at school there were no books available to read about being LGBT, and it’s so important that there are.”

For Robbins it’s about making sure that these books – not the folks who are banning them – get the last word.

“If you can’t imagine a better world, you can’t build it,” she said.

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