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Aesop Queer Library
Photograph: courtesy of Aesop Queer Library

Aesop's Free Queer Library returns to New York

Books are sourced from independent queer-owned bookstores.

Melissa Kravitz Hoeffner
Written by
Melissa Kravitz Hoeffner

Back for its third year in New York City, Aesop’s Queer Library will return this June to provide New Yorkers with free books by LGBTQ+ authors. Many of the books in the collection have been banned or challenged across the country, and the brand-sponsored queer library aims to increase access and discussion about these titles while highlighting the necessity of self-expression.

New York’s Queer Library branch will open at Aesop Williamsburg (85 North 3rd Street) from Tuesday, June 20 through Saturday, June 25. As in previous years, each visitor is invited to select a complimentary book from the shelves and take it home, while supplies last. 

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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 LGBTQ+ community or by and about Black people, Indigenous people, and other people of color. 

The library celebrates the transformative power of literature—its ability to affirm, uplift and illuminate—and has donated $100,000 to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which works to defend freedom of expression, both in the courts and beyond.

“The Aesop Foundation is proud to support the ACLU to end classroom censorship, challenge book bans and promote access to public libraries,” says Catherine O’Dea, Chair of the Aesop Foundation. “The grant reflects our shared commitment to supporting literacy and education and we stand in solidarity with the ACLU’s Right to Learn campaign and other activities that defend freedom of expression to advance equity.”

The books included in this year’s Queer Library were selected by Aesop team members, and sourced from independent queer-owned bookstores—Glad Day Books in Toronto and Bookwoman in Austin—along with titles donated by Penguin Books. The shelves will include classic queer texts by James Baldwin and Audre Lorde plus contemporary titles by writers including George M. Johnson and Maia Kobabe. The project aims to show the importance of these voices in the literary canon and help readers develop empathy for those different than them. 

And while the New York Public Library is always free (books have to be returned though), a few LGBTQ+ and feminist bookstores are also accessible in the city. On the Lower East Side, Bluestockings offers a range of progressive titles and the Bureau of General Services-Queer Division inside Greenwich Village's LGBT Center curates LGBTQ+ books for all ages and readers. 

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