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Pride-ful narratives

Learn about five must-read art books at Glad Day Bookshop, Canada’s first queer bookstore—and the longest surviving in the world.

Glad Day Bookshop

Image courtesy of Glad Day Bookshop.

On Toronto’s Church Street, in the heart of The Village, stands Glad Day Bookshop, a stronghold in the city’s 2SLGTBQ+ communities for the past 51 years. As Canada’s first queer-focused bookstore, and the longest surviving queer bookstore in the world, Glad Day also operates as a community hub, providing support, resources and a sense of belonging. 

We asked MJ Lyons, the Bookstore Manager at Glad Day, to look among the shop’s vast selection of 2SLGBTQ+ literature and to share with us his must-read art books, zines and mangas. We can’t wait to get reading!

Queer Love in Color by Jamal Jordan

Lyons: “One of the most powerful photography books I’ve ever seen, Queer Love in Color is exactly as the title says. It includes dozens upon dozens of portraits of queer, people-of-colour couples. Aside from Jamal’s incredible portraits, the book features biographical stories about each couple and the worlds they’ve built together. If you need any more convincing, the book is lauded by the indelible Billy Porter. Enough said.”

The Art of Drag by Jake Hall, Sofie Birkin, Helen Li and Jasjyot Singh Hans

In this era of RuPaul’s Drag Race, it can be argued that we focus perhaps a little too much on high femme, polished glam drag queens. I’ve always loved freaky queens and radical gender performers—think The Boulet Brothers' Dragula or Toronto’s own Yovska and Gottmik. The Art of Drag reads as a veritable 'who’s who' of drag history. It includes an illustrated series of short biographies and snippets of drag historical movements, like kabuki or the Club Kids. The book is worth it for the illustrations alone, which are honestly, little works of drag art in and of themselves.”

SAPPHIC Issue 1: Sisterhood

Toronto’s been experiencing something of a sapphic renaissance, between Sapphic Sundays parties and screenings, the queer women and trans/non-binary party series Lavender and now a gorgeous new art magazine. Created by and for beautiful sapphics, SAPPHIC is a high concept, high production, full-colour magazine featuring photography, prose and poetry. The rest of us can enjoy it as well, but the more space for lesbians and queer women the better! They have had two issues so far, Sisterhood and Rebirth.

Boys Run the Riot Vol. 1 by Keito Gaku  

“I’m a huge manga nerd and lately, there’s been a growing popularity in English-translation LGBTQ manga. This is incredible shift for a form of literature that can often be pretty sexist and homophobic. Some of my favourites, like Our Dreams at Dusk and Love Me for Who I Am, explore gender and sexual identity in genuine ways and are also created by LGBTQ mangaka. Boys Run the Riot is not only a story about a trans boy; it’s about a gay trans boy created by a trans boy and explores gender identity through Japanese street fashion!”

Bliss Behar

Image courtesy of Bliss Behar and Glad Day Bookshop.

Motherf*ckin’ Sparkle, Big Brother is Always with You and Flaws in Our Environmental Movement by Bliss Behar

“These zines make me hopeful that ‘the kids are alright’. An artist and activist hailing from the Maritimes, Bliss is a trans-identified teen who’s an accomplished visual artist and zinester—all before even finishing high school. Bliss is probably the coolest teenager I’ve ever known. Glad Day carries three of his zines so far: one autobiographical; one about combatting technological surveillance; and the other criticizing segments of the environmental movement's very non-eco-friendly practices. This is a young artist to watch out for.”

Since the early months of the pandemic, Glad Day has emphasized how the most vulnerable in Toronto’s 2SLGBTQ+ communities have been impacted financially. In response, Glad Day Lit—an internal grant and resource team—created the Emergency Survival Fund for 2SLGBTQ+ artists, performers and tip-based workers. To find out how to donate or how you can be funded as a 2SLGBTQ+ person, visit gladdaylit.ca. You can also support Glad Day as a small business by becoming a donor.

Pride celebrations are happening all around the world and in Toronto this month. Read our Q&As with Canada's Drag Race alum Tynomi Banks and illustrator Vivian Rosas on AGOinsider.

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