2012 Rainbow Book Fair: Even Bigger and Better

Almost 100 vendors, taking up almost the
entire LGBT Community Center; rooms filled
with books, panels, readings, poetry; thousands
of people browsing, reading, talking,
and listening: that’s what you would have
seen if you’d wandered into the Center this
past March 24th and found yourself in the
middle of the Fourth Annual Rainbow Book
Fair. CLAGS has been sponsoring the Fair for
the past three years, and it has grown significantly
over that time.
The Rainbow Book Fair is the largest queer
book expo in North America and is now
spawning similar events around the U.S.,
most recently the OutWrite Expo in Washington,
DC. Designed to provide space for
the diversity of queer, trans, and gendernonconforming
writers and publishers — especially
small and academic presses — the
RBF’s main event is its two exhibition halls.
Exhibitors ranged from the much-beloved
Bluestockings Bookshop to a bevy of LGBT
romance publishers to small poetry presses
like Bench Press Books and Sibling Rivalry
Fairgoers also had the opportunity to hear
major queer and trans writers read from and
talk about their work. Christopher Bram,
Justin Vivan Bond, Laurie Weeks, Paul Russell,
and James Earl Hardy all read from new
work and participated in lively question and
answer sessions. Equally compelling was the
roster of panels spotlighting writers, publishers,
and scholars on a variety of topics.
We partnered with Visual AIDS to organize
a groundbreaking panel on contemporary
AIDS writing, and photographer Reed Massengill
curated a panel on Queer Art Books
that featured such influential authors as
Vince Aletti, the renowned photography critic
and Chris Steighner, a senior editor at Rizzoli
Books. The room holding the panel on
Queer Latinidad was packed — not surprisingly,
considering the participants: : Charles
Rice-Gonzalez, Miguel Angel Angeles, Yoseli
Castillo Fuertes, Karen Jaime, and Charlie
Vazquez. Our panel on Queer Literary New
York was equally star-studded: Chris Bram,
Edmund White, and Steve Watson, moderated
by long-time gay poet, novelist, and publisher
Perry Brass. And for the first time the
RBF included a panel on comics and graphic
novels. We were lucky enough to have artists
who were among the founders of the queer
comix movement, Jennifer Camper and Ivan
Velez, as well as contemporary web comix
artists A.K. Summers, Chuck McKinney, and
Chino. And Nathaniel Siegel and Regie Cabico
reprised their hugely popular Poetry Salon, in
which dozens of poets read from their work.
Our goal for 2013 is to reach out more successfully
to mainstream and larger university
presses, who have backed away from
queer writers and readers since the “golden
age” of queer publishing in the early 1990s.
As this year’s RBF shows, there’s a large and
enthusiastic audience for LGBT books. Planning
for the 5th Rainbow Book Fair is already
underway: we’ll see you next March!