Bookends Carlisle Creates New LGBTQ+ Section

New "neurospicey" manager Georgia creates epic new section and gives their top 5 queer reads

Bookends Carlisle has long been a space for LGBTQ+ allyship. With their diverse and welcoming staff and their dedication to supporting Pride and community events over the years.

Georgia is the new manager at the Carlisle store and is a beautiful new addition to our local LGBTQ+ community. They are also part of the Queer Cumbria gang and we couldn’t feel more privileged to have them.

Somewhere in the madness of starting a new job Georgia has managed, with some sort of superhuman ability, to also create the first ever LGBTQ+ section in our fave book shop.

Not. Only. That. But they have also devised a new system where young readers can find representation of their personal queer identities within the selected books. All hail Georgia.

We caught up with the part time goth / full time book worm about representation, safe spaces and their fave queer reads!

Hi Georgia, can you introduce yourself to QC readers please?

Of course, Hi all, I’m Georgia, I’m a queer agender human who’s just moved the area, and having a great time up here. I’m from Essex originally, but grew up in Staffordshire. I lived in London for a while too. I’m a huge nerdy part time goth, who does fantasy steampunk cosplay with the rest of my family once a year, all of whom are as neurospicy as me. Oh, and I absolutely adore reading.

Speaking of reading, you’ve just joined the team at our favourite Carlisle Bookshop?!

Yes, Bookends Carlisle, I’m now the manager, which is honestly a huge childhood dream of mine, so baby me is thrilled. Everyone is so wonderful and supportive, I’ve been here since November and honestly not had a bad day. It’s a fantastic space. 

Can you tell us a but about your new LGBTQ+ book section and why it was important for you to create?

Sure, absolutely. To be honest, the whole team has been massively supportive of the project, and its been lovely seeing how happy its made everyone. Honestly, I mostly wanted to create it because I want queer people of all ages to come in and just KNOW they are safe and can be themselves and openly look for their own stories. The other reason we wanted these sections was to promote those stories the first place. There’s always been talent in the community but its been a really personal thing to us that more queer stories have come out in the last few years. Being able to actually grow up and age with support from people who understand you through the form of a book is probably one of the most personal and healing things that can help a person. Books show people they are not alone, and to have such a large new section that really says, “you’re here, you’re seen, you’re loved and welcome” has been really important to me.

Do you think it’s fair to say that bookshops can often become queer safe spaces? Why do you think that is?

Oh absolutely! I think it comes down to what I was saying before about finding your people and your stories. Sometimes its hard to do that in person. I know I’ve certainly struggled over the years. Finding books that made me understand myself and others like me made me feel safe, like I would be ok. And going out to a public space that showed open support really helped, like I didn’t have to be ashamed to find my people in public. Bookends has always been a huge LGBTQ+ ally which is one of the reasons I love it so much, and it means a lot I can help, with the wonderful people there, to show how much we want to support the community.

What’s another way you’ve helped to make the queer section special?

Aha, well, I’ve created these little inserts I’ve named “That’s a Rep” because I’m terrible and like puns. They’re mainly focused in the Queer YA section at the moment, and basically, I go away and research which members of the LGBTQ+ are being represented in the book. So if you’re looking for a trans story by a trans author, with some magic and mystery, or maybe an asexual main character featuring women in STEM,   you can look at the “That’s a Rep!” card in the book and see if it fits the bill. I wanted to take the guess work out of finding a book with your story in it, because I know it’s not always obvious. I do add trigger warnings at the bottom too, as much as I can, because I don’t want anyone caught off guard.

Plus, they’re super cute.

Can you give us your top five picks from your queer library please?

Just five?! Ok, I’ll try. I think Ace by Angela Chen was especially helpful for me, as an asexual person, it helped me unpack a lot of stuff and has amazing commentary on compulsory sexuality. I adore Cemetary Boys by Aiden Thomas, a super cute YA about a trans latinx boy falling in love with a ghost boy while using his magic to figure out who hurt him. This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron is a gay girl romance with poison botany and greek mythology and is such a fun ride. Carry On by Rainbow Rowell is phenomenal, magical school, enemies to lovers, its just amazing. And I couldn’t not mention Good Omens, I’m sure the guys here are sick of me going on about it, but my little ace presenting Ineffable husbands are my absolute favourites.

We know bookends do a brilliant story time with Lee, can we expect some queer story times in 2024?

I don’t see why not, we welcome everyone here, and I think as long as it rhymes – Lee says these are the most well loved hahaha – we’ll be seeing some queerness in our story times.

Get yersels to Bookends people!

Interview Stevie Westgarth

Photos Georgia O’Sullivan