Robert Reid-Pharr is a leading scholar of contemporary African-American queer writing. | UNIVERSITY OF BARCELONA
“Clearly, the rumors of the death of the printed book have been greatly exaggerated.”
So said from professor Sarah Chinn, chair of Hunter College’s English Department and a member of the steering committee behind the New York Rainbow Book Fair. Now in its seventh year, the fair itself certainly lends plenty of credence to Chinn’s assertion.
New York’s LGBT writing glitterati will come together again on Saturday, April 18, from noon to 6:00 p.m. for this year’s edition of the book fair at the Holiday Inn Midtown.
Chinn said that about 100 exhibitors will be at the fair, covering “the whole gamut of queer publishing,” from tiny self-publishers to some of New York’s biggest publishing houses, including Penguin Random House.
If last year’s event is a guide, up to 1,500 people will turn out for the fair, and Chinn said this month’s event seems hotly anticipated.
Erotica writer D.L. King at last year’s Rainbow Book Fair. | MICHAEL LUONGO
“Exhibitors started signing up for tables in November, and by mid-March we were already nearly sold out,” she said. “That’s a first for us — we usually sell all our tables, but registrations come in until the very last minute. We’re realizing that the Rainbow Book Fair is now an institution, an event that writers and publishers put on their calendar.”
One notable trend Chinn pointed to is the expansion of trans-specific presses at the fair.
“Topside Press has been with us for a few years, and it’s great to see two others, Transgress Press and Trans Genre Press, as well as a number of trans authors,” she said.
Beyond the offerings at the tables, the fair is renowned for its panel presentations. In an era of few gay bookstores, they are a way for LGBT book fans to hear their favorite authors, critics, and industry professionals.
Mitch Kellaway (right), the publisher of Transgress Press, with his brother Owen at last year's Rainbow Book Fair. | MICHAEL LUONGO
“The most exciting queer literary talent is part of this year’s fair,” Chinn said. “Our panel on queer black writing in the 1980s includes the legendary poet and activist Cheryl Clarke, Steven Fullwood, whose Vintage Entity Press recently published ‘Black Gay Genius,’ a collection of essays inspired by the legacy of Joseph Beam, and Robert Reid-Pharr, a leading scholar of contemporary African-American queer writing.”
Chinn added, “I’m especially looking forward to the panel on LGBT Jewish writers. The panel ranges across several queer generations, from Martha Shelley and Perry Brass, original Gay Liberation activists, to Donna Minkowitz, who has been an important cultural critic since the early 1990s, to veteran erotica writer D.L. King and the emerging poets Michael Broder and Jason Schneiderman.” Minkowitz is the new Morsels columnist for Gay City News.
Eileen Myles, whom Rainbow Book Fair steering committee member Sarah Chinn calls “the doyenne of lesbian poetry.” | ALICE O’MALLEY/ EILEENMYLES.COM
Longtime author Brass is also on the Rainbow Book Fair steering committee. He pointed in particular to a biography and memoir panel that he said “features Brad Gooch, who’s written biographies of Frank O’Hara and Flannery O’Connor, and is an old friend of the fair,” and the author of a new memoir. Others on that panel will include David Margolick, the author of “Dreadful, The Short Life and Gay Times of John Horne Burns,” which details the life of the once famous author of the World War Two classic “The Gallery”; TV stand-up comedian Jamie Brickhouse, who is coming out with a memoir soon; and Iraq war veteran Rob Smith, author of “Closets, Combat, and Coming Out: Coming of Age as a Gay Man in the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Army.” David Carter, author of “Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution,” will moderate.
Other important writers who will be on panels and presenting at tables include Kelly Cogswell, author of “Eating Fire: My Life as a Lesbian Avenger,” and Buzzfeed’s literary editor Saeed Jones, author of “Prelude to Bruise.” Cogswell writes the Dyke Abroad column at Gay City News, for which she placed second in the Best Column category at last month’s New York Press Association Better Newspaper Contest.
Eileen Myles, whom Chinn called “the doyenne of lesbian poetry,” will be reading in the Come Hear! Poetry Salon portion of the Fair, curated by Nathaniel Siegel and Regie Cabico.
Rob Smith, author of “Closets, Combat, and Coming Out: Coming of Age as a Gay Man in the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Army,” at last June’s LGBT Pride Rally in Manhattan. | DONNA ACETO
“I’m really excited about our featured readers,” Chinn said. “I’ve known Kelly Cogswell since we were Lesbian Avengers together, and her memoir of those years, ‘Eating Fire,’ is a spot-on representation of those thrilling days. I love Mark Doty and Saeed Jones’ poetry, so that’s going to be a real treat.”
The fair is also becoming a worldwide event, according to Chinn, herself a Brit. There will be a German LGBT publisher, Ylva Publishing, and two London-based authors, Teodora Kostova and Rhys Christopher Ethan.
“The Rainbow Book Fair is getting an international profile,” she said. Chin has hopes that one day in the near future Rainbow becomes something akin to an LGBT version of the Frankfurt Book Fair, the largest and most geographically diverse book fair in the world.
SEVENTH ANNUAL NEW YORK RAINBOW BOOK FAIR | Holiday Inn Midtown, 440 W. 57th St. | Apr. 18, noon-6 p.m. | Suggested donation is $3 | rainbowbookfair.org