Raven Book Store curating free book collection for queer youths

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Local booksellers want to make it “perfectly clear” they support youths who are “perfectly queer.”

“I always say, books are never going to fix the problem,” said Wulfe Wulfemeyer, marketing coordinator and bookseller at Lawrence’s Raven Book Store. “Books are not going to heal transphobia. They’re not going to erase transphobia. They’re not going to make trans people safe in America. But they can help. They’re an essential part of the process.”

With support from several Lawrence organizations, the Raven Book Store is launching an initiative to funnel free queer-centered books to queer teens. Participants are collecting books written by LGBTQ authors for the Perfectly Queer Little Library (PQLL) project.

Wulfemeyer said language used to discuss queer identities and experiences were different — or uncommonly known — when they were a teenager. And Wulfemeyer recalls being exposed to literature by non-trans writers that enforced harmful narratives about trans people.

“I didn’t know what it meant to be transmasculine or transfeminine or nonbinary, or all of these things, these specific words,” they said. “I only knew how I felt and how I didn’t feel.”

Maya Hodison/Lawrence Times Wulfe Wulfemeyer holds their favorite book in the Perfectly Queer Little Library project so far: “Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars: A Dangerous Trans Girl’s Fantabulous Memoir” by Kai Cheng Thom.

Once the PQLL project launches, young readers who self-identify as queer will be able to browse and take a book home for free. Middle and high school students are the target audience.

Wulfemeyer said they spent time researching and eventually narrowed down around 200 books of interest to a collection of 25 titles. Queer romance and coming-of-age novels, science fiction stories with queer protagonists, books about queer identity terminology and more are featured. There was also intentionality to represent Indigenous queer and Two-Spirit identities.

“We wanted some books that were realistic about the challenges that queer youth are facing,” Wulfemeyer said. “And we wanted some books that were just focused on joy — like being happy and like queer-norm worlds where you present your pronouns without question. Nobody blinks an eye when two women are holding hands.”

Representation in media is important, and urgency to uplift queer youth is evergreen, Wulfemeyer said. But with legislation in Kansas such as Senate Bill 233 looming, many are looking to elevate their advocacy.

After the Kansas Legislature in April 2023 passed Senate Bill 180, Lawrence activists and advocates lobbied for the approval of a citywide Safe Haven Ordinance. 

Now Wulfemeyer sees Senate Bill 233, a law that would prohibit Kansas medical professionals from providing gender-affirming care to youth, as even more of a threat. The Legislature in March voted to send the bill to Gov. Laura Kelly; she vetoed it Friday, but the Legislature could still vote to override that veto.

“SB 233 is terrifying,” Wulfemeyer said.


Following news about 16-year-old Nex Benedict, a Native American nonbinary student from Oklahoma who died in February after suffering injuries from a fight in their school’s girls’ bathroom, the Raven released a newsletter in remembrance and solidarity. In response, Caryn Miriam-Goldberg and Tessa Gratton, local authors whose works are featured at the Raven, said the Raven could use the power of free access to books.

That planted the seed for PQLL, according to Wulfemeyer.

So far, the Raven has a small collection that’s soon to grow. More are currently en route to the store, and as of Friday afternoon, people had donated 104 copies of books.

The Lawrence Public Library, Art Love Collective, the Sexual Trauma and Abuse Care Center, the University of Kansas’ Ecumenical Campus Ministries Community Justice Center and others have posted about the project since the Raven announced it on March 31 — Transgender Day of Visibility.

Those interested in donating books online can visit the catalog on the Raven’s website, via ravenbookstore.com/perfectly-queer. After adding books to the cart, note they’re “for donation to the Perfectly Queer Little Library” in the order comments before purchasing.

Although details are still being ironed out, Wulfemeyer estimates the PQLL project will be launched in early May. They’ll keep folks updated via social media and newsletters.

In addition to displays and catalogs that’ll be available at the Raven, 809 Massachusetts St., the plan is to have an extension available in the teen section of the public library, 707 Vermont St.

Follow the Raven on Instagram at @ravenbookstore and subscribe to receive newsletters via the Raven’s website. Visit ravenbookstore.com for more information.

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Maya Hodison (she/her), equity reporter, can be reached at mhodison (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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