For members of the University of Maryland’s new Queer Book Club, reading is more than a means to get a good grade. 

The LGBTQ+ Equity Center at this university hosts a biweekly book club, which reads books centering LGBTQ+ voices. The idea for the program came from junior marketing major Jasmine Brown and Leo Osei, a junior psychology major — both student employees at the LGBTQ+ Equity Center.  

The two wanted to create a space that brought together students for a fun environment for finding LGBTQ+ representation in literature, initially sparked from Osei’s love of reading books with LGBTQ+ representation.

Osei, who is also an LGBTQ+ studies minor, said he wanted to provide a space for community members to feel represented outside of academic texts and readings.

“I wanted it to be a space where it wasn’t so focused on theorizing and more just focused on trying to find books that represent us, just because we want to be represented,” Osei said. “There’s no deep reason about it. I just like reading narratives that I relate to.”

The pair pitched the idea to Shantala Thompson, the center’s associate director, late last year. In February, the club hosted its first meeting.   

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“Leo and Jasmine put a lot of thought into it, a lot of work, a lot of thinking about what our students need and a lot of thinking about a welcoming space,” Thompson said. “I believe that students should be running programming, so we kind of just ran with it and I think they’ve done a wonderful job so far.”

From there, the pair combined book preferences — Osei with graphic novels and Brown with more text novels — and spoke with their friends to create a book setlist.

The club is reading three different books this semester, Brown said. Due to a limited supply, books are raffled off, she said. Members who don’t win the raffle are able to get novels through the library, Brown added.   

This semester’s books include On Ajayi Crowther Street by Elnathan John, We Are Okay by Nina LaCour and Carmilla, originally written by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu and now edited by Carmen Maria Machado.

To Osei, the club is especially important with cases of books being banned across the United States. 

“A lot of our literature has been banned, burned, suppressed,” Osei said. “As a college campus, we have more freedom with it, but that doesn’t mean that it couldn’t happen here. To have this kind of program is very important, to be like ‘We’re staying here and we’re going to talk about what we want to talk about because this is our livelihood.’”

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Despite having only one meeting so far, club members have already started to recommend books to each other, Brown said. 

The organization is also interested in continuing to expand the book club beyond the confines of spring and fall semesters, according to Thompson.

“I would like to see a queer book club in the summer and in the winter where students aren’t on campus, when students are at home, when students need to find community,” Thompson said. “I really see it as a place where folks gather for community.”

Students of all backgrounds, years and majors are welcome to bond in the club, according to Brown.

This club is still in its beginning stages, yet the pair has plans to continue to strengthen its community by focusing on listening to its members input and — of course — spotlighting more LGBTQ+ authors and books. 

Moving forward, Brown looks toward continuing to host book discussions and learn more about LGBTQ+ literature.

“I love getting to meet new people,” Brown said. “I love getting to hear everyone’s ideas and getting to learn more about people in the community.”