Over a hundred years ago, in 1918, a pair of Montreal writers did something nobody had done before in North America. Their names were Elsa Gidlow and Roswell George Mills, and they were part of a local writing group. What Elsa (a poet) and Roswell (a journalist) did was start an underground magazine that they mimeographed themselves, or what we’d now call a zine.
This magazine, which they named Les Mouches fantastiques (The Fantastic Files) was the first LGBTQ-themed publication in North American history.
From the very beginning it was a hit. It was widely distributed, with copies passed along from person to person until they reached as far away as Cuba.
Unfortunately, our library doesn’t have a copy of this historical magazine. What we do have, however, is a growing collection of LGBTQ+ materials for all ages.
We’ve put together a list of LGBTQ+ children’s books that includes board books (My Family, Your Family!), picture books (Julián is a Mermaid), non-fiction books (Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag), chapter books (George) and graphic novels (Aquicorn Cove).
Our LGBTQ+ teen books include the graphic novel series Heartstopper and Check, Please!, as well as Rainbow Rowell’s novels Carry On and Wayward Son, to name just a few.
As for adult books, we recommend you check out local writer Jane Byers’ Small Courage: A Queer Memoir of Finding Love and Conceiving Family, Samra Habib’s We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir, Joshua Whitehead’s Jonny Appleseed, and Amelia Abraham’s Queer Intentions: A (personal) Journey through LGBTQ+ Culture, as well as the many LGBTQ+ novels in our collection.
Here at the library, when we scan your library card our computers show us both your legal name and your preferred name. We’ve had lots of folks of all ages tell us their preferred names (and pronouns) — please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you’d like us to make any changes to the information we have on file for you.
After all, this is your library. It exists to serve the community. Here in Nelson, we are honoured to live in a community that is diverse and proud.
Libraries all across the world are doing their part to support the LGBTQ+ movement. I’d like to think that if they were still alive today, Elsa and Roswell would agree. Because there are only a few copies of Les Mouches fantastiques known to still exist today. And those copies are, of course, being carefully preserved at libraries.
Avi Silberstein is the children’s librarian at the Nelson Public Library. Check This Out runs every other week. If you’re interested in learning more about library programs and services, sign up for our monthly newsletter on our website or by giving us a call.