Three years ago, Sanjay Saverimuttu was tapped by Mike Slaton of Louisville Pride Foundation to lead the Louisville LGBTQ+ Book Club. The book club was started to provide an opportunity within the LGBTQ+ community to come together and socialize in a place that wasn’t in the bar scene. Before the pandemic, the group met monthly at the Beechmont Community Center, but then carried on via Zoom when it wasn’t safe to be in person. Now the group is back to meeting in person, but as of Tuesday, Oct. 11, they will be in their new home at the LGBTQ Community Center in Old Louisville at 1244 S. Third St, which is a shared space with Asia Institute-Crane House. LEO spoke with Saverimuttu about the book club.
LEO: Why did Louisville Pride pick you? Did they ask you because you love to read?
Sanjay Saverimuttu: I’m friends with Mike, the executive director, and I think he just knew I was an avid reader and asked if this was something I’d be interested in. It’s nice to meet people who I wouldn’t normally meet, especially because I feel it’s usually hard to meet queer people unless you’re in a bar. And even then, like the places that I go to, it’s usually just gay men. So now I feel like I can meet a diverse group of people of different ages, different genders, different races, different life experiences, which is pretty nice.
LEO: How do you select the books? What kind of criteria do you use?
Saverimuttu: I usually will ask people if there’s a certain genre or, you know, author demographic — and really we try to cover different books to make sure we’re covering a whole spectrum of both authors and genres of books. So let’s say if we’re like, ‘For this next one is a book like horror sci-fi ,’ I’ll look at about four options for horror sci fi and then the people who attended the last meeting will vote on which book they want to read next. That’s an incentive to come to the meetings and so that way you can have a decision what books you read next.
LEO: Do you put a focus on authors or storylines that trend toward LGBTQIA or do you find that is a welcome bonus?
Saverimuttu: So pretty much always the center of the book is always on LGBTQIA issues or has that main focus for the main character, or most of the authors are LGBTQIA. Out of like the three years we’ve been doing this, I think there’s only been two instances where the author wasn’t queer, which I think is pretty good for the amount of books that we’ve read. Because we’ve just celebrated having our book club for three years, that’s about 36, 37-ish books that we have now read.
LEO: What is your favorite book of all of the books that you have read so far?
Saverimuttu: I really enjoyed ‘Real Queer America’ by Samantha Allen, which is a nonfiction book. The author basically travels to different states, more like ‘red states’ in the country, and interviews people in those communities. I think it showcases how strong LGBTQ culture can be even in the not-so-typical, blue havens and even how they can sometimes be just as strong or stronger than in those blue havens. Like, what’s it like to be the only LGBTQ club in the entire state or region? Who shows up in these spaces dealing with certain political issues in Texas, or dealing with like the intersection of Mormonism and being queer in Utah, topics like those, which I found pretty interesting.
LEO: Do you have a particular favorite bookstore or a place that you go to check out new authors and new books?
Saverimuttu: As always, Carmichael’s is great, and what’s great about them is if you have a book club, you can get it registered with them and get the book picks for 20% off. For the most part, unless it’s a weird publisher, you can get it for 20% off as long as you mention our book club. And, especially with all these different categories and exploring different genres, I’m just always Googling various lists, various awards. Lambda Literary is a organization that gives awards for LGBTQ literature, and they have different categories of literature, and it’s a good place to see different options for books.
LEO: What’s your favorite thing, or a favorite memory, favorite whatever — something that makes you smile when you think about having led this book club for three years?
Saverimuttu: I think it’s nice to just meet people or hang out with people outside of book club too. Knowing that our friendships or that these relationships that people have have started and were prompted from book club. Also because the nature of books, it allows people to get pretty vulnerable about their own experiences and sometimes, you know, whether it’s they’re working through something in their past or their trauma, there is a safe space for people to figure that out. And tie it to the literature that like sort of spawns their thinking at the same time and watching people go through that and also be supportive of those people at the same time, I think is pretty beautiful.
The Louisville LGBTQ+ Book Club meets again Tuesday, Oct. 11, and will be discussing “Summer Sons” by Lee Mandelo at 7 p.m. at the Louisville LGBTQ Community Center at 1244 S. 3rd St. Please bring a mask if you are attending in person. There will also be an online option, which you can sign up for by visiting facebook.com/groups/loupridebookclub.
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