Rainbow Readers offers new chapter for Worcester LGBT community

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Starting a book club in Worcester is not an easy task, but Sarah Slocum was up for the challenge.

When she learned there was not a LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) book club in the Worcester area, Slocum was determined to start her own. A lover of books and a member of the youth committee for the advocacy group Worcester Pride, Slocum thought it seemed like the perfect idea.

“Back in November, I was frustrated because I knew of book clubs nearby, but none that interested me. So I decided I might as well start my own,” Slocum said. “With the help of my local librarian, I found places I could have it.”

Sarah Slocum, creator of Rainbow Readers, a new LGBT book group with sessions for young and adult readers.

Danielle Cutillo / For Worcester Sun

Sarah Slocum, creator of Rainbow Readers, a new LGBT book group with sessions for young and adult readers.

Slocum, a part-time balloon decorator and reiki practitioner from Sutton, said after some research she discovered the closest LGBT book club is in an Arlington library some 50 miles away.

After looking for space at local cafes and stores, Annie’s Book Stop at 65 James St. was interested in being host to the club. Easy access to books and space for meetings made it a logical choice.

Come back Sunday to check out Worcester Sun’s next edition, when we profile another unique and impactful resource for the Worcester-area LGBT community.

“Because LGBT fiction is what interests me most, I wanted to start my own [book club]. Although bookstores carry LGBT fiction, it is limited. Annie’s Bookstore is trying to get more options now that they are working with me,” Slocum said.

The next step was creating a name for the club, and a local author suggested Rainbow Readers.

To advertise, Slocum emailed the schools in the area with fliers and gained a presence on social media.

“There are places for youth to go in Worcester, but some might not feel comfortable in a large space,” Slocum said. “They might just want to read a book or have some place to go that isn’t a party or the mall.”

Each month the group explores queer and LGBT identities through fiction and nonfiction short stories, novels, web comics and more. “I have input from members but mostly I pick [the material] based on reviews or what I’ve read.”

Examples of titles the group has explored include, “Patience and Sarah” by Isabel Miller, a novel about a love affair between two women in early 19th century farm-town New England; and “Murder and Mayhem” by Rhys Ford, a murder-mystery centered on a detective and a con-man with a twisted past..

A selection of books at Annie's Book Stop on James Street.

Danielle Cutillo / For Worcester Sun

A selection of books at Annie’s Book Stop on James Street.

The group focuses on a different identity and genre each meeting.

The first official adult meeting was in November and now meets the third Saturday of each month. The youth group meetings (ages 21 and under), started in March and now convene the first Friday of each month.

While the first few sessions have been sparsely attended, Slocum said (in the single digits), and mostly by women, the group’s Meetup.com page had more than 60 members.

The purpose of the club is to bring the community together, Slocum said. “Even though it’s small, it gets people out to talk about books and meet new people. It gives people a place to go.”

At a recent meeting it was clear the gathering was about more than books. There was not a list of discussion questions to answer, but more of a flowing conversation.

One Rainbow Readers member was new to the area and found the group on Meetup.com, a website that makes it easy to organize or find a local group of multiple interests, in many different areas.

“I think what I liked about this group is it would be somewhere I would feel safe and comfortable. I like to read…I liked that anyone was welcome, that’s important to me,” said the visitor, who asked not to be identified.

“There are not a lot of mainstream, gay and lesbian books out that I know of, so now I have a great list of books to read. It’s also great to meet people who are nice and friendly. That’s awesome in my book.”

Sarah Slocum, of Sutton, found a need for an LGBT book club closer to home.

Danielle Cutillo / For Worcester Sun

Sarah Slocum, of Sutton, found a need for an LGBT book club closer to home.

Another younger member in the adult group first heard of the youth group on Meetup and reached out to see if there was a meeting they could attend. “I love reading and I’d really like to connect with more LGBT people in Worcester. I like that this group is across age ranges because the first events I went to in Worcester were all with older people.”

Slocum’s passion for books and the LGBT community shines through as she speaks about the club. She is looking forward to continuing the club and even having some authors come speak at meetings. She plans to attend graduate school to study clinical psychology to work with LGBT youth.

Want to get involved and attend a meetup? Check out the Facebook page, Rainbow Readers of Massachusetts and Meetup.com page, Rainbow Readers of Massachusetts: LGBTQIA Book Group.

This article was originally published in the June 22, 2016 edition of the Sun.

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