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Giovanni's Room: RIP

An updated tribute to a pioneering LGBT bookstore

(The sad news that Giovanni's Room,  Philadelphia's venerable LGBT bookstore, will soon close inspired me to update the remembrance I posted last fall when the Center City gayborhood landmark went up for sale).

I was 22 and had just arrived in Philly from Syracuse, NY. The Bicentennial was over, so was my brief career in the closet, and to me nothing exemplified liberation more eloquently than Giovanni's Room.

In a Spruce Street brownstone where the Kimmel Center now stands, the modest, shelf-lined space was a place for gay people to peruse, in convivial comfort, books written by, for and about us.

A new market for gay fiction and non-fiction had been created by the gay rights movement and a mass coming out among LGBT baby boomers.  Giovanni's is where I found Andrew Holleran's glorious novel "Dancer from the Dance," where I discovered the fiction of Edmund White, Paul Monette, and Dorothy Allison,  and where I heard writers and poets read new work.

In the 1980s, the store -- by then at 12th and Pine -- was where I could pick up the New York, Boston and DC gay papers, which offered essential AIDS coverage at a time when mainstream media were less than attentive.

Well into the '90s and beyond, Giovanni's was a regular stop-and-shop for me and countless other LGBT folks, a cross between a reading room and a community center, a place to dawdle away a rainy hour -- and leave with a book or two under one's arm.

So thank you,  Giovanni's Room, and owner Ed Hermance. Your little shop changed my life. And I'm sure I'm not alone.