In June, a new bookstore popped up on Barracks Row: Little District Books, a queer-owned shop selling books for all ages, exclusively focused on queer stories or written by queer authors. Little District Books follows the legacy of stores like Lambda Rising, which operated in the District from 1974 to 2010 and was one of the first exclusively LGBT bookstores in the United States. (Over the last decade or so, LGBT bookstores across the country—long centers of community and acceptance in the post-Stonewall years—have shuttered amid the dominance of online and chain retailers.) Little District Books is also part of a new trend of queer-owned businesses on Barracks Row, such as As You Are, a queer cafe and bar.
We spoke with Patrick Kern, the owner of Little District Books and an area resident of ten years, about opening the store and the importance of queer stories.
How did you decide to start Little District Books?
I’ve always been interested in running my own business, and I love bookstores, so about a year ago I started researching what it would take to run a bookstore. The more I learned, the more I was like, I want to do it, and I want to do the bookstore that I always wanted when I was younger. I didn’t have access to these books when I was a kid. There was no representation. So I wanted the bookstore that did everything I didn’t have.
What books in here do you wish you had access to as a kid?
Whew, there are so many. I am very much into sci-fi fantasy, so all the YA [young adult] sci-fi fantasy. Hell Followed With Us just came out; it looks amazing. Sky Blues by Robbie Couch, I started thumbing through that—it’s probably my next book. There’s just so much I’m so excited to read and show to people.
Are there any books you’d recommend to someone just starting to get into queer literature?
The YA is where it’s at because you get the most representation, you get the most imaginative stories, you get the best of everything . . . without the negatives of the modern world.
Do people ever come in here not knowing that it’s only queer books?
We get several a week that come in, and they’re a little confused, but once they get an explanation they’re like, “Oh, okay, what’s in here now makes a little more sense.”
Why do you think it’s important to have a space that is focusing only on queer stories?
I know so many people that love to read queer stories to fill in what they don’t see in any other books that they read. There are a lot of books out there, but they’re hard to find. You need a space that helps connect people with what they’re looking for.
Little District Books is located at 737 Eighth St., SE, and is open Wednesday through Friday noon to 6, Saturday and Sunday 11 to 6.