The New York Public Library has probably seen its share of young students making crafty 3-D book reports, but starting this week and continuing through September, the institution offers visitors a worthy fresh take on the medium: the first-ever Queer Book Diorama show.
Curated by writers Sassafras Lowrey and Hugh Ryan, the quirky show features dioramas by 11 devoted adult readers of LGBT literature from the U.S., Canada, and South Africa. Titles include queer classics such as Ann Bannon's Beebo Brinker Chronicles and Rita Mae Brown's Rubyfruit Jungle as well as contemporary favorites like Alison Bechdel's Fun Home and Jack Halberstam's Female Masculinity.
According to Lowrey (who prefers the gender-neutral pronouns hir and ze), the seed for the project was planted way back in hir childhood, after ze was kicked out following hir guardians' discovery of the queer books Lowrey had hidden away.
"Three days after I was kicked out … I went to my county library looking for answers," Lowrey recalled recently to The Daily Beast. "I looked at every book shelved under 'homosexuality. ... That day, I didn't find any books that could help me. Sitting on the floor of that library, I made a promise to myself that if I survived, I would somehow find a way to write the kind of queer books that I was searching for."
Lowrey didn't just survive: Ze thrived as a genderqueer editor of LGBT anthologies and the author of queer fiction. Years later, receiving a book diorama from a fan of hir first novel, Roving Pack, was "the ultimate confirmation that I'm doing the work I'm supposed to be doing," Lowrey explained.
So ze decided to team up with Pop-Up Museum of Queer History founder Hugh Ryan to bring more queer books to life.
Ryan, who uses his traveling museum to give queer people innovative ways to "analyze our own culture, our own history," told The Daily Beast that he immediately realized dioramas were "a powerful way to share important stories that resonated with queer lives, in a format that wouldn't feel intimidating and was almost endlessly malleable."
See some zany, adorable, and artful images from the show, cosponsored by MIX NYC and the Lambda Literary Foundation, on the following pages.