RuPaul Is Sending a Rainbow Bus to Give Away Books Targeted by Bans

RuPaul Is Sending a Rainbow Bus to Give Away Books Targeted by Bans

At a time of book bans and efforts by state legislatures to ban drag shows, the performer and television producer who is arguably the country’s most famous drag star, RuPaul, is the co-founder of a new online bookstore that will be sending a rainbow school bus from the West Coast to the South to distribute the very books targeted by those bans.

He announced on Monday that he was one of three business partners behind the bookstore, Allstora, which will promote underrepresented authors and provide writers with a greater share of profits than other online booksellers do.

RuPaul said that this sort of book website would fill an important gap, especially in “these strange days, we’re living in,” to support the ideas of people “who are willing to push the conversation forward.”

Enter RuPaul. Drag has been in popular culture for decades, but his reality competition show “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” which is airing its sixteenth season and has more than a dozen international editions, has brought the work of hundreds, if not thousands, of drag performers to home audiences.

To those who are seeking to limit access to L.G.B.T.Q. culture in the United States, RuPaul said he offered a prayer.

“They have so much pain and it’s being projected outwardly,” RuPaul said. “And the truth is, I just hope that the child that lives inside of each and every one of them will revolt and have a voice and say: ‘I want to use all the colors in the crayon box. I will not be restricted.’”

“My heart goes out to them because they’re clearly in a lot of pain,” RuPaul continued. “Pain that you and I could not even imagine.”

He said that efforts to ban books and drag shows would ultimately “fall to the wayside.” History has shown that the more people try to restrict access to something, the more people are attracted to it, RuPaul said, adding, “You cannot keep the imagination down.”

He mentioned several books that had influenced him, including “A New Earth” by Eckhart Tolle, “Animal Farm” by George Orwell and “Curious George,” the children’s classic by Margret and H.A. Rey.

“I wasn’t very good in school, but I read books and I watched television, and those are the ways that I was able to find my way in this great big world,” RuPaul said.

At Allstora, RuPaul will curate a monthly book club, which will also include themed playlists and interviews with authors. The first selection is, fittingly, his memoir “The House of Hidden Meanings,” which will be released on Tuesday.

RuPaul is founding Allstora with Adam Powell, a drag performer and actor, and Powell’s partner, Eric Cervini, the author of the Pulitzer Prize-nominated history book “The Deviant’s War: The Homosexual vs. the United States of America.”

Allstora is the new version of a company that Cervini and Powell officially kicked off in October 2022 called ShopQueer.co, which sold books by L.G.B.T.Q.+ authors and aimed to give writers a bigger cut of their books’ profits. The couple first ran the business from the garage of their Los Angeles apartment, but they quickly outgrew it. Last year, Cervini said, they sold more than $1 million in books.

“We were doing everything on our own and realized we needed help,” Cervini said.

They were fund-raising when they were connected with RuPaul, who is the chief creative officer of Allstora. The revamped company sells books by all types of authors and offers authors a share of the profits made from the book sales on the website. Cervini is the chief executive and Powell is the director of the company’s philanthropic arm, the Rainbow Book Bus, which started its outreach before Allstora formed.

As part of Allstora’s kickoff, the Rainbow Book Bus will be traveling in March from Los Angeles to the South to fight book bans. In these cities, which will include Birmingham, Ala.; Tallahassee, Fla.; and Baton Rouge, La., Allstora will team up with local L.G.B.T.Q. organizations to distribute thousands of books. The goal is to give away 10,000 books by the end of the year out of the brightly colored, 22-foot former school bus.

The local organizations have also been providing guidance to the company about how to keep the book fairs safe. “They’ve been so helpful and working with local law enforcement and volunteers to make sure that everyone is just full of joy and no fear to be seen,” Cervini said.

Cervini, who grew up in Central Texas, said it would be important for young people to see that there was a space for them, even if they didn’t live somewhere with bookstores that have an L.G.B.T.Q. section or they were prohibited from reading those books at their schools or public libraries.

“There is an organization, there’s a community, there’s a family for them,” he said. “And even if we’re not always there, books are always there. They’re always available. They’re always a safe place.”

Kyle C. Garrison

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