June 24, 2021

Aesop transforms three North American stores into Queer Libraries


Ocean Vuong, whose novel On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous features in Aesop’s Queer Library initiative (slowking4, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Here, then, is how you do the work. Instead of blithely turning their logo rainbow-coloured and making vague noises about inclusivity, skin, hair and body care company Aesop are putting their money where their mouths are, turning over some of their North American store spaces in favour of week-long “Queer Libraries,” to “allow bibliophiles of all stripes to revel in Pride Month.”

Aesop’s Bleecker St. NYC, Los Angeles, and Toronto branches have all been transformed into Queer Libraries, in which customers and passers-by can avail themselves of a free queer classic.

Reporting on the story for Wallpaper, Mary Cleary notes that “each of the stores has cleared shelves of Aesop products and replaced them with books written by LGBTQIA+ authors from around the world.” They are all stocked with multiple copies of over 150 works by authors including Samantha Irby, Brandon Taylor and Ocean Vuong.

A statement on Aesop’s website also reveals their commendable commitment to furthering the cause of indie bookstores:

The library consists of cherished works of queer literature chosen by Aesop’s retail and office teams across the US and Canada. As a way of supporting independent queer bookstores in North America, over 3000 volumes were purchased from Glad Day Bookshop in Toronto—the longest surviving LGBTQIA+ bookstore worldwide—and Women & Children First in Chicago. To complement these purchases, our long-time literary partner Penguin Random House has made a generous donation of 2350 books.

The libraries run from 21-27th of June inclusive, and those who can’t make it in-person can find a list of “worthy independent bookstores, located in the US and Canada, each boasting a thoughtful collection of queer writing” in this fabulously extensive document.

It’s a bold and truly inclusive move for a company better known for their skincare products, and one that should make their bigger competitors think twice about how deep their commitment to marginalised communities really goes.



Tom Clayton is publishing executive at Melville House UK.