Andrea M. Baldrias
On October 27th, Riverside’s Cellar Door Bookstore held its second Drag Queen Story Hour. After the first successful story hour in June during LGBTQ+ Pride Month, owner, Linda Sherman-Nurick, thought it best to hold another during Halloween. However, this time was different.
For the second Story Hour, Cellar Door Bookstore linked their event to the Drag Queens’ official Facebook Page which meant that there was public access to the event. After posting on Facebook, Cellar Door received backlash on their page to this event.
“We knew that there were some issues. Some people –most of whom had never been to our store– said they were never going to come. We didn’t know what was going to happen. That morning we opened the doors, there was no protest and I kind of thought there might be. I was like, “Alright, well that’s good.” Linda recalled.
The second Drag Queen Story Hour was the largest turnout yet, with about 40-50 kids and their parents in attendance. Families came from as far as San Diego to check out this event.
While the Queens read, and the children listened intently, Linda said she saw a woman peering over the crowd in the back of the store. “She was filming, and I had seen her because she had walked in front of the fountain [outside] with a man and they were filming themselves talking. I thought, “There they are.”
Sherman-Nurick had asked the woman to stop filming because she was filming children without their parent’s consent. The woman maintained that it was within her right because this was a public event. It was later discovered that the woman was affiliated with a Los Angeles based anti-LGBT hate group named Mass Resistance, as recognized by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Linda called security, and eventually the police, to mediate the situation.
The support from the Inland Empire community was remarkable. “The people in the I.E. are saying, you know what? Whether I agree with this or not, you have the right to have it here and she does not have the right to disrupt like that,” Linda asserted.
One instance especially heartened Linda. “I had one guy walk in the door. He put $100 on the counter. I had not seen him before… He said, I want to buy books for a kid who needs to hear that whoever [they] are is okay.
I got a few books, and we are going to send them to the Trevor Project [a non-profit organization that focuses on suicide prevention for LGBTQ+ youth]. The woman who was with him said, “I want you to know that he hasn’t left the house for three months. He’s really sick. He’s dying. When he saw [what happened] he was so angered, that he insisted on coming down here and buying books to support you.”
Despite the incident, Cellar Door Bookstore hosted their third Drag Queen Story Hour on Saturday December 15th. Aside from two stragglers grumbling and filming outside of the book store, the night went smoothly and uninterrupted.
There were about 100 people in attendance, including Congressman Mark Takano who also read to the children. The event raised a total of about $500 plus book donations to contribute to the Trevor Project. Linda anticipates that Cellar Door Bookstore will hold another Story Hour in March. For more information, visit https://www.cellardoorbookstore.com/.