Around these parts, Valentine's Day typically equals heart-shaped boxes of chocolates, red roses and inedible candies imprinted with sentiments of love that read more like text messages: HI LOVE, UR 2 NICE, etc.
In amorous Spain, Catalonia to be precise, Valentine's Day is superseded by the late-April holiday La Diada de Sant Jordi, Saint George's Day, a celebration during which lovers exchange books. What better way to show the object of one's affection what's inside one's heart than with a literary work that moves that person? A book that speaks to his or her soul?
But, where to find such a book? Anyone in the Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgender community is in luck, as recently imported Tacoma resident Matt Lemanski has joined forces with King's Books to form its seventh active book club, the GLBT Book Club.
Above all, Lemanski is a book lover. Sure, he wrote poetry in his teens and 20s. "Like everyone does," he says. As far as movies go? The last movie he saw in an actual theater was 2007's Juno. It's no surprise then that his work life found him, after obtaining a Masters in Library Sciences, at a library in his home state of Michigan.
"As part of my job, I was required to lead three book discussions, which I did not enjoy. Those who attended were not looking for books to expand their experience. They were looking for books to underline the bubble they were living in," recalls Lemanski.
He adds with a smirk, "One month we read David Sedaris. That did not go over well."
It didn't take much twisting of the arm when Lemanski was offered a position with the Pierce County Library.
Lemanski's journey to Tacoma reads like a chapter from a modern-day Beowulf, complete with a treacherous cross-country drive in late-December, from Detroit, the home he'd known his entire life, to Tacoma, snaking ever Southward to avoid snowy mountain ranges, meanwhile remaining just Northward enough to adequately skirt the Mexican border.
Fresh off this epic challenge and finally settled in his new home, Lemanski attended (and still attends) a few book clubs run by King's Books, and decided it was time to make amends with his past book discussion experience and head his own, more rewarding literary endeaver. More specifically, Lemanski wanted to create a book club that would celebrate either works about the GLBT lifestyle or works written by an author in the GLBT community. Or both.
In person, Lemanski comes off as shy, stylish, and, well, bookish. But he's no shrinking violet.
"It's not that I wasn't good at heading those discussions in Detroit. I love talking books. The point is, I wanted to lead a discussion among people who were open and who wanted to participate in something meaningful," says Lemanski.
The club's flagship book was Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City; January's selection was Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers: a History of Life in Twentieth-Century America by Lillian Faderman. In between, such titles as The Night Watch by award-winning author Sarah Waters to The Uncommon Reader by playwright Alan Bennett have been discussed.
The club was founded by Lemanski in May of 2011, but just recently teamed with Tacoma Book Club magnate King's Books. Lemanski hopes to see new faces as a result.
Says Lemanski, "I don't actively recruit members. I just hope the club appeals to people, and that they will come, read, discuss and bring their suggestions for future selections."
For those who would like to do just that, the GLBT Book Club is free and open to all, meeting the second Saturday of every month at Tully's, 764 Broadway in Tacoma. Members of the book club receive a 15 percent discount off their featured book at King's Books. More information can be found at kingsbookstore.com/bookclubs.
[Tully's Coffee, GLBT Book Club meets second Saturday of every month, free, discuss Geography Club by Brent Hartinger Saturday, Feb. 11, 2 p.m., 764 Broadway, Tacoma, kingsbookstore.com/booksclubs]