The King’s English Bookshop in Salt Lake City, which canceled a Drag Story Hour event after a bomb threat on September 24, hosted a drag reading on October 11. Drag artist Tara Lipsyncki debuted their self-published picture book, Letter from the Queen, and two additional performers read picture books to guests.

“We didn’t double down, we tripled down” in response to the earlier threat, TKE owner Calvin Crosby said. In addition, Crosby and Lipsyncki will soon debut a new shop, Mosaics Community Bookstore and Venue, as a space for readings and events.

Letter From the Queen’s book launch took place at the Neighborhood Hive, a market of local shops where The King’s English has a popup vendor space. The all-ages reading was followed by a 21+ afterparty, with a repeat reading and cocktails.

“There was so much heartfelt love—it really cancels out the pettiness of the bomb threat,” Crosby said. “We had at least one city councilperson [Rep. Darin Masao Mano] who showed up to be supportive.”

The King’s English had been hosting monthly drag story times throughout the summer, and law enforcement informed Crosby that the September bomb scare originated outside Utah. “The police did let us know that the bomb threat was part of a national campaign” targeting multiple LGBTQ–owned and focused businesses, Crosby said. “It was not anyone in our city, our county, or along the Wasatch Front. It was outside influences trying to wreak havoc. I do think it’s important that we point out that this had nothing to do with our Utah community.”

Crosby feels that Salt Lake City is “an awesome place. The mayor, mayoral candidates, and councilmembers have been very supportive” of The King’s English and other queer-owned small businesses, he said—even if state politics in conservative Utah are less inviting to LGBTQ communities.

A Community Resource

Family-friendly drag story times have at times been tense in SLC, though. In January, Lipsyncki faced homophobic armed protesters, who identified themselves as members of the far-right Proud Boys, during a regularly scheduled story time at the local business Tea Zaanti. The frightening confrontation left Lipsyncki feeling vulnerable in terms of security, and they now show up at some venues with a radical entourage known as Armed Queers Salt Lake City. (Crosby called the group “unobtrusive” at events; open and concealed carrying of a loaded firearm, without a license, is legal for people ages 21 and older in Utah.)

According to Lipsyncki, they and several drag artists are planning “the official launch of an inter-mountain chapter” of the nonprofit Drag Story Hour, which will cover Utah, Wyoming, southeastern Idaho, and parts of Nevada and New Mexico. Lipsyncki also took action by writing Letter from the Queen, illustrated by drag artist Cherry Mock and distributed by Ingram and The King’s English. In the book, a bullied boy receives a “glittery envelope” containing an encouraging letter, informing him that he has a future of travel, friends, and “amazing themed parties.” It’s signed “Sincerely, yours truly, Your Majesty, the Queen you will grow up to be.”

Lipsyncki described the book as “a letter to your younger self, like, ‘Everything is hard right now. You have to power through and know that you're loved and valued the way you are.’ We get it, as queer people and especially trans people.” They timed the publication date to October 11, National Coming Out Day and Lipsyncki’s late mother’s birthday.

With a picture book completed and a DSH chapter under way, Lipsyncki is now working with Crosby to put the finishing touches on Mosaics Community Bookstore and Venue. Crosby describes the venture as “a performance space, a bookstore, and eventually a café” that includes “a pop-up combination of The King's English and Brain Food Books, our nonprofit.” Once Mosaics opens, “there will be four queer-owned bookshops along the Wasatch Front within 30 minutes of one another,” including SLC’s Under the Umbrella Bookstore and the Legendarium.

Mosaics occupies a 3,000-square-foot area. The bookstore will offer a general selection as well as special collections curated by the staff. A portion of the space will host local entrepreneurs and Sweet Hazel & Co. Vegan Bakeshop, and a third of the area will be devoted to “an enclosed entertainment space,” with professional sound, lighting, and provisions “to hold events safely.” They intend to develop “a 24-hour safe space” for members of the queer people and allies, “because trauma and violence doesn’t stop at 8 p.m., when a business closes.”

Crosby and Lipsyncki hope Mosaics increases the visibility and influence of Utah’s LGBTQ community, and provides resources for residents who aren’t in SLC’s urban center. “This is not in Salt Lake County proper,” Lipsyncki said. “Mosaics will be the first queer bookstore in that area and one of the very few queer-friendly businesses in Provo. This is a very strong statement, as to where it’s located.”