Up until now, authors and entertainers have been showing their disapproval of North Carolina's "bathroom law," called HB2, by canceling events in the state. For local business owners, especially booksellers, it's been a tough pill to swallow. Now, in an effort to show that NC businesses need not suffer in order for public figures to show their opposition the law, bestselling author Sara Gruen has mounted a "Kill the Bill" event with local bookseller Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe.
The event grew out of Sherman Alexie’s decision to cancel his upcoming speaking engagement at Malaprop’s in Asheville, N.C., because of his opposition to HB2. Gruen, who is based in Asheville, decided to step in and fill the void.
Gruen, who has been outspoken in her support Malaprop’s, has put together a reading and fundraiser to support the LGBT community and to make up for Malaprop’s loss of income from Alexie’s cancellation. The event, which will be held on May 18, the day that Alexie was scheduled to speak, was mounted with the support of Malaprop’s staff, particularly Melanie McNair, the store’s assistant manager and newly appointed events coordinator.
Within a day authors Joshilyn Jackson (The Opposite of Everyone), Jamie Mason (Monday’s Lie), Kim Michele Richardson (GodPretty in the Tobacco Field) agreed to join Gruen on stage at the Asheville Community Theatre for a “Kill the Bill” reading. Gruen has also created the rough outline for an LGBT fundraiser at the event, which will include a pre-reading cocktail party where attendees can view the auction items, which will likely include a dinner with the authors as well as a stay at a local inn, signed books, and art work. Tickets will sell for $20.
Malaprop’s McNair has equally speedily put in place a framework for Kill the Bill, which will be the first in a new series the store is calling Authors for Action. The series is designed to support social, environmental, and other types of issues. Authors will be paired with a nonprofit group or groups with the goal of raising the profile of the cause. “It’s a way we can amplify the cause in the community,” McNair said.
For Kill the Bill, Malaprop’s has already been in touch with four nonprofits working on behalf of the LGBT community and/or to roll back HB2: The Campaign for Southern Equality, Tranzmission, Equality North Carolina, and the ACLU of North Carolina. All four groups will have a prominent place at the event. It’s too soon to know yet which one, or possibly all four, will be the beneficiaries of the auction and reading.
But even before Kill the Bill takes place, two other authors have agreed to make their event part of the Authors for Action series. Garrad Conley, author of Boy Erased: A Memoir, and Garth Greenwell, author of What Belongs to You, who will be in conversation with Elizabeth Kostova a few days later on May 22 at the bookstore, will dedicate their event to fighting HB2.
“We are so inspired by the support we’ve received,” McNair told PW, particularly in the wake of store manger Linda-Marie Barrett’s op ed in the New York Times last week. In it Barrett wrote that "for 34 years we’ve had authors’ backs when their books were challenged or their events protested. We need authors to have our backs, too.”
Gruen has shown that authors have heeded Barrett’s call. Others who would like to do so are encouraged to contact Gruen at firstname.lastname@example.org.