/Equal rights, safe spaces Read all about them at Violet Valley Books

Equal rights, safe spaces Read all about them at Violet Valley Books

Violet Valley Bookstore was established late last year. It is located in Yalobusha County’s historic downtown, about 20 miles from Oxford. It’s a typical hometown bookstore. It is filled with books of all kinds, including old, new, foreign and local. Local favorites include Heartbreak Coffee, Yalobusha Brewing Company, and the B.T.C. Violet Valley, a local staple that includes Yalobusha Brewing Company and Heartbreak Coffee, is just a few steps from Water Valley. It offers a slower pace to complement the “kick your shoes off and stay a while” feel of all Water Valley’s offerings. This niche shopfront is the only one that offers an underpinning level in queer and feminist activism within select books. Jaime Harker is a professor of English and the director of the Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies, University of Mississippi in Oxford. Harker said that her bookstore can be called queer and feminist because it offers books that explore and discuss gender and sexuality. Harker explained that the term queer is used in the common abbreviation LGBTQ, which refers to lesbian, gay bisexual, transgender or questioning people. It’s commonly used to denote any sexuality not conforming to society’s heterosexual norm. She said, “I refer to myself sometimes as a lesbian or gay, but the term ‘queer community” is useful shorthand for people who identify in a variety of ways. Harker saw an opportunity to fulfill her lifelong dream of owning a bookstore in Water Valley, a town with just over 3,000 people. Harker was able to rent a storefront for a fraction of the cost in Water Valley. Harker and Dixie, her spouse, now live in the town. Harker credits Violet Valley’s success to its surrounding community, despite the national attention given to the story of the bookstore’s birth by NBC News and Autostraddle. Harker spoke highly of Water Valley’s LGBTQ residents and the surrounding communities, saying that there has been an incredible outpouring of support. However, the buzz surrounding its opening wasn’t always positive. Before the opening, protestors from various churches were out in force decrying the sale of alcohol at the local beer and the bookstore’s connections to the LGBTQ community. As the shock subsided, however, protestors’ numbers began to decline. Oxford resident Hal Sullivan describes the vehement opposition to the bookstore as a spectacle. He said that “these people were making up things about what the bookstore would bring to the community.” “As a local, the community was for the most part gung-ho, supportive of the bookstores endeavors.” Harker made the situation a learning opportunity by forming alliances and coalitions with members of the community. The bookstore was a refuge for oppressed people. In the midst of a tumultuous debate about the Mississippi Legislature’s passing of the Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act (also known as House Bill 1523), the bookstore was opened. This law, also known as House Bill 1523 or House Bill 1523, prevents government intervention in churches and businesses that have sincerely held moral convictions or religious beliefs refusing to serve same-sex couples. Governor Phil Bryant signed the law. Phil Bryant signed the law in 2016. It remains in force after appeals to U.S. Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and the U.S. Supreme Court. Harker stated, “I believe, with the passage HB 1523 that it was essential to open a queer feminist bookshop became necessary.” “HB 1523 has made many LGBTQ people in the state feel that they are open to attack,” Harker said. They don’t know what they might be denied or excluded from service. This is especially true for LGBTQ youth who live in areas where they are not exposed to an out person. Harker believes that it is time for Southerners to stand up for their beliefs. Violet Valley proved that Harker’s belief in the power of people to stand up for you has been a constant. Harker buys queer and feminist books to keep the inventory fresh. Violet Valley started out selling only donated titles. Harker stated that book and monetary donations are coming from all parts of the United States, from Mississippi ex-pats to those who want to see the bookstore succeed. Sales cover most of the store’s expenses. The store stocks a wide range of books, including fiction, nonfiction, and children’s. A lot of Violet Valley’s inventory has been donated. Harker’s ultimate goal is to make a strong stand for moral equality through the books she sells and the environment that she creates. Harker stated, “If this bookstore makes one person feel at ease with their identity, then I have done my job.” For some, they only hear about queer people when they are being decried over the pulpit. It matters to me if you help people envision a better future. It is essential to have an inclusive space.” University of Mississippi Southern Studies English graduate students Hooper Schultz and Frankie Barrett are united in their belief that Violet Valley gives LGBTQ Southerners hope. Schultz stated that his North Carolinian friends were concerned when he decided to move to Mississippi for graduate school. However, he assured them that there would be resources for queer visibility at the university level. He said, “Violet Valley creates visibility outside of the university.” “The visibility is community driven rather than university-driven.” Barrett stated that the bookstore doesn’t match her vision of rural Mississippi but it’s on her bucket list. Heying hopes Violet Valley can give outsiders a new perspective on Mississippi so that they have more reasons to visit. The students think the bookstore is an excellent resource for the state and community beyond their personal reasons._x000D