Manitoba

See yourself on the shelf: New library would fill void for under-represented communities

Renu Shonek has a vision for a new Winnipeg library, where people who are two-spirit, queer, trans, black, Indigenous or people of colour can go to read, study and see themselves represented.

Eadha Bread sourdough pizza party Saturday will raise money for 2sQTBIPOC Library

Renu Shonek has a vision for a new Winnipeg library, where people who are two-spirit, queer, trans, black, Indigenous or people of colour can go to read, study and see themselves represented in what's on the shelves.

Shonek, who is spearheading efforts for the 2sQTBIPOC Library, is gathering donations of money as well as any and all literature — from textbooks to children's book — by authors in those communities.

"The idea is to create the ability for people to see themselves represented in society," said Shonek on Friday. "And that ... other people are not going through the same struggles, but experiencing similar things as them."

Shonek, who is a first-generation Canadian and uses they/them pronouns, said their own experience as a queer youth of colour involved a lot of trying to fit in.

Often, stories like theirs aren't reflected in readily-available literature, they said. Growing up as a queer person of colour in Winnipeg, Shonek said a library like this would have made a huge difference for them.

"I know that I would have benefited a lot as a teenager to see that there was other queer brown people out there," they said.

They encountered more options in the academic world when they went to university — but when they left, their access was cut off. That's when the idea put down roots in their head, although they didn't start working on it until this year.

"Often you don't see a lot of queer representation. And even if you see the queer representation, the people of colour, the voices are not as prominent in that literature," they said.

"We want to be able to have people see themselves in the books."

Renu Shonek holds a pizza at Eadha Bread on Saturday, where they are holding a fundraiser for the 2sQTBIPOC Library. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

Pizza party to support library

Shonek hopes to open the library in late spring or early summer of 2019, at the Revolution Wellness Centre at 433 Graham Ave. They said it was important to them to open it in a non-academic space, since many people face barriers to entering that world.

Since suggesting the idea, Shonek said they've had an outpouring of support from other groups in the community, including Queer People of Colour — which Shonek is a member of — and bakery Eadha Bread.

On Saturday, Eadha will host a sourdough pizza fundraiser for the library at its storefront at 577 Ellice Avenue.

"It's amazing," Shonek said of the support. "It's kind of like a hug from the community, you know?"

If you want to support the library but can't make it to the pizza party, you can contact organizers at QTBIPOClibrary204@gmail.com.

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