SA’s first gay & lesbian bookstore

13 March 2003

It’s probably the only bookshop in town that has on its shelves books such as “Holy Hell” and “What The Bible Really Says About Homosexuality”. It’s the only bookshop of its kind on the continent, the first specialist gay and lesbian bookstore in Africa.

The Ultra Violet Book Cafe opened in mid-November last year in Melville, Johannesburg, at 2nd avenue, corner Main Road.

The owner, Michelle Kniesel, says the main goal in opening a gay store is to create a safe space for gay people to interact and buy books in a comfortable environment where they are able to ask questions about gay literature without any reservations.

On the shelves there are fiction and non-fiction books, the kind of gay books that are rarely stocked by mainstream bookstores, says Kniesel. Gay romance books and non-fiction that discusses what it means to be gay are some of the books on display. Second-hand books are also on offer.

All the books are written by gay authors and have gay themes, except for a small esoteric section and books on stress and depression.

Kniesel says she wants to focus on developing the local section, which, at the moment, is predominantly Afrikaans. She hopes to find local gay books that are written in other South African languages, not just English and Afrikaans, but has not sourced any so far.

The store also sells local and international magazines, such as Womyn, Lesbians on the Loose and Gay Times, and a Pride paraphernalia section which offers T-shirts, flags, stickers, jewellery and key-rings.

The store might stock gay products, but with customers “I’m straight-friendly with everyone”, says Kniesel. Straight customers come to the store to buy gifts for friends or a member of the family who happens to be gay, she says.

As the name of the place suggests, you can also enjoy a cup of coffee at the store – from filter coffee to cappuccino and espressos. Kniesel says she is planning to include cakes in the store’s menu.

As for the future of the store, she says, “I envisage that it will become a central point for the gay community”.

Source: City of Johannesburg web site