Metro Weekly

RuPaul’s Allstora Apologizes for Selling Anti-LGBTQ Books

After intense backlash, Allstora CEO Eric Cervini apologizes for offering anti-LGBTQ books and authors on the online bookstore.

Allstora’s founders RuPaul (left) – Photo: Instagram; and Dr. Eric Cervini – Photo: Facebook.

The CEO of Allstora, a new online bookstore co-founded by international drag star RuPaul, apologized for carrying books authored by several anti-LGBTQ extremists, including the founder of the Libs of TikTok account.

RuPaul announced the formation of Allstora in a March 4 TikTok video. He touted the platform as a place where readers could access books that might be at risk from censorship bans, offering up to 10 million different titles for sale.

However, the platform quickly came under criticism from the LGBTQ community for including titles that espoused right-wing and anti-LGBTQ messages. 

Among the controversial books found on Allstora were Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, Matt Walsh’s anti-transgender What Is a Woman?, anti-trans extremist Abigail Shrier’s Bad Therapy, which criticizes the mental health establishment, and a children’s book by Chaya Raichik, founder of Libs of TikTok.

Other works by anti-LGBTQ extremists like Riley Gaines, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Robby Starbuck, and Kirk Cameron were also found on the site, according to the culture website Vulture.

Critics said the inclusion of books with anti-LGBTQ views were contrary to the site’s claims of providing a “welcoming” and “inclusive” space for LGBTQ people. Others decried it as an example of “rainbow capitalism,” in which corporate entities profit from the sale of products while claiming to support LGBTQ rights.

Allstora initially argued that it would not remove or censor the objectionable books, and a pop-up note on the site told visitors they might find books with which they disagree.

“We cannot fight the ideologies of hate if we lack the ability to study, understand, and react to them. We do that by reading books,” the pop-up read.

The site did propose a system in which books by anti-LGBTQ figures or containing anti-LGBTQ messages would be flagged as being in opposition to Allstora’s “core values,” and would be accompanied by a disclaimer.

Under that system, all proceeds from the flagged titles would be donated to RuPaul’s Rainbow Book Bus, an LGBTQ bookmobile that travels the country, providing access to books that might be banned.

Allstora later reversed its position, promising to remove the contentious books — a move that immediately drew criticism from anti-LGBTQ extremists, which accused Allstora of hypocrisy.

The backlash from within the community was apparently so intense that Allstora CEO Eric Cervini, a self-described queer historian and the owner of an LGBTQ bookshop, issued an apology that remains on the site.

Noting that he had initially started his bookshop to create a model where authors would be paid more fairly for their work and to push back against bans on queer literature.

“[We] designed a giant, queer-owned marketplace for all knowledge and all stories. We envisioned a bookstore that split its profits with all authors: not just queer and trans storytellers, but also Black, Brown, disabled, neurodiverse, everyone… We called it Allstora, a store for all stories,” Cervini wrote.

“We decided to respond to the book bans with radical inclusivity. If the forces of hate went low, we would go high, refusing to stoop to the level of banning books — any book — from our catalog.

“As a historian, I understood that even the most hateful of books can have educational value. I knew that to dismantle prejudice, we must examine its illogic. We must study history so as not to repeat it, and we must understand hatred if we are to destroy it. So I directed my team to add all ten million books available for sale in the English language, no matter their contents, to our library.

“But therein lay my mistake,” Cervini continued. “I wasn’t, in fact, building a library: free, accessible to all, and funded by a government or university, where the principle of free speech is paramount. Rather, I was building a platform to champion underserved authors and create community around their stories.”

“I’ve spent the past week listening to…customers, RuPaul fans, marginalized authors, and readers who feel betrayed by the inclusion of hate-filled books in our catalog. And through these conversations, I’ve re-learned the difference between a library and a bookstore.

“While a library should fulfill its civic duty of making all perspectives, however abhorrent, available to all, the environment I envisioned for Allstora was one that made its guests feel safe. In building that space, I failed.”

Cervini claimed to be “devastated” to have created a public relations crisis for RuPaul, saying he took “full responsibility” for including the objectionable books and apologizing for the pain he may have caused some LGBTQ individuals offended by the content offered on Allstora.

“In expanding our catalog, we lost what made so special: curation and community. Going forward, we are committed to re-centering these tenets,” he wrote. “While other online bookstores will continue selling hate-filled books, Allstora will not.”

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