Across Florida and the country, children’s books are being pulled from library shelves — “I am Jazz,” “And Tango Makes Three,” and “Everywhere Baby” just to name a few since they have LGBT themes.
While most of us label them as “banned books,” Pranoo Kumar, the owner of Rohi’s Readery in West Palm Beach, prefers to call them “liberatory books.”
“The term ‘banned books’ — it irks me because here are these beautiful books that are actually now being phrased as banned books, where in my mind these books were meant to serve as a sense of liberation for all children and humans in general,” she said.
Born in India, the LGBTQ business owner moved to Dallas as a child where her family experienced racism and oppression. She studied early childhood and elementary education, where it was her mission to discover “how to right the wrongs of the past.” Eventually, that came in the form of Rohi’s Readery, a bookstore she named for her grandmother, an education activist who fought for women’s and children’s rights during India’s colonial rule. The doors to the store opened Juneteenth weekend in 2021.
“You feel the ancestors and descendants of people who came before within the walls of the readery,” she said. “I always feel I’ve been given this gift and this opportunity to speak the unapologetic truth of what I believe in because of my family and those who come before me.”
Over the last year-and-a-half, the bookstore has morphed into a sort of community center, hosting events like Juneteenth, Pride and Diwali celebrations, drag story time, a colorful chemistry class with an LGBT civil engineer, sip and paint sessions for adults, as well as classes covering cooking, gardening, dance, writing, and self-esteem.
But most of all, Rohi’s Readery is a safe space where people can come together, learn, and support one another. Kumar vividly remembers bringing in her second child to the readery and a generous customer offering to hold the baby so she could get some work done.
“Rohi’s Readery is really bringing together so many different communities of people, whether it is the LGBT community, the neurodiverse community, the BIPOC community … there’s also this opportunity for our families to come in and see themselves and also feel celebrated and seen,” she said.
And as for banned books, they have a special home on the shelves of Rohi’s Readery, a place filled with children’s books that highlight marginalized communities.
“It’s so frustrating,” Kumar said. “There’s this opportunity for us to really cultivate conscious citizens of our babies, and when I think about our babies they are truly human in our purest form. They are curious, they are learners, they are empathetic, they really want to learn about the world around them.”
Books for Kids
Kumar picks some of her favorite books for young ones that cover LGBTQ+ issues
- “A is for Activist” by Innosanto Nagara
- “When Aidan Became a Brother” by Kyle Lukoff
- “The Big Book of Pride Flags” by Jessica Kingsley
- “Pride Puppy!” by Robin Stevenson
- “Bye Bye, Binary” by Eric Geron
- “The Hips on the Drag Queen Go Swish Swish Swish” by Lil Miss Hot Mess
- “Ritu Weds Chandni” by Ameya Narvankar
- “My Rainbow” by DeShanna Neal and Trinity Neal
- “Born Ready: The True Story of a Boy Named Penelope” by Jodie Patterson
- “Grandad's Camper” by Harry Woodgate