By M. Diane McCormick 

The Library’s Reading the Rainbow Book Club started during the pandemic, and today, what began as a traditional book club has branched out to include a podcast and a first-time LGBTQ+ Makers Fair.  

On the second Saturday of every month, readers gather to discuss literature featuring LGBTQ+ characters or authors. Reading the Rainbow covers everything from science fiction and contemporary to romance and young adult. 

“Our main criteria is that it centers on the LGBTQ+ experience,” said Jamie Hansell, manager of the William H. and Marion C. Alexander Family Library in Hummelstown. “It has to have a positive portrayal so that people can see themselves reflected in books and realize that even though there are pockets of society where they might not be accepted, they can still have a beautiful, fulfilling life.”  

LGBTQ+ fiction is surging in popularity, but LGBTQ+ people can still encounter prejudice and barriers, Hansell said. 

“Unfortunately, we’re still facing those same issues, but that’s also why I feel like we need to have the book club,” she said. “I’m hoping at some point that our stories are so integrated with the book club scene that it’s not a rarity for an LGBTQ+ book to be featured.” 

The club outgrew its original meeting place – Elementary Coffee Co. in downtown Harrisburg – and is now moving to McCormick Riverfront Library, in a meeting room of the adjacent and recently restored Haldeman Haly House. Although the setting has changed, good java remains on tap from Wildflower Coffee, McCormick Riverfront Library’s in-house coffee shop.  

Reading the Rainbow Book Club member Natalie diSanto, of Susquehanna Township, has always read high fantasy, where heroes pursue epic quests. Joining Reading the Rainbow in early 2023 opened her eyes to a broader range of genres, from “mystery noir to cheesy romances.” 

“I read a biography,” diSanto said. “I never thought I’d read a biography. It’s cool to be prompted to try different perspectives. Even though they’re not in the genres of books I would choose on my own; I get to discuss them with other people whose opinions I value.”  

The club’s June pick is “Scorched Grace,” by Margaret Douaihy, about “a queer, tattooed nun who solves mysteries in New Orleans,” Hansell said. The Library always acquires sufficient copies of the selected reading for members to borrow.  

“You can contribute if you want to, or you can just listen,” diSanto said. “There is no charge, and you can borrow the books for free, which allows people of varying income levels to attend. All ages, abilities, backgrounds, and intellectual levels are welcome.” 


Reading the Rainbow podcast returns 

The Reading the Rainbow podcast emerged in 2023 as a book club spinoff designed to spotlight LGBTQ+ characters living the human experience.  

This summer, a new round of podcast recording begins, and The Library also hopes to remaster the original podcasts to improve the sound quality. 

As in the first round, hosts are staff from The Library who self-identify as LGBTQ+. They vote on titles that can spark good discussions.  

Picks included T. Kingfisher’s “What Moves the Dead,” a retelling of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher,” and the popular YA book “Cemetery Boys” by Aiden Thomas. Author visits included one from Michael Ausiello, whose memoir “Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies” was made into a 2022 movie starring Jim Parsons. 

Some new podcasts will continue to feature invited authors, giving listeners a firsthand look into the writers’ process and the author’s perspectives on their work. The Library hopes to interview novelists from Midnight Meadow Publishing, an indie publisher of LGBTQIA+ sci-fi, fantasy, and romance. 

“Our author interviews add an additional layer of community connection for our listeners,” Hansell said. “Rather than hearing about their work solely from our hosts, the audience can hear the author’s voice directly as they talk about the experiences that led to the creation of the book.” 

  • Reading the Rainbow Book Club: 11 a.m. June 8, July 13, and Aug. 10, at its new location, McCormick Riverfront Library. For adults, ages 18+. Registration is recommended and separate for each date. Register at 
  • Reading the Rainbow podcast: Available on most streaming platforms. 


LGBTQ+ Makers Fair 

In July, The Library will host its first LGBTQ+ Makers Fair for artists to show their paintings, jewelry, textiles, and other creations. For the creators, it’s a chance to establish or strengthen a presence in the local art scene and find new audiences. 

While Pride Month is celebrated nationally in June, The Library’s LGBTQ+ Makers Fair is scheduled for July 20 to coincide with Harrisburg’s Pride Month. 

“That’s why we like to continue LGBTQ+ programming into July,” Lowe said. “Let’s keep the pride going.” 

The LGBTQ+ Makers Fair was inspired by the success of February’s Black Makers Fair, when local artists sold their works amid The Library’s inclusive and welcoming atmosphere.  

“Our goal is to have a joyful day celebrating all the talented makers and artists in the LGBTQ+ community,” said Youth Services Coordinator Samantha Lowe. “There’s no charge to be part of it; the vendors can sell their crafts and art. We’ll provide the tables. They’ll just need to decorate them.” 

The LGBTQ+ Makers Fair continues The Library’s efforts to extend an inclusive hand to everyone. 

“There are a lot of really talented people in the LBGTQ+ community,” Lowe said. “This is a good way to bring all ages together just to show off all the amazing things that folks are making in an environment that’s a safe space to exist and be proud.”  

  • LGBTQ+ Makers Fair: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. July 20 at East Shore Area Library. For all ages. Attendees are not required to register, and the event is free. Artists can find participation information at