Lambda Rising

By Kaeleigh Farthing

322 W. 21st Street, Norfolk, Virginia.

Lambda Rising Queer Walking Tour

Lambda Rising Bookstore, one of the first LGBT bookstores, opened its Norfolk location in early May of 19961. There were four stores in total, the original in Washington D.C., another in Baltimore, as well as another being in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware and its final store right here in Norfolk. It was part of the Lambda Rising bookstore brand, which was originally opened by Deacon Maccubbin and his partner, Jim Bennett in June of 19742. The store was one of the first to supply typical literature as well as erotica, all of which were geared towards the gay and lesbian community. When the doors of both the original location and the Norfolk location opened, Maccubbin stated that the stores mission was to help preserve Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer literature as it “is fudnemental to the preservation of the our {the LGBT} culture,” as well as the affirmation of the stories and lives of the LGBT community3. Maccubbin, who is also a Norfolk native, has stated that every one of the Lambda stores were opened never with the intention of making money.

Lambda Rising was massively important to the Queer history of Norfolk, as it not only supplied a safe space for members of the LGBT community but it also supported the arts and literature of the Tidewater area4.  Erik Swallow, who was once the manager of the Norfolk location, claimed it “was our (Lambda’s employee’s) job to be gay.” Lambda according to Swallow was a central hub for gay news in Norfolk. Lambda Rising also held events and book signing of both gay and lesbian authors in the local area as well as across the nation. Lambda Rising was also a main forerunner in championing gay literature by hosting a literary event called the Lambda Literary Awards, also known affectionately as the “Lammies,” in 19895. This was an event in which honored a wonderful array of LGBT writers such as Paul Monette, Dorothy Allison as well as Edmund White6.

When Deacon Macubbin and his partner of almost 40 years, Jim Bennett decided to retire, they chose instead of passing the bookstores on to another owner to close the stores for good. The reason behind the stores closing, Macubbin claims, was to prevent the bookstore from falling into other hands and the new owner changing the original message of the store7. Another main reason as to why the Norfolk store closed in 2007, was due majorly in part to the massive drop in sales, being around 25 percent in total, in under a year8. Maccubbin also claimed that even though the store had loyal customers as well as the other stores having a solid sales revenue, mysteriously the Norfolk store began to decline in revenue9. It has come to the speculation that another factor in which the store in Norfolk was forced to close was the introduction and take off of internet shopping during the late two thousands.

The reason that the Lambda Rising Bookstore and Deacon Maccubbin are so detrimental to the Queer history of Norfolk, is not the fact that Maccubbin is now famous for his work in founding one of the greatest literary awards in the LGBT community, but it is because of the support and help to the Queer community of Norfolk that Lambda Rising and Maccubbin have given. Though Lambda Rising may physically be gone from Norfolk, it will always live on in the memories and hearts of the Norfolk community.

 

1 Our Own Newspaper. 1996. “Lambda Rising Grand Opening Flyer.” August: 11.

2 Chibbaro Jr, Lou. 2009. “End of an era, as Lambda Rising to close.” Washington Blade: America’s LGBT News        Source, December 11.

3 n.d. Lambda Literary . Accessed October 4, 2017. https://www.lambdaliterary.org/awards/.

4 Doud, Rosemary. 1996. “Lambda Rising is coming to Norfolk, opening in Fein[berg] style!” Our Own Panache, May: 2.

5 Barker, Melanie. 2015. “27th Annual Lambda Literary Award Finalist Announced.” Curve: The Best Selling Lesbian        Magazine. March 22. Accessed October 28, 2017. http://www.curvemag.com/Culture/27th-Annual-     Lambda-Literary-Award-Finalists-Announced-398/.

6 n.d. Lambda Literary . Accessed October 4, 2017. https://www.lambdaliterary.org/awards/.

7 Chibbaro Jr, Lou. 2009. “End of an era, as Lambda Rising to close.” Washington Blade: America’s LGBT News        Source, December 11.

8 Sheets, Connor Adams. 2007. “Gay bookstore Lambda Rising will close in Norfolk.” The Virginia Piolt, 19 June.

9 Sheets, Connor Adams. 2007. “Gay bookstore Lambda Rising will close in Norfolk.” The Virginia Piolt, 19 June.

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