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Bookstore co-founded by RuPaul apologizes for selling anti-LGBTQ+ titles

Jan 15, 2024; Los Angeles, CA, USA; RuPaul at the 75th Emmy Awards at the Peacock Theater in Los Angeles on Monday, Jan. 15, 2024. Mandatory Credit: Kevork Djansezian-USA TODAY
RuPaul at the 75th Emmy Awards in January 2024 Photo: Kevork Djansezian-USA TODAY via IMAGN

The CEO of Allstora, a new online bookstore co-founded by drag legend RuPaul, has apologized for carrying books by anti-LGBTQ+ extremists and promised to remove such titles from its catalog.

“I’m devastated that I’ve caused Ru’s name to be even loosely associated with hate, and I take full responsibility for the decision to include these books,” Allstora CEO and queer author Eric Cervini wrote in a March 9 apology. “Once again, I am deeply sorry for making anyone feel unsafe on our platform… With hard work, I hope we can rebuild your trust.”

Cervini and RuPaul, Allstora’s chief creative officer designed the company as a “giant, queer-owned marketplace for all knowledge and all stories” that would pay authors double what they earn on other book-selling platforms.

The company initially decided to respond to anti-LGBTQ+ book bans “with radical inclusivity,” Cervini wrote, adding, “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.”

However, Allstora quickly came under criticism from web commenters who noted that it sold books written by anti-LGBTQ+ extremists, including Mein Kampf by Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, Irreversible Damage by transphobic author Abigail Shrier, What Is a Woman? by right-wing broadcaster Matt Walsh, and No More Secrets, a children’s book written by anti-LGBTQ+ hate monger Chaya Raichik, who goes by Libs of TikTok on social media.

“Allstora isn’t increasing access to gay books. It’s a rainbow capitalism drop shipping operation,” TikTok user bookendsinflorence noted in a video criticizing Allstora. “Rainbow capitalism” is a disparaging term for businesses that appropriate and profit from the LGBTQ+ movement.


#stitch with @RuPaul #greenscreen i love rainbow capitalism! I love “founding a bookstore” (dropshipping operation)! I love profiting from banned books being in the news! Yasss mama ru!!!!! Get that coin honey!!!!! #rupaulsdragrace #werktherunway #yaaaas

♬ original sound – Bookends in Florence

Allstora initially refused to remove the books, writing instead, “You may find books you disagree with…. 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…. Censorship of any book, perspective, or story is incompatible with the survival of democracy… banning books is never the answer.”

The company said it would continue to sell the books, allow website users to flag the books as “contrary to” Allstora’s “core values,” and donate the book’s proceeds to the company’s Rainbow Book Bus, a bus that delivers banned books to conservative communities.

While RuPaul hasn’t publicly commented on the criticisms, Cervini issued an apology and explained that the bigoted titles will no longer be available on the site. The site will also allow users to help flag any objectionable content.

“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,” Cervini wrote. “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.”

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