Renowned queer Black author Leah Johnson, known for her acclaimed YA novel “You Should See Me in a Crown,” has ventured into a new realm of activism by opening Loudmouth Books, an independent bookstore in Indianapolis dedicated to banned books and marginalized authors. This bold move comes in response to the ongoing rise in book bans, particularly those targeting LGBTQ+ literature.
Johnson, whose own work has faced bans and censorship, described Loudmouth Books as a testament to her determination and resistance against such suppression. She explained, “Loudmouth is a declaration—no matter how hard they try to silence us, no matter how hard they try to push us further into the margins, we will always be here. And we’re only getting louder and prouder.”
The alarming trend of book bans is not confined to schools; it has also reached the state level. Indiana recently passed legislation allowing the punishment of educators for sharing “harmful reading materials,” a broadly defined term that includes LGBTQ+ content. Johnson voiced her concerns, stating, “This bookstore, this space, felt so urgent that I knew if ever there was a time to open it, it would be now.”
To fund the bookstore’s launch and support its Clear the Shelves initiative, Johnson launched a GoFundMe campaign, which has already exceeded its $10,000 goal thanks to the generosity of over 300 donors. This initiative allows young people in Indianapolis to access diverse titles for free.
While emphasizing the value of in-person visits to independent bookstores for personal recommendations, Johnson humorously remarked, “All of the money you spend at an indie goes back into your community and not towards sending billionaires to space.”
Despite her new role as a bookstore owner, Johnson’s writing career remains vibrant. She recently debuted her first middle school novel, “Elliot Engle Saves Herself,” which centers around a Black, queer 12-year-old girl who adores comic books. Additionally, Johnson is collaborating with non-binary author and advocate George M. Johnson on a YA rom-com, promising readers a charming narrative featuring a queer BIPOC cast.
As book bans continue to escalate as a means of control, Leah Johnson is resolute in her commitment to providing knowledge and support for young readers and adults alike, urging politicians to prioritize life-affirming stories over political agendas.