WSU class, Chapter 2 Bookstore support LGBT Books to Prisoners

Sophia Sailer, Editor-in-Chief

Winona State University’s Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies (WGSS) program is collaborating with local downtown bookstore, Chapter 2 Books, to support the Madison, Wis. LGBT Books to Prisoners organization.

LGBT Books to Prisoners sends books and educational materials to LGBTQ+ individuals who are incarcerated. The organization is volunteer and donation based, aiming to “acknowledge, and work against the oppressive functions of the prison system.” They send donated materials not only throughout Wisconsin and the Midwest, but throughout the country, to LGBT prisoners.

Two Winona State students, Rae Peter and Ezra O’Driscoll, set up the layout promoting LGBT Books to Prisoners in one of Chapter 2’s front-of-store window displays.

Both Peter and O’Driscoll are currently enrolled in the queer theories class, alongside more than a dozen other students, that is primarily working with the LGBT Books to Prisoners project.

Mary Jo Klinker, professor and director of the WGSS program, helped students connect with Chapter 2 Books to set up the display and promote events.

Klinker explained the presentation currently at Chapter 2 Books is an extension from the current art exhibit in Watkins Hall, “On the Inside.” Winona State is the first university in the country to display the exhibit, made up of art created by incarcerated LGBTQ+ people in the U.S.

From outside of the bookstore, the window display shares facts on LGBT prisoners’ disproportionate treatment compared to other incarcerated individuals. The posters present statistics on homelessness, solitary confinement, mental health, education and more in connection with incarceration. Alongside the posters and flags, there are books related to LGBT studies and topics.

Daryl Lanz, owner of Chapter 2 Books, said the collaboration is the first time the store has been involved in this type of presentation.

“We have had authors do readings for their books coming out, but this is the first time we have done something on a wider community scale,” Lanz said.

Lanz also said he has seen the “On the Inside” exhibit’s program and thinks the art is “fantastic.”

Several events have already occurred between Winona State and the LGBT Books to Prisoners organization, including this past Wednesday’s Zoom event “On the Inside: Solidarity Through Mutual Aid” and two film screenings hosted by the queer theories class during February.

On Tuesday, March 1, prominent activist and organizer Monica Cos- by gave a keynote lecture via Zoom following the “On the Inside: Women’s History Exhibition Reception” event in Watkins Hall, which was promoted in Chapter 2’s display case as well.

Regan Holm, a volunteer for LGBT Books to Prisoners through Winona State, said her experience volunteering has been extremely rewarding in numerous ways.

“Visiting LGBT Books to Prisoners in Madison, Wisconsin and working in a collaborative setting was hands down one of the most rewarding experiences I have had through WSU,” Holm said. “Being given the opportunity to read letters and find out what folks would like to read while also being informed on the unnecessary censorship and oppression by the institutions in regard to the books we can select, caused me to place a heavy responsibility over my head to ensure I could get them what they needed– and more.”

To donate or volunteer for LGBT Books to Prisoners, more information can be found on