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LGBTQ book club meets in Hagerstown

February 11, 2008|By HEATHER KEELS

HAGERSTOWN -- Beneath a rainbow of wind chimes, spinners and hanging stained-glass art, a diverse group gathers monthly for discussion, laughter and a sense of belonging that, years ago, few expected to find in Hagerstown.

It has been almost two years since Karla Auch opened Rainbow Connection, a gift store geared toward lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender customers, and the shop has quickly gained a central place in the area's gay community, customers said.

"I don't think Karla realized how much of a focal point she was going to be here," said Tracy Anderson, a member of the Community Triangle LGBTQ Book Club, which marked its one-year anniversary Sunday.

As Washington County's population expands and grows more diverse, many gays moving to the area begin by contacting the store to ask for resources and advice, Anderson said.

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"There was a couple moving up from Baltimore who stopped in and said they were amazed and very proud to see that I've had a rainbow flag out," Auch said.

Lynn Deibert, 46, of Fairplay, remembers the first time she saw that flag. She was walking to eat in the square and wondered whether Rainbow Connection could really be geared toward the gay community.

"We were like, 'Noooo. It can't be. They just don't know what rainbows mean,'" she said.

But sure enough, when she returned for an open house, she found that the selection of art, trinkets and gift items for sale was as much about pride as it was about color and beauty.

Auch, who initially had trouble finding book suppliers willing to sell on a small scale, now has a large shelf of available titles and offers book club members a discount on the selected book each month.

Members choose books based on reviews, recommendations and word of mouth, selecting titles that range from fact-heavy historical fiction, such as this month's book, "Fellow Travelers" by Thomas Mallon, to light romance, such as next month's "Mistress of the Runes."

"It kind of makes you read things that you normally wouldn't," Auch said.

The group does not limit itself to books about LGBT issues, but many selections have gay characters, Anderson said.

The group is open to anyone interested and meets at 1 p.m. on the second Sunday of each month, she said. The store is at 14 1/2 E. Washington St.

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