RuPaul’s New Bookstore: Allstora Controversy, Explained

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Photo: Guy Levy/CBS via Getty Images

Last week, RuPaul posted a video standing in a blue suit in front of an American flag, encouraging his followers to visit and stay tuned for an announcement. But despite the theories that he was about to run for president, he had a different type of campaign in mind. On March 4, RuPaul announced that he has co-founded a new online bookstore called Allstora, a “revolutionary, all-inclusive world of book lovers.” But it hasn’t taken long for potential readers to realize that there’s some pretty polarizing content among the 10 million titles that Allstora claims to offer. Below, here’s everything you need to know about the controversy, including why RuPaul’s latest reading challenge bookstore says it is against removing any books from its platform.

Co-founded by author Eric Cervini, drag performer and actor Adam Powell, and RuPaul, it’s supposed to be something new and different. Allstora says it will pay authors equitably, splitting profits in a way that doubles income on the sale of each book, “as opposed to another retailer whose name rhymes with ‘Glamazon.’” Part of its stated mission is also to uplift voices “of underrepresented groups, including LGBTQ+ people, women, and communities of color.” On the site’s home page, you’re able to get book recommendations by picking categories like “Trans,” “Black,” and more.

Paid Allstora members get discounts on book purchases. RuPaul’s Book Club offers separate paid memberships for those who are interested in receiving his curated monthly reads (obviously, starting with his upcoming memoir). Finally, Allstora has a philanthropic arm called the Rainbow Book Bus, which plans to drive across the country distributing diverse titles to communities facing book bans.

According to Allstora’s website, it offers 10 million titles. As it turns out, that includes controversial books with right-wing and anti-LGBTQ+ messages. As of publication time, for example, you can purchase copies of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf , Matt Walsh’s What Is a Woman?, and a children’s book by Chaya Raichik (a.k.a. Libs of TikTok) on Allstora. Riley Gaines, Robby Starbuck, and Kirk Cameron are among other authors known for anti-LGBTQ+ stances whose work is available on the site.

Critics feel that this means Allstora is not actually committed to inclusivity. For example, Lady Bunny took to Instagram to describe the new venture an example of “rainbow capitalism, while a TikToker who runs a lesbian bookstore criticized Allstora as “a dropshipping operation with a kind of veneer of progressivity over it.” ”

No. A pop-up note on the site’s homepage alerts visitors that “you may find books you disagree with.” The note, attributed to Allstora’s team, states that the store doesn’t agree with every book it carries, but argues, “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.”

A section about “offensive books” on the site’s FAQ page further adds that “Allstora has made the decision to carry all books,” emulating the model of “university libraries and online book marketplaces across the world.” In Allstora’s view, “censorship of any book, perspective, or story is incompatible with the survival of democracy,” and “banning books is never the answer.”

Allstora has outlined two ways that it is “determined to mitigate the potential harm of specific books.” First, a community-led system will be used to flag titles that are “contrary to” Allstora’s “core values.” (Several controversial books on the site now are accompanied by this disclaimer.) Second, all proceeds from these flagged titles will be donated to the Rainbow Book Bus to “fight book bans of diverse literature.”

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