The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

DePaul students find a safe space in femme and queer book club

Ashley Peréz
Co-president Monique Rivera (left) creates Valentine’s Day cards with Bookmark members during their monthly Art Night on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024, in the Student Center.

When they met as freshmen, DePaul roommates Monique Rivera and Ani Palm bonded over their shared love of reading, writing and poetry. 

The two would often share book recommendations, shop at local bookstores, or catch up over a cup of coffee at a small cafe. 

Despite their close connection, however, they felt isolated and found it difficult to meet friends outside of their social bubble. 

Palm expressed her desire for a community to her mom. She suggested Palm and Rivera start their own book club in their apartment. 

Soon after, they created Bookmark, a group for readers that’s also a safe space for “girls, gays and theys” in the DePaul community. 

“We wanted to make Bookmark a femme and queer space,” Palm said.

The club now meets up to three times a month for book talks, movies and art events.

“Girls often can’t go places without feeling uncomfortable,” Rivera said. “They trust that they can only be safe in a feminine-led group.”

The co-presidents let their members vote on their favorite to be their book of the month on Slack.

Rivera and Palm select books that relate to their members’ interests, including classic literature and popular books recommended from BookTok, a community on TikTok where people recommend books. 

As a co-leader of a club that strives to be inclusive, Rivera said finding books can be a challenge. 

“We do our best to research authors who are queer and or people of color,” she said. “We found that many minority authors are not mainstream.”

Valentine’s Day cards made by Bookmark members sit on a table in the Student Center on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024.The cards were made during one of the club’s monthly art events. (Ashley Peréz)

Rivera and Palm also noticed that most “feminine leaning” books they’ve found are written by white women. 

“I have come to terms that women of color are always being pushed away from the spotlight,” Rivera said. “And I am doing my best to find books that can move us all towards the spotlight.”

The club has completed “Before the Coffee Gets Cold” by Toshikazu Kawaguchi, a Japanese author from Osaka, Japan and “Witch of Wild Things” by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland, a Mexican American novelist and poet from Florida. The club is currently reading “The Vanishing Half” by Brit Bennett, an African American novelist from California.

They hope that emphasizing these kinds of books will help maintain a safe, close-knit community. 

Although the co-presidents said they’ve been called “sexist” for not allowing straight men to attend, they have resisted pressure from outside voices and kept the “vibe” the same. 

Now a year into the book club’s creation, Rivera and Palm are delighted to see it flourish with over 200 members. Relocating from their small apartment to DePaul’s Student Center for larger meeting spaces was necessary for the growing club. 

Rivera and Palm knew their growing community needed extra hands so they started an e-board for long-standing club members who are willing to help with group activities, social outreach and expenses.

Estefany Arellano, a junior majoring in environmental studies at DePaul, is a Bookmark board member and is responsible for hosting study sessions at local Lincoln Park cafes.

Arellano was excited to join the club, which she said has become “a place where you are not solely your identity.”

“Outside of the club, I’m a queer Latina,” Arellano said. “But here, I am just me.”

Palm and Rivera take great pride in the community they have built at DePaul, with open arms and open books.

“It’s super sweet having everyone bring a little snack or drink to share — to sit around and talk about books,” Palm said. “It’s all incredibly wholesome and has really made our time at DePaul better.”

As both founders approach their last years at DePaul, they look forward to handing off the club to their elected board and hope students at DePaul will continue to find a place within the Bookmark community.

“As an introvert who loves literature and writing, it can be difficult to get out of your niche spaces,” Rivera said. “But if you need that extra push, our club is here for you.”

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