Online bookstore offers support for local queer community


Lilith (left) and Alex Tackett (right) have been running their bookstore together since May of 2022.

The pitter patter of a toddler’s tiny feet signal it is time for school. Once he is dropped off, it is time to organize book orders and catch up on homework. When their schedule allows, they can also squeeze in some time for their own personal writings.

WSU students Alex and Lilith Tackett balance parenting and owning an online bookstore, Sapphic Sweets and Reads, together. 

Lilith, undecided, is overwhelmed with her responsibilities, but not necessarily in a negative way. “I definitely didn’t expect to be a mom, let alone married and with a business, before I turned 30,” Lilith said.

Alex invests some of her time on campus in sociology studies.

I’m looking to continue on to WSU’s sociology graduate program and do research into American & Japanese queer communities, specifically overlap online with sapphic communities,” Alex said. “I’d also like to do general research around less-studied gender identities.”

The trans lesbian couple are living in Wichita together and have been running their small business since its opening in May 2022. The shop’s online bookshelves hold queer-focused works in efforts to support the creators and readers in their community. They work with smaller publishers and appreciate the authors that aren’t supported by mainstream bookstores. 

So many small authors go unnoticed or unappreciated by larger publishing houses for a variety of reasons, and we wanted to offer these authors a place to get printed,” Lilith said. “It’s also incredibly worth it to hear how happy it makes people to get a physical copy of their hard work in their hands after so long.

Their shop includes just under a hundred reading options, gift cards for their business and links to each of their personal works (Alex,Lilith). 

“Getting the first proof copy of our Emptied Spaces anthology was incredibly awesome to experience,” Lilith said. “Seeing my own work in a published, printed book was [also] great.”

Both discovered their love for writing separately while participating in roleplaying through forums and games. Since, they have enjoyed creating characters and describing worlds in their work as well as exploring the writing experience in general. Nyri short stories inspire Lilith in her writing and Alex turns to the Empty Spaces writing community to spark ideas.

“Lately, classes and life events have been disrupting my writing, so I’ve slowed down to about once a week or so,” Lilith said. “Writer’s block is consistently a problem, though I’ve found talking through things with friends and/or a ton of caffeine helpful for breaking it.”

Recently, the couple introduced new services offered in their shop such as editing and publishing. For the time being, they only offer these services to “the authors who’ve reached out to us (and) are only those close to us for the time being.” They also offer authors to reach out directly to them about featuring their work in their online shop and suggest using Twitter messaging for a faster response. 

Despite surviving their daily and weekly challenges of busy schedules and a list of responsibilities, the pair is pushing through and using the profits of their business to support their family and other creators. 

“Funding is probably the hardest part. I wish we could operate without it, but the business is our way of paying for bills and food,” Lilith said. “Otherwise, I’d probably point out the difficulty of advertising and just getting ourselves known. When people know about us, they buy books, but it’s the getting known part that’s hard.”

Sapphic Sweets and Reads uses the platforms Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr to advertise and introduce their business to potential customers and people in their shared communities. 

“Tumblr is extremely queer and has a really good community that we love seeing feedback from,” Alex said.

Lilith said, “Whenever we run ads on Tumblr, the communities we’re trying to appeal to really seem to appreciate us and it’s gotten a fair amount of traffic. It helps that our target audience has a lot of overlap with Tumblr’s remaining community, mainly fellow queer people.”

As long as people continue to buy books, the couple hopes to one day own a traditional brick-and-mortar bookstore in Wichita. This will allow a safe hangout space for the LGTBQ+ community of all ages and an opportunity to have more printed works. 

For the shop, I’d like to get a physical storefront so that we can supply the community in town a safe place to go to that isn’t a bar or club or any of the other variety of loud and adult-oriented venues,” Lilith said. “I like bars as much as the next girl but having quiet places is nice.”

The two are looking for locations to potentially open in Riverside or the Douglas Strip downtown, when the time and funding is right.  

 “I really want to see the queer community have a more established selection of businesses they can go to,” Alex said. “Queer friendly businesses are fantastic and I appreciate our allies helping out on that front, but there’s nothing quite like having a queer business, run by queer folks for queer folks.”

When on campus, the couple can turn to the sociology department and Spectrum for a comfort zone for the queer community, specifically WSU students or others on campus. 

“Spectrum is nice to chat with and while I’ve been too busy to go to their events, it’s nice having been able to chat in their Discord,” Lilith said. “As far as campus goes, if I had to point to one place I spend more time in that has “this is a queer space” vibes, it’s the sociology department.”

In Kansas’ largest city, there are few areas for the Queer communities to find safe havens. As Lilith previously mentioned, a large amount of available places are more adult focused (meaning 18 or 21 in age or older) and that reduces supportive spaces in Wichita more. 

The queer community in Wichita is bigger than I think any of us realize, and it’s disheartening to see my younger peers fear for their safety and acceptance in the city,” Lilith said. “Rightfully so, in many cases, but I want to help build somewhere they can feel safe and not have to be afraid to be visibly queer.”