I learned to read when I was three or four. I was the tiny, six year old hauling a briefcase full of books from the children's room at the downtown St. Paul Public Library to my dad's office in the courthouse. Then I was the 12 year old sneaking into the Skinner Room (the young-adult room) and the 14 year old rummaging through the stacks in the main circulation room.

The librarians never seemed to mind that I was "reading up" and they encouraged me to read whatever I wanted. My parents supported my passions and soon my room was filled with books.

Books opened new worlds to me when I didn't want to leave my room. As I moved from Nancy Drew to Trixie Belden to "A Wrinkle in Time" to "The Three Musketeers," I learned about bravery, taking a stand and reaching goals no matter what the obstacles. I was inspired and intrigued by the new worlds I read about (whether present day, historical or imaginary). Seeing love triumph over evil and pain helped me move forward when my life evolved in new directions. And it seemed my life was always evolving and changing. Harry Potter was a prime example of how love could surmount all obstacles and I read those wonderful novels voraciously in my 40s.

I dreamed of becoming a writer and creating stories that would help others feel less alone and less "different." Writing came easily but I realized I'd never make a living at it. So I moved into publishing, first as an editor and eventually (since 1998) as editorial director for Llewellyn Publishing in Woodbury. Helping others bring their words into print and putting books into the hands of readers worldwide gave me a way to make a career out of my love for books and words.

When I came out as a lesbian in my 50s, after 25 years of marriage, I turned to books. I realized I wasn't alone in my confusion and need to find a new identity. One of the first places I found with a wealth of LGBTQ-related materials was Quatrefoil Library in Minneapolis. There I found myself surrounded by books that educated, entertained and provided answers. My perusal of their shelves quickly turned into volunteering for the library and now I serve as vice president on their board. I'm still putting books into peoples' hands and I'm still intrigued by the worlds those books create.

I'll always be surrounded by words and books, even if many are now in e-book form. And I think I'll always turn to books first when life confuses or changes.

Nanette Stearns lives with her partner, their two cats and dog in the Cathedral Hill area of St. Paul.

Nanette Stearns recommends these books by Minnesota authors with LGBTQ themes or characters.
Summit Avenue by Mary Sharatt
The Jane Lawless Mysteries by Ellen Hart
Out of Harmony by Patti Frazee
Beautiful Music for Ugly Children and The Sky Always Hears Me:
And The Hills Don't Mind by Kirstin Cronn-Mills
Being Emily by Rachel Gold

What's On Your Bookshelf?

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