If you're anything like RuPaul's Drag Race icon Alaska in EW's exclusive trailer for the new Netflix documentary Circus of Books, you might assume the film's title denotes an establishment filled with literature about clowns, elephants, and high-flying trapeze artists. As the clip quickly proves, however, the moniker actually refers to the "center of the gay universe," a West Hollywood shop selling — as Alaska sums it up in the clip above — "just, like, porn. P-O-R-N."
For director Rachel Mason, the shock of her parents Karen and Barry Mason — a straight, religious couple — owning a gay bookstore for 35 years serves as the basis for her debut feature, which follows the duo as they reflect on becoming a thriving beacon of vitality for the Los Angeles LGBTQIA+ community and their rise to prominence as the biggest distributors of hardcore gay porn in the country — all while hiding their professional lives from their three children (and the rest of the world).
"They're not offended. They're not scandalized. It's their job," Alaska — one of the documentary's interview subjects — says in the trailer, just before a scene that sees Karen gushing about one of their former clients: "This guy, here, H—jobs Magazine, now he does organic chicken farming," she explains. "So, when I order from him, we catch up on his chickens."
The clip then chronicles the Masons as they navigate wholesome family life and their religious duties.
"I never felt free to let anybody know what we did," Karen recalls. "It was like a knife over our heads, all the time."
While it led to increasing anxieties in their home life, operating their business gave the marginalized community around them a safe space to gather during turbulent times, including the dawn of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the ongoing homophobia that swept the nation as a result.
"I think what we did [were] small human kindnesses," Karen says as the preview ends. "In a very small way."
Executive-produced by American Horror Story's Ryan Murphy, Circus of Books debuts April 22 on Netflix. Watch EW's exclusive trailer above.