So. Dispiriting week. My bright spot? Booksellers.
This chalkboard from The Bookloft went viral earlier in the week and got me thinking about how bookstores are responding to the election.
Here are reactions from three stores I work with.
Peace – Kate
Carmichael’s Bookstore – Louisville, KY
“Carmichael’s opened in 1978, so this makes this—let’s see—the eleventh Presidential campaign season we’ve witnessed, so our view tends to be a long one. It has been the most coarse and divisive of our lifetime, and even though we know campaigns in the 19th century were much worse—because we’ve read about them—the Republic sails on. The election is already in our rearview mirror as we get back to trying to do our important work—choosing books for the store, reading them, recommending them to our customers, and giving them the customer service and attention they merit.
“Books are, inherently, objects of hope and optimism. Whether we read to escape, or inform, or learn from, reading is an activity that somehow organically brings a little more civility, empathy, curiosity, and humanity into people who immerse themselves in the world of books. They foster connection with the Other, however it is defined for you, building on the lessons of the past and reaching towards a future of possibilities. Fran Lebowitz said, “Think before you speak. Read before you think,” which should probably be part of Carmichael’s Mission Statement, if we had one.
“Finally, there is the vital issue of children. We don’t need studies to tell us that children who read a lot are more successful, have more curiosity about the world, have less anxiety about the future, and are more open to change. Which is why we opened Carmichael’s Kids, a store beside our Bardstown Road store devoted exclusively to children and children’s literature. Children’s books are the rough clay from which we mold a generation that will be kinder, more humane, more engaged with the plight of others, and far more successful in life. When Old Age truly comes upon us, we can only hope that the generation we place our lives into is one that grew up with books.”
–– Michael Boggs
Literati Bookstore – Ann Arbor, MI
“If you’re feeling like me, you may be feeling anger, hurt, sadness, loss, fear, confusion, anxiety, or all of the above. Or, maybe you’re happy, elated, feeling good. I don’t know. Today, though, I just don’t have many words to say. I had been intending to get this newsletter out earlier, but couldn’t.
“In the days ahead, I will turn to books. Reading, for me, has always been a way (to quote Harper Lee) to jump inside another person’s skin. To leap inside their narratives and experience their thoughts and feelings and beliefs. Which I think, right now, for me at least, is a great endeavor to do.
“In the meantime, we will be here, at 124 E. Washington. We will keep putting out the books we believe in, books that push ideas, experiences, boundaries, thoughts — books that open up new worlds. We will be a welcoming space, a community space to gather. I encourage you to come and talk to us about anything. We’re here.
“And I’ll also turn towards the words of others: I’m going to re-read Between The World and Me. I’m going to browse our social studies, race, gender studies sections. I’ll re-read The New Jim Crow. Hillbilly Elegy. Women, Race & Class. Strangers in their Own Land. I might throw in there a good mystery, too. And so much more. Because there’s so much more.
And read, read, read, read.”
Parnassus Books – Nashville, TN
“When I dream of some tiny step to counteract the current madness, I think about how nice it would be to make a safe place for myself, my family, my friends, and total strangers, a place that is quiet and cheerful, a place that welcomes everyone exactly as they are, while at the same time encouraging them to be better, smarter, and more curious. A place that celebrates different points of view (and yes, in different I include the free and respectful exchange of political points of view that are not my own). I would like to build a place where people would feel cherished for their life experiences, where people could learn from history and be comforted by art. A place where babies are welcome, children can play, and teenagers feel respected. A place where people who are pulled in a hundred different directions can find a moment’s peace, and old people would be offered a comfortable chair to sit while they read a book.
“You see what I’m getting at here.
“After days of wondering if I should sign up for Teach for America or join Green Peace or, heaven forbid, run for some small local office, I thought the thing I would actually most like to give people at this moment is a bookstore. Here at Parnassus — and at bookstores all across the country — we are offering shelter from the storm. Not only do we promise a culture of intellectual freedom and intellectual expansion, we promise dogs who love without judgement.
“Love without judgement, people. Try topping that.”
— Ann Patchett