Binc, Bookselling and Belonging

Binc FoundationYep, another Binc post. You get these often enough from me. The Book Industry Charitable Foundation gives grants to booksellers in need. I’m a fan for many reasons, one of which is that the aid helps people choose bookselling as a profession. In my career I’ve seen way too many talented booksellers leave the business when a financial crisis hits. We need those people.

To that same end, Binc also underwrites a robust scholarship program that helps booksellers continue their education and participate in professional development programs. This past year, the Binc Board of Directors determined that cultivating diversity needed to be part of the organization’s mission if we are to help build a vibrant, relevant community of bookselling professionals.

Why this approach matters was brought home to me recently when I read a letter from Denise Chavez, owner of Casa Camino Real which as Denise says is a bookstore “on the border of New Mexico, Texas and Northern México [and] serves the corridor between worlds, focusing on Southwestern, Regional, Native American, Latino, as well as Multi-Cultural books in many languages.”

In her letter, Denise calls bookselling a don and a manda–a gift and a responsibility:

…my responsibility and charge, to encourage the diversity and richness of multicultural books, most especially in this time of challenge for us in the U.S. We are surrounded by those who fear books and what they teach us—the loving expansion that allows us to feel one with those from different backgrounds, cultures, ethnicities and life paths.”

She thanked Binc for the opportunity to join Winter Institute and learn with other booksellers. I read the anecdote below from her letter and saw immediately how much her participation must have enriched Winter Institute for others, too:

It was an honor to be selected—not only as someone who lives in remote part of the Southwest, but also—as a Mexican-American/Chicana who works hard to connect with the multicultural and Spanish language speaking community at Casa Camino Real, where a bilingual children’s book is the norm. Our readers are hungry to hear their voices and to see images of their lives reflected in books. I remember taking author Malin Alegría, author of Estrella’s Quinceañera, to a nearby valley elementary school in Vado, New Mexico, and hearing a young student say to her, ‘Miss, you’re my color!’ No one had ever taken a Latino/Latina writer to their school and to see Malin there was a miracle to the young girl.”

She concludes the letter by saying, “As a bookseller, one daily witnesses miracles….each book is a miracle of faith and commitment.” 

It’s easy to forget that sometimes. Bookselling is important work. We can all support it.

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