Bookstores have continued to seek ways of addressing political issues since the November election. Here is a roundup of a few events, new book clubs and more.
In what it called a "collective act of kindness and resistance," on Presidents Day, Changing Hands, Tempe and Phoenix, Ariz., donated profits from all sales in-store and online to IRC Phoenix, the local branch of the International Rescue Committee, which has requested emergency funding. The IRC said it needs help so it can "continue to provide refugees of all faiths and nationalities with critical resettlement assistance. Your gift will help us provide refugee families in the U.S. with housing, cultural orientation, healthcare, education, employment, and other services that help them rebuild their lives."
The sale exceeded "all our expectations," co-owner Gayle Shanks wrote. "Sales in our Phoenix store tripled last year's sales, and the Tempe store's sales doubled. The day reminded me how much our community wants to do something for others and how integrated our store is in that commitment to evoke change and participate in humanitarian acts of kindness. We were prepared to hear complaints but got nothing but thanks all day long. Our staff was so involved, so proud to be a part of our efforts and thrilled that people turned out and happily shopped and had conversations with each other and with them."
Tonight Oblong Books & Music, Millerton and Rhinebeck, N.Y., is hosting the first in its new community book group series with a social justice focus. The theme for the night will be racial inequality, and the books discussed will be Kindred by Octavia Butler and its graphic novel adaptation by Damian Duffy and John Jennings.
The second meeting of the book group takes place on Tuesday, March 21, and has an emphasis on feminism. The books to be discussed are both by Rebecca Solnit: Men Explain Things to Me and Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities.
Also tonight, Let's Play Books, Emmaus, Pa., is hosting a "reception, open-house style" for the launch of Why I March: Images from the Women's March Around the World (Abrams), encouraging participants "to celebrate each others' experiences, and share with those persons who may not have attended any march in person, but in thought." The store will contribute 15% of sales to the ACLU of Pennsylvania.
On Sunday, March 5, Print: A Bookstore, Portland, Maine, is hosting a Welcoming Immigrants event with "I'm Your Neighbor," a local project that "promotes the welcoming of immigrants through the sharing of literature." Kirsten Cappy of Curious City will discuss children's books that celebrate the current immigrant experience, and customers will be able to buy any of the featured titles for themselves and/or for donation to Portland public schools.
On Tuesday, March 7, with Huffington Post Arts & Culture and a group of New York authors, the Housing Works Bookstore, New York City, is hosting "Drink, Draw n' Take Action," a night of "drinking, drawing and sending messages to members of Congress who have the ability to enact change in our uncertain political climate. Want to send a handmade postcard alerting your representative of the importance of the Affordable Care Act? Here's the place to do it."
The hosts will provide blank postcard paper for participants to design, along with markers, crayons, pens and pencils. There will be three rounds of drawing based on three policies being debated in Congress. Drinks and snacks will be available for purchase, with proceeds going to Housing Work's mission to end homelessness and AIDS. Participants are asked to bring stamps.
Authors, including Rebecca Schiff, Repro Rights Zine and more, will be on hand to read.
In January, Aaron's Books, Lititz, Pa., launched the 1st & 19th Book Group (named after the First and 19th Amendments). At the initial monthly meeting, in January, the group discussed We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The February 9 meeting had to be postponed because of icy roads, so the book that would have been discussed then--Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong by James W. Loewen--will be discussed at the March 9 meeting, along with The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. Besides discussing the books in the context of current politics, the groups talk about "what we as individuals can do relating to the subject of the book and the current climate."
Aaron's also has set out a basket of stamped postcards that customers can take for free to use to contact national and local representatives, no matter what side of an issue they're on. The basket is on one of four book displays relating to current issues, including displays for Black History month, speaking out for women, related "dystopian" fiction (1984, It Can't Happen Here, etc.), and for kids ("Reading Builds Empathy" has books about diversity and refugees). Sam Droke-Dickinson noted, "We're in a very conservative area so we can't be as vocal as some of our urban friends... but we do what we can!"
And in Mosman, New South Wales, Australia, near Sydney, Pages & Pages Booksellers has reacted, too--and with distance comes the ability to be very vocal and speak more directly than most American booksellers would.
Jon Page, owner of Pages & Pages, wrote: "To say we are currently living in troubling times is a bit of an understatement. The election and inauguration of Donald Trump as President of the United States has seen a resurgence of fascism and right wing rhetoric the likes of which I didn't think we would ever see again. But the best weapon against fascism, Nazism and hateful ignorance (including a punch in the face) is knowledge and books (that's why most fascists try to burn them!)."
To that end, the store has created what it calls an "anti-Trump reading list" that aims "to help us survive and understand these strange times and hopefully the mistakes of the past are not allowed to be repeated...." Titles on the list include the familiar 1984, The Plot Against America and It Can't Happen Here, but also The Diary of Anne Frank, Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada, Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi and Fatherland by Robert Harris, among others. For each book purchased, Pages & Pages will donate $1 to the Refugee Council of Australia.