|A Note from Emöke: Women's Day|
|March 8th is International Women’s Day. I want to state that every woman deserves praise for the good work that she has contributed to this world. There are many authors who qualify for that honor in my life, and that book list would be just endless. In my 47 years of book buying and selling, I remain humble in my realization how difficult my life would have been without all the women who stood by my side and encouraged me with their voices, words, paintings, songs, hands held and outstretched to me at the needed moment. I must admit that I might not have been this lucky without my grandmothers who, early on, shaped my soul with their love and example of an honorable life. Neither has been rich or well-educated, but they both listened and watched what nature has dictated in their everyday experiences. |
Encouraging us grandchildren to value our education through our own reading and school studies kept us safe and steady in what happened to turn out to be our lives. Good ones! So, reading and studying is a way to happiness. No one (yet) can control what you choose to read and Malaprop’s, and other indie bookstores are at your service.
Make a choice to exercise your freedom by reading and educating yourself and your children. The better-ness of the future depends upon this simple act of sharing books, discussing ideas and reading to each other. Now, what could be more pleasant (no, not even eating candy) in your life?
Honor the foremothers and encourage the children to make their futures stellar. Reading takes us to the stars and back.
Come to reading. It is as natural as breathing once you find the right book. Yes, I know, sometimes the simplest thing seems the hardest. Be brave. Choose what is the hardest so that you allow the simple beauty into your life.
|Linda-Marie: Finding Refuge|
|I spent a few glorious, intense days in January attending the American Booksellers Association’s Winter Institute in Minneapolis, MN. Over six hundred and fifty independent booksellers participated in further education on bookselling. We went to keynote events with Roxanne Gay, Ann Patchett, Lesley Stahl, and Kim Scott. We networked, got up to speed on issues affecting our industry, provided feedback to publishers, and sought inspiration wherever we could find it.|
The Winter Institute is an annual event, my favorite bookseller event of the year. I meet booksellers from stores like Malaprop’s, from smaller and bigger stores, from across the country and even across the world. New Zealand often sends booksellers, too! We are a brainy, creative, mostly introverted, brave and outspoken group. We are deeply respectful of what our bookstores mean to our communities and we are forever looking for ways to improve what we are doing. We learn how to refine our title selection, handsell books to readers, write winning proposals to publicists sending authors to our stores, promote events, and improve our bottom lines so we are financially healthy and can pay our booksellers living wages, perhaps even offer health insurance.
We represent many communities and we are diverse. We are not, as may be assumed, all liberals. I sat next to a bookseller friend who voted for Trump because her business was suffering under Obama-era policies. She walked out of a couple of events in which Trump and anyone who supported him was mocked. I sat across from a bookstore owner who reluctantly voted for Clinton because he didn’t want to vote for the alternative, but spoke passionately, in detail, about how he and his booksellers have suffered tremendous financial setbacks under Obamacare. I realized, yet again, that it is too easy to fall into a “we vs. them” mentality, to be reactive, assume without exploring further, alienate rather than reach out to understand. I saw this happening in a community very special to me, and as we have all seen--in the media, in our facebook feeds, in conversations around town, even among family.
We are your community bookstore, and we celebrate diversity of opinions, freedom of speech, civil, respectful discussion of ideas, including uncomfortable ideas. Our shelves are lined with books representing opinions from across the political spectrum. Our author event program includes a similar variety of worldviews. Our title selection and our programming are not popular with everyone. We are protested, we receive demands to cancel events, to carry or not carry certain titles. We are judged as if we were something other than an independent bookstore. It is part of our mission to be a place where everyone is welcome, where you are not judged by what you believe or what you read, where you can explore ideas and think for yourself.
Please know you can find refuge, solace, perhaps even a laugh inside our doors. We are reaching out to you this year with new programming: Rise up and Read Together, Authors for Action, and more. We continue to offer the best book and gift selection you’ll find anywhere. And we have a staff of booksellers who can recommend the perfect read to inspire, humor or relax you--whatever your pleasure. Give us your feedback, attend our events, and grace us with your presence. Spread the word and keep us in the loop. We need to be there for each other.
I just finished re-reading Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza by Gloria Anzaldúa and wanted to reflect on the book. In it, she talks about her journey as a lesbian Chicana activist, scholar, and writer, and how all those things have intersected in her life; how these conditions, especially the socially-determined ones--woman, lesbian, Chicana--marginalized her and placed her in a borderlands not dissimilar to the one that exists at the (not-so-imaginary) line between the U.S. and Mexico.
For her, being in a borderlands means that she lives within all the spaces she is touching, but is not able to fully assimilate: U.S. born, but Spanish-speaking and dark-skinned and therefore marginalized by “Anglo” society; a woman within often misogynistic Mexican, Chicano culture; a lesbian within those same spaces, but also often marginalized from LGBTQ groups for her skin color. I love the way she writes about this, for example, with a defiant insistence that Chicanos-their culture, their color, and their language-be accepted: “Ethnic identity is twin skin to linguistic identity—I am my language. Until I can take pride in my language, I cannot take pride in myself...as long as I have to accommodate English speakers rather than having them accommodate me, my tongue will be illegitimate.”
Through this book, you come to understand that, when talking about one thing, like her ethnic and linguistic identity, she could just as easily have said it about another. She could have formulated the same sentences, addressing them instead to misogynistic Chicano culture and demanding it accept her homosexuality, rather than repudiating her for it. She also dedicated a good portion of her life to acting as a nepantlera, a sort of spiritual guide who tries to heal divisiveness between people through empathy and attempts to foster inner change within them, someone who had seemingly infinite patience and warmth and love for her fellow human beings, who, despite an extremely difficult life, overcame innumerable obstacles and became a hugely influential figure for Chicana writers like Julia Alvarez and Ana Castillo. Tragically, she died in 2004 due to a lifelong battle with diabetes, and I can’t help but wonder how much better off we’d be if she were still around to guide us. Luckily, she did leave us with this magnificent book to help us along in her absence.
If you like the portrait of Gloria Anzaldúa, the website for the artist, Angélica Becerra, is http://angelicabecerra.bigcartel.com/.
Have you ever done it in a bar? I have. I still do. In fact, on Friday nights you’ll often find me in a crowded bar bent under a lamp’s soft glow, my right hand clutching a perspiring tumbler of bourbon, my face buried in a beautiful piece of fiction. Yes, I’m talking about reading. You may wonder how anyone could possibly concentrate in a bar, surrounded by so much noise - clinking glasses, loud music, and shouted conversations – combined to produce a powerful concoction of sound. You may even deem it impossible and suspect such a person of pretentiousness. While I deny the accusation, I admit it might seem a little affected to an observer, but before you get too high and mighty, my friend, let me remind you that we are all performers. Some of our performances just happen to take a literary turn. You have your impressive moustache or fashionable fedora; I have my books. So, yes, I confess there is something garish in the act of reading in a crowded bar, and I may be, in a sense, nothing more than a bird in bright plumage strutting on his leafy stage, but relax. I intend no offense. I am, after all, simply reading a book. I find it quite easy to concentrate in a bar. Let me explain.
When I read in my apartment or a sedate cafe - perhaps because I begin with an expectation of quiet ambiance - even the slightest, most innocuous sound can set me off. For example, if I go to a cafe to read, a nice couple might sit down at a table adjacent to mine and begin a perfectly fine conversation about some bit of politics or pop culture, but it will inevitably strike me, in the moment, as inane and tedious. (Quick aside: I have no doubt my conversations sound equally inane.) Soon the experience becomes unbearable, their conversation swinging back and forth like a wrecking ball pounding my attention into a pitiful mound of rubble, which makes me, in a state of enraged distraction, recall certain scenes from Ovid’s Metamorphoses that feature spilling viscera, sizzling flesh, and liquefying brains. But how is reading in a bar any different? Shouldn’t my violent rage be exponentially worse in such a setting? No, and here’s why: While reading in a bar, the tumult is distributed in such a way that no single sound or voice can penetrate the normally fragile bubble of my attention. The sounds blend together, making a bed on which my mind can softly settle. And if for some reason the sounds ever refuse to blend, I can always try dissolving them in bourbon.
I’ve written quite a few lines so far justifying my habit of reading in bars, and it just now occurs to me that I haven’t yet attempted to explain why I read in bars. Now why I wonder is that? Has this article been nothing more than a cheap magic trick, using verbal sleight-of-hand to draw your attention away from the real crux while I hide behind a convenient pose? I doubt you were fooled. Forgive me if I was. The self is such an easy dupe. I realized long ago that the surest way to reveal something about oneself is by attempting to hide it. It’s such an easy lesson to forget. So back to this question: Why do I read in bars?
While loving to read is reason enough, I have to confess that I’ve always experienced a certain amount of anxiety in social situations, especially when I’m surrounded by strangers. It’s not debilitating, but I often try to extricate myself from conversations once they leave the safe valley of casual small talk and pass into the rockier, more dangerous terrain of real communication. I feel exposed, a little overwhelmed, on those vertiginous peaks. Questions begin to feel intrusive. So how do I cope? I find a quiet corner and hide behind a book, preferably a hardcover - they make better shields. Reading allows me to participate in a conversation I can easily manage because it proceeds at a pace I can control. There are no wasted words, awkward silences, or need for apologies. I can even end the conversation abruptly if I choose by simply closing the book. Closing the flapping jaws of strangers suffering from alcohol-induced logorrhea is much more difficult.
I don’t imagine I’ll change much at this point. I’m not sure I’d want to even if I could, so please don’t waste any pity on me. I’m actually quite content. Over the years, books have been such brave and gracious friends to me, and we’ve had the greatest time talking in our quiet way in the well-lit corners of dark and busy bars.
|One of my all-time favorite characters is Matilda, created for Roald Dahl's book of the same name. Here is a smart, spunky little girl who, despite extensive mistreatment at the hands of her parents and school principal, has poise, control, and a little wiliness. She gives this mean crew a taste of their own medicine, however she is not needlessly cruel. She is more interested in them learning their lesson than in hurting anyone. Key is the fact that Matilda does not let circumstances define her character. Every time she is left to her own devices, she finds ways to fill her insatiable appetite for information. First, she pours over her mother's cookbooks and magazines, then she heads to find a library despite her young age and small stature. Quite a young lady. I couldn't help but love her as a child, and I still do now as an adult. |
|Grumpy Cat is a strong female character because she is not afraid to say, No! Her real name is Tardar Sauce, and she’s a very sweet kitty who leads a wonderful life and stars in a hilariously bad movie (of course!).|
I think this is a contentious issue, but I raise it nonetheless because I know you love both films and books. When given an option, should one read the book *before* seeing the film? Some people take pretty entrenched positions on this, and I often find myself in a dilemma that, while not paralyzing, makes me wonder if there is sage advice out there.
Film lover in Franklin
Dear Film lover in Franklin,
This truly is a thorny issue for those of us who care about movies, yet know that many a film adaptation has either been amazing in its own right or a letdown. My position on this changed when I saw The Revenant, based on the book by Michael Punke called The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge. To paraphrase another film: I want to say one word to you. Just one. Are you listening? Furry! That film was sooooo furry. The horses were furry. The men were furry. Their faces were furry. Their heads, their shoes, their buffalo, bear and beaver skins were furry. FURRY! So, furry that, if Bigfoot accidentally wandered on that set, he would have tiptoed off on his patchily-furred feet in fear
of being fur shamed. This visual experience of fur was not in the book. Films and movies are different “animals,” and I suggest we draw on both mediums rather than use them to divide us. Wasn’t the film No Country for Old Men riveting and shocking, especially Javier Bardem? And the book No Country for Old Men? Well, it’s so disturbing that I read a page or two, then have to put it down for two months until I get my courage back. Two different, yet worthy experiences.
|Join a Malaprop's|
|Wednesday, Mar 1 at 7 pm|
Malaprop's Book Club
Monday, Mar 6 at 7 pm
LGBTQ Book Club
discusses Real Man Adventures
Tuesday, Mar 7 at 7 pm
Women in Lively Discussion (WILD) Book Club discusses Boy, Snow, Bird
Monday, Mar 13 at 7 pm
Mystery Book Club discusses Whose Body?
Tuesday, Mar 14 at 12 noon
Discussion Bound Book Club discusses Guests on Earth
Thursday, Mar 16 at 7 pm
Notorious HBC (*History Book Club!)
Inaugural meeting discusses is 1924: The Year That Made Hitler
Tuesday, Mar 21 at 7 pm
New & Notable Book Club discusses Nutshell
Wednesday, Mar 29 at 7 pm
Bridge the Gap discusses Belonging
Thursday, Mar 30 at 7pm
Works in Translation discusses Kalpa Imperial
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