Remember when feminist bookstores dotted the land? In l993 there were 124. A woman writer could give readings in women's bookstores from Los Angeles to Baltimore. But 1993 was the high point. Ever since, like other independent bookstores--I'm still mourning the death of Ivy's Books at 92nd Street and Broadway, which closed a year ago--ones catering to feminists have been closing, felled by economic forces with which we are all familiar: chain stores and online sellers who offer big discounts, skyrocketing rents, changing neighborhoods and, arguably, declining interest in reading. True, every Barnes & Noble now has a women's section, but feminist bookstores, even more than most independents, are not just places where books are sold They are places where small-press, new, local and midlist writers are cherished and hand-sold by staffers who actually care about books, where there's room to stock offbeat items, pamphlets and magazines, and where literary and political communities are shaped through events, readings, book groups, talks, and parties. It can't be good, for either books or feminism, that there are only around 15 women's bookstores left in the United States.
That number will get even smaller if BookWoman, in Austin, Texas, goes under. For over thirty years, BookWoman has anchored the local feminist community: now it's been priced out of its home at 12th and Lamar, once a funky area of independent shops, now increasingly posh. Owner Susan Post is trying to raise $50,000 by mid-December. It's what she needs in order to keep the business open and negotiate a new lease at a new address. Kind donors have raised about half that amount. Can you help take it over the top? You can make a quick donation at www.savebookwoman.com .
If you're within striking distance of Austin, drop by and browse. If you can't make it to the bricks and mortar, shop online at www.ebookwoman.com . Why not help the store and make life easy for yourself at the same time, by doing your holiday shopping there?
And don't forget that quiet evening curled up with a book you've been promising yourself as a reward for having your whole family over for Chanukah latkes, Christmas turkey or, I dunno, atheistical baba ganoush. Let Bookwoman send you Junot Diaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, or Mary Gordon's fabulous memoir Circling My Mother. Or any other book that takes your fancy. They have cool t-shirts too. Just in case you have all the books your shelves can hold for now.
Read more about BookWoman here.