‘Long before we opened our doors to customers, we needed to actually build the doors’ … Kinneys store.
Photo: Chris Churchill/The Guardian Author Jacqueline Woodson recently spoke about books being either mirrors or windows. Mirrors for seeing ourselves, and windows for seeing into other worlds. Growing up, I enjoyed both types of books, from the realistic contemporary fiction of Judy Blume to the epic fantasy of JRR Tolkien. I had access to books by these and every author in between courtesy of a bookstore a short drive from my house. I didn’t understand my privilege then, but I’ve come to understand it better over time.
In the short time that it was open, I developed interests that would shape my career. I grew up at the advent of personal computing, and the books I read helped me along a path to becoming a programmer. I also developed a deep appreciation for comics, thanks to an expansive humour section at the bookstore. Those comic collections helped to prepare me for my dream career as a cartoonist. Had we not had a bookstore nearby during my formative years, I would have grown up to be a completely different person.
Our local bookstore went out of business a few years after it opened, and I’ll never forget the confusion and hurt I felt when I saw the darkened windows for the first time. It was my first experience of losing something that seemed so obviously good.
And so when I found myself in a position, many years later, to open a bookstore in my adopted hometown of Plainville, Massachusetts, I was eager to make it happen...
Privilege as a child meant having a bookstore in my town. Now, my privilege has taken a different form. I was very lucky to find an audience for my own books, and without the success I have had, I could never have opened a bookstore of my own, let alone build one. I get to visit independent bookstores around the world every year while I am on tour, and I am in awe of the courageous, dedicated people who pour their lives into creating these magical spaces – often without much of a financial reward.
These days, I am more interested in books that serve as windows rather than mirrors. My favourite thing to do is to sit in the audience on our second floor and listen to the story of an author who doesn’t look like me and who has had a very different life experience from my own.
Source: The Guardian