#MyChicagoBookstore Adventures on Independent Bookstore Day — Part 2
This is a three-part series. Read Part I here.
I got off at Roscoe and walked to RoscoeBooks. The place was packed. It’s a small neighborhood bookstore with a cozy children’s section. I started to look around and noticed they were featuring Claudine Rankine’s book Citizen. The lovely salesperson Jess came up and started chatting with me about it. Of course I’ve read it and recommend it highly. I read it on Kindle. But seeing the actual book is cooler because of the graphics and illustrations, so it might be going on my wish list. I mentioned that awhile back I had attended a discussion group about it at The Poetry Foundation. I asked where the poetry section was, and I also mentioned I was looking for books for early readers. She pointed out the poetry section. (I like to read on Kindle, except for poetry and plays, because sometimes the Kindle version messes up the line breaks and formatting.) We went over to their children’s section which is a really nice little nook, good for a neighborhood with families with young children who need manageable excursions. They have a shelf of books organized by reading level, which is extremely helpful. I picked out a Fancy Nancy book featuring her friendship with Bree. Then I went over to the poetry sections and A Doll for Throwing by Mary Jo Bang caught my eye, and I’m crazy about anything doll-related, and this also has a Bauhaus connection which is interesting to me, so I grabbed that thinking I better get it right away because I might not remember it later. As I was checking out, Jess mentioned Maggie Nelson to me who is also on my to-read wish list. I got my passport stamped and packed up my purchases and off I went to continue my adventures.
I walked to the Addison Brown Line stop and took that to the Western stop. The Book Cellar (mentioned in this article) was just a short walk away and so crowded there was barely room to move without being in the way, so crowded I couldn’t look at everything. I wasn’t obligated to buy something at every store I visited. I could have just gotten my passport stamped. But I did find Philip Levine’s The Last Shift. I loved The Simple Truth when I read it decades ago. The poem “The Trade,” stays with me. There are some poems that do that. It ends with the line, “angelic, an ordinary man become a gift.” I read it in 1996 for a book discussion group that met at the Barnes and Noble that used to be on Diversey, a few storefronts west of the intersection of Clark and Broadway. I checked out, got a 10% discount as a perk for Independent Bookstore Day, and got my passport stamped.
Then I walked to Lawrence to take the #81 Lawrence bus. I got off at Ashland and walked north and then east to Clark to go to Women & Children First. Women & Children First has a special place in my heart. I remember going there in the early 1980s when I was a teenager and they were in a storefront near the intersection of Halsted and Armitage. I would buy Emma Goldman books, poetry books, Our Bodies, Ourselves, and many other classic feminist titles, such as Alison M. Jaggar’s Feminist Politics and Human Nature, there. I would go in and chat with the then owners, Linda Bubon and Ann Christopherson, about the feminist-influenced papers I was writing for school. This was before Amazon or online shopping or searching on the internet even existed. The way to discover books was to browse in bookstores. In the early 1990s I went with some fellow graduate students on what I called a “feminist field trip” to see Mary Daly speak at the location in Andersonville.
I found When My Brother Was an Aztec, which has been on my wish list, so I took finding it on the shelf as a sign I should get it. As I was checking out Xandria commented I made a good choice and told me about the VS podcast on the Poetry Foundation’s website, which I didn’t know to look for, but then I did find it and listened to it and was interested in it. That was an interaction and piece of information I wouldn’t have gotten if I had just bought the book on Amazon. It’s nice to see that the art of bookselling is not dead. (And the book has a poem called “The Last Mohave Indian Barbie” that I’m in love with, so that was worth the price of the book alone.)
Outside again, I caught the #22 Clark bus, thinking I needed to stop at home to rest, charge my phone, and get something to eat. The bus started to reroute after Grace, but it still got stuck and couldn’t move, so I got out and walked. The streets were flooded with Cubs fans I had to walk against to get home. So many people in the streets and in the bars. I had been feeling self-conscious about my poetry shopping spree. Usually I wouldn’t spend so much time and money on a shopping spree. I don’t usually go on shopping sprees at all. But how much do sports tickets cost? How much do poets make compared to people who play on professional sports teams? With all the people supporting sports and bars and sports bars, maybe it’s alright that I spent a little on books in bookstores. Maybe poetry needs its fans to give it some love and team spirit like those other sports get.