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P&W's Inside Indie Bookstores: Women & Children First

2010mayjune_webIn the newest installment of Poets & Writers magazine’s Inside Indie Bookstores series, FWR Associate Editor Jeremiah Chamberlin profiles Chicago’s fabulous Women & Children First bookstore, featuring an interview with the bookstore’s co-owner Linda Bubon.

The online version (along with a slideshow of images from the store) is available at no cost on P&W‘s website…but if you want a print copy, Poets & Writersspecial offer to Fiction Writers Review readers (only $12 for a year-long subscription) is still up for grabs; if you order through this page before May 15, you’ll get the current issue featuring Women & Children First. Regardless of when you order, a subscription will show support for independent bookstores everywhere.

Here’s an excerpt from Jeremiah’s Women & Children First profile:

photo by Jeremiah Chamberlin

photo by Jeremiah Chamberlin

When I walked into Women & Children First, the feminist bookstore that Linda Bubon and her business partner, Ann Christophersen, founded more than thirty years ago, the overriding feeling I experienced was one of warmth. And it wasn’t because Chicago was having a late-winter snowstorm that afternoon. From the eclectic array of books stacked on tables, to the casualness of the blond wood bookcases, to the handwritten recommendations from staff below favorite books on the shelves, everything feels personalized; an atmosphere of welcome permeates the place.

In the back of the store, a painted sign showing an open book with a child peering over the top hangs from the ceiling, indicating the children’s section. Not far away, a similar sign, this one of a rainbow with an arrow below it, points toward the GLBTQ section. Despite these signs—not to mention the name of the store itself—Women & Children First carries more than books for women and, well, children.

And here’s Linda Bubon, on her (and the bookstore’s) future:

Linda Bubon / photo by Jeremiah Chamberlin

Linda Bubon / photo by Jeremiah Chamberlin

I’m a bookseller, but I’m a feminist bookseller. Would I be a bookseller if I were going to run a general bookstore? I’m not sure. Sometimes I think, “What will I do if the store is no longer viable?” And I think that rather than going into publishing or going to work for a general bookstore, I would rather try to figure out how to have a feminist reading series and run a feminist not-for-profit. Because the real purpose of my life is getting women’s voices out, and getting women to tell the truth about their lives, and selling literature that reflects the truths of girls’ and women’s lives. Sometimes we’re abused; we have to talk about that. Sometimes we take the bad road in relationships; we have to talk about that. Sometimes we’re discriminated against in the workplace; we have to talk about these things. Violence against women in the United States and worldwide has not stopped. We don’t have a feminist army to go rescue women in Afghanistan—would that we did.

The goal of my life has been to get the word out, to understand women’s lives. We have to continue to evolve and change if we’re to have a full share, and if our daughters are to have a full share of the world.

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