Thursday, September 26, 2013

Book Event for Feminism in Philadelphia at Giovanni's Room: Why We Need Independent Bookstores

Last week I had a book reading/signing event for Feminism in Philadelphia: The Glory Years, 1968-1982 at Giovanni's Room. It was my second event—the first was at the national NOW Conference in Chicago in July.

The Giovanni’s Room event was so much more enjoyable. For one thing, many of the attendees were personal friends including many of my CCP colleagues and Philadelphia NOW sisters. Also, three of the women featured in the book were there. We had NOW's founding members, NOW's current leaders, and young people who might become the future of NOW engaged in intergenerational dialogue.

But what also made the event really special for me was that it was held in Giovanni’s Room, a legendary bookstore which has been a resource for the LGBT community for forty years. I felt really honored to do a reading in a place with such a rich history.

I recently learned that Giovanni's Room is up for sale. Let’s hope it’s bought by someone who intends to maintain its history as resource to the LGBT community. Independent bookstores have been critical to the growth of social justice movements, sponsoring cultural events as a service to the community. It would be a great loss if we no longer have independent bookstores playing this vital role.

Ed Hernance, the owner of Giovanni’s Room told me that there are still many independent bookstores in France and Germany because of government regulations that prevent conglomerates from slashing prices in order to drive small businesses out of existence. So it doesn’t have to be this way.

It’s unlikely in our largely unregulated form of capitalism that we could get such regulatory reforms, but we can make choices as consumers which might give stores such as Giovanni’s room a shot at surviving. I have vowed to resist the temptation to buy books from Amazon. Yes, it’s easy and cheap, but Amazon has been systematically destroying those independent bookstores which have sustained so many communities.

And yes, you can buy Feminism in Philadelphia: The Glory Years, 1968-1982 from Amazon but you can also order it from Giovanni’s Room.

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