Hard to find and difficult to observe within their natural habitats, the independent bookstore has become a rare breed. Even Wikipedia believes there’s only two left in all of Texas (though Indiebound finds seven within 100 miles of Austin). Feminist bookstores – it must be said – are disappearing at an even faster rate.
Seemingly destined for extinction, with less than a dozen left in the US, feminist lit spaces were once lifelines for both women and queer communities. One of the remaining and fiercely-glowing embers exists right here in Austin.
Bookwoman, a local landmark for nearly 40 years, currently resides on North Lamar between North Loop and Dan’s Hamburgers. In fact, its purple awning makes it hard to miss; yet I’ve driven past it time after time, placing it on my Eventual-To-Do-List.
Expecting a flashback to second-wave feminism, I was more than pleasantly surprised to find a comfortable and well-stocked bookstore with a wide range of topics – not all of which pertain to feminism and lesbian life. As a young woman, this is my kind of feminism – the approachable kind that embraces many manifestations. The queer posters on the wall, alongside a well-stocked kids' section featuring "non-traditional" children's stories, added to my growing appreciation.
Susan Post, the owner who once housed the bookstore from her own home, quickly won me over with talk of World Book Night. Held annually on April 23 (yes, tomorrow), the countrywide event celebrates reading by giving away half a million books to people who “don’t regularly read and/or don’t normally have access to printed books.” Not only does Post participate in the event, Bookwoman is also a host location for Austin volunteers. So keep an eye out for free books being handed out around town tomorrow. Or do one better, and hie thee to BW, and celebrate the day there.
Worldwide events aren't this feisty shop's only cup of tea. This week alone, Bookwoman is hosting an additional three events, including a Wednesday night workshop from the Getting to Know the Goddess series on the Egyptian deity, Sekhmet. Friday offers a discussion on Awakening Sacred Wisdom Through Yoga with yogini, Monette Chilson. Apparently, this is a “slow” events period, says Susan. “We’re definitely open to having more events, and more queer events.” (Hint, hint, activists looking for a venue.)
A gem within Austin’s cultural landscape, this bookstore has called several other locations home, and Susan admits that with each move they get pushed further out. The store turns 40 next year, just entering into that mid-life crisis zone, but it takes a community to thrive, and it's going to take a lot more than a few gray hairs to scare away this cornerstone. My suggestion: take this store off your Eventual-To-Do-List, and help preserve the space by stopping in today or tomorrow…. It is World Book Night, after all.
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