Since I’ve become a bit of a clearinghouse for books, friends have starting taking notice, especially when they’re in the process of downsizing or clearing out shelves. I became the recent lucky recipient of a whole box of gorgeous books from my friend Teri’s collection. Not only are the books awesome, but they were received in a box WITH A LID. Now that’s a friend!
Some of the set-aside books for me were exact books I’d been looking for (in fact, books I’d mentioned in this very blog I’d been interested in getting copies of) – chief among them Praisesong for the Widow by Paule Marshall and The Violent Bear It Away by Flannery O’Connor.
A few others I was, at first, unsure what to do with, since they were outside my usual wheelhouse – Tracy Chevalier, Geraldine Brooks, Lisa Restrepo. For a split second, I thought, “oh, what will I do with these couple of books?”
I quickly answered myself. “Um, you’ll read them Lorraine. They’re books.” How funny, though! I definitely have a comfort zone when it comes to books and was a bit wide-eyed stepping out of it. I almost had to remind myself that this is what this whole project is for, after all – to discover books and writers I might not have otherwise picked up.
A few of the books she’d set aside were books I already had, but I took them anyway. Rude, right? Wait, slow down the internet judgment, I can explain! I have a plan for these extras.
When I started my project, I wandered around the internet looking for feminist libraries. I found all kinds of information about the Glasgow Women’s Library, the Women’s Library at LSE, and the Feminist Library in Beirut, but the closest thing I could find in my neck of the woods was the Free Black Women’s Library, which expands the concept of a feminist library to an interactive, traveling art installation in Brooklyn, NY.
The collection includes 1,000 books written by black women – novels but also poetry and nonfiction too. The mobile library pops up in arts festivals and other spaces throughout the city and sometimes travels to other cities too. Participants can exchange books with her, and (as I know from following the library’s Instagram feed, which is awesome!), the founder of the library, OlaRonke, also makes available some of her art, which are graphic prints featuring black women librarians.
As you can probably tell from my description, I am a fan! The library is clearly a labor of love (as most projects like this are), and I think its pop-up, interactive quality is both what libraries should be about AND what art should be about. Books should appear anywhere and art should appear anywhere! She’s got it exactly right.
So I want to support her endeavors. Come Saturday morning, I will be packing up the duplicate books I’ve accumulated and sending them on to their new home in Brooklyn. If you are on Instagram and are so inclined, check out her library and her art: https://www.instagram.com/thefreeblackwomenslibrary/?utm_source=ig_embed.
This is really, truly going to be one of my last accumulation posts, which are very easy and quick to write (since accumulating books is, itself, very easy and relatively quick to do). What takes much longer? Reading all of them. Oops! But winter is coming (if you’ll pardon the expression), and I figure the summer months were spent putting on a nice blubbery layer of books that I can live off of during the lean, wintry months. Yum!