The world’s on fire, so how about a heartwarming story for once? Gather round, children, and hear the tale of Common Language Bookstore.
Every now and then the Internet is used for very good purposes, and one kind act can pick up momentum and become a trend or even a movement. Such is the case with Ann Arbor, Michigan’s cozy Common Language Bookstore, a small shop specializing in queer and feminist works.
It all started with a post on Tumblr. User dadrielle wrote:
I saw a sad facebook post from the gay bookstore back in Ann Arbor where I used to live about how they hadn’t sold any books that day so I went on their online store and bought a couple, and while you don’t get #deals like elsewhere online, I’d love it if y’all would consider buying your next gay book from them instead of like, Amazon.
This seemed to strike a chord with other Tumblr users, who began to reblog the post at a fast rate. It’s so easy these days to get anything from Amazon, especially more obscure or niche titles at the click of a button, that we often forget to support independent businesses. But many of us have a deep-seated love for bookstores that will never be broken—and that call to book-buying arms seemed to pay off immediately.
Common Language Bookstore wrote on Facebook:
So a pretty amazing thing is happening. Not sure why, but we have had 28 online orders in the last 24 hours. Some kind ambassador is posting something to get people on our site. Whoever that may be (and I have a couple of hunches) thank you so much.
These are the types of days when we think it just might be possible to buck the trend and survive as a Feminist/LGBT bookstore.
And if you want to join the fray, check us out at www.glbtbooks.com
If you are looking for recommendations, we’ll put a few suggestions in the comments over the course of the evening.
But the Internet was just getting started. In their latest update April 18th, the bookstore said that the effort has been “transformative” for them—with recent orders more than they’d usually receive in the course of a month.
A little update:
At last count we had 211 online orders over the last couple of days. We generally have a handful of online orders PER MONTH. And many days our in store sales are 3-5 books. In other words, this deluge is significantly more than we sell in a month. We are literally brought to tears by this outpouring.
About 80% of them have already been fulfilled and are on their way to you.
The other 20% require special attention (out of print book, book temporarily out of stock, etc.) or we need to pull together books from various sources. Some of you will be getting emails from me!
Our staff is three people and one dog. And while the dog is, perhaps, the world’s sweetest dog, he’s not much help in this task. The lack of opposable thumbs is a big hindrance to many bookstore tasks.
Mind you, we are not complaining. Having a surge which overwhelms our current resources is a great problem to have. Heartfelt thanks.
As I take a short break from fulfilling orders I wanted to share a few thoughts.
This is transformative.
We will be able to pay some bills which will steady the ship for a longer voyage. In our wildest dreams this surge would continue, we’d hire more people to handle the load, and the world would have a thriving honest-to-god queer bookstore.
But even if it doesn’t continue at this truly astonishing rate, having a regular flow on online orders would give the store a level of security we haven’t seen in a long time.
All of you did this. You made it happen. And you can be a part of making that dream come true. In fact, you can be the most important part of making that dream come true. You can be an ambassador.
It was, after all, an ambassador who made this happen.
When a friend talks about getting a book, steer them to us. Our mission is to create a safe space for LGBT people, a resource for a community, a place of equality for women, a place where black lives truly matter, a place where your gender is what you say it is, not what anyone else says it is.
If this is your mission as well, join us.
Strangers online have single-handedly helped to boost this wonderful shop, staffed by “three people and one dog,” and if the orders continue past this current viral spike—the original Tumblr post, plus additions, now has upwards of 120,000 notes—we can help to expand and grow the bookstore’s future possibilities.
You know what to do, fam: the next time you’re looking for a queer read, Buy Common Language.
Of course, there are many excellent independent bookstores out there that could likely benefit from some kindly Internet attention. I personally am a big fan of New York City’s collectively owned activist-oriented Bluestockings Books, and I have to give a shoutout to my old college stomping grounds, the joint Minneapolis bookstores Uncle Hugo’s / Uncle Edgar’s, specializing in science fiction and mystery titles respectively.
What are some of your favorite independent bookstores? Tell us in the comments and we’ll put together a directory in time for Independent Bookstore Day on April 28th.
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