Once upon a time, I had a favorite book store. It was Borders. From its Novi store opening in the mid-1980’s to its closing in 2011, I spent a lot of time (and money) in that second home.
Since its departure, I’ve explored the indies, and discovered many excellent book stores, each with their unique character. Literati Bookstore is one such treasure.
Located in downtown Ann Arbor, Literati opened in 2013. Fiction on the main floor, nonfiction on lower, the books are displayed on shelves from the old Borders stores. Typewriters shine in the front counter display case, with a manual Olympia on the lower level for patrons to type their thoughts. On the upper floor is a cafe, which was opened recently, where U of M students sit with their laptops and lattes, and author talks and book signings take place.
In September, 2015, the bookstore started a on-going, signed, first edition, subscription book club called Literati Cultura. Through this, readers enhance their own reading and exploration of new writing. It also allows bibliophiles to grow their libraries with signed first editions, creating a potential collectability element.
Each month, a Literati Cultura subscriber receives a hard cover, first edition book, signed by the author, as selected by owner Hilary Gustafson. Included is a typewritten letter from Ms. Gustafson, detailing why the book was selected, and a limited edition print by Wolverine Press. All this for cost of the hardcover book. If you live a distance from the store – like I do – they will ship it to you for the additional shipping cost. The selections thus far have been:
- The Fates and The Furies by Lauren Groff. (Sept. 2015)
- Mothers, Tell Your Daughters by Bonnie Jo Campbell (Oct. 2015)
- Trace: Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape by Lauret Savoy (Nov. 2015)
- Beloved Dog by Maira Kalman (Dec. 2015)
- My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout (Jan. 2016)
- Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa (Feb. 2016)
- The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan (Mar. 2016)
- Desert Boys by Chris McCormick (Apr. 2016)
- Heat & Light by Jennifer Haigh (May, 2016)
- The Girls by Emma Cline (June, 2016)
- Miss Jane by Brad Watson (July, 2016)
This month, I’ll be receiving the twelfth book of the subscription – Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson, completing the first year of the club. I figured it was about time I start getting into these books, as they always seemed to arrive beneath the higher priority books I was reading. Of the eleven titles received thus far, I have only read one. After last night, I can now say I’ve read two.
Beloved Dog by Maira Kalman (Dec. 2012 selection) was an easy first book to read. Illustrator, author, and designer, Kalman tells the story of the her life with her husband and the sadness of losing him, and the how the love of a dog – an animal she feared throughout her life – opened her to a new joy for living. It was a quick read as the story is told with words and illustrations, and was approved by my beloved dog, Zen. I gave it the Goodreads rating of a 3 – I liked it.
Of the ten remaining books, the one that jumped out at me first was the February, 2016 selection, Sunil Yapa’s Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist.
It’s November 30, 1999, as nineteen-year-old Victor emerges from under the bridge of the Seattle freeway he slept beneath, into the organized chaos of ‘N30′ – the first day of the protests against the WTO Ministerial Conference. His step-father, Bishop, is the Chief of Police, and has not seen Victor since the boy left three years earlier to bare witness to the world. The story is told through these two characters, as well as King, a young woman activist with a not-so nonviolent past; King’s lover, John Henry, an older activist from the Vietnam-era; police officers Park and Julia who become engaged with the protestors; and Dr. Charles Wickramsinghe, the diplomat from Sri Lanka seeking to have his country become a member of the WTO.
The novel puts these characters not only into conflict with each other, but within themselves as they confront nonviolent protest, police brutality, and globalization. Yapa does this skillfully, not in a sententious way. The only feeling of stepping out of the novel and into the political came in the way the final chapters were written – from Chapter 40 on. It didn’t bother me as a reader, as it takes its shot at the media and the way such events are covered, but others may have a different opinion of whether it pulled too much away from the characters’ stories.
On the Goodreads scale, I give this book five stars – it was awesome. Some people like to read novels set during periods of war. I enjoy those that are set during occasions of protest.