The Pandemic, Racial Justice Books, and Independent Bookstores

So our doors are open. We can better serve the public. You can buy what is on our shelves directly, instead of through Instagram or our website. That is fantastic! But, your books are still taking weeks if not months to get here. We aren’t able to give you the same two-day service as before. The insecurity of shipping during the pandemic, which is ongoing, remains. Here’s some insight into why books are still taking forever to get to you... continued.

Hooray for Summer Reading!

One of the many things that were hard while the doors at Island Books were closed to customers was missing the chance to chat about what I’ve been reading and loving lately. I did keep reading, often as an escape from everything else. But it saddened me to see piles of certain titles that I couldn’t put in the hands of customers personally. I’ve been collecting recommendations that I am VERY excited to tell all you readers about and I hope one of them is just what you’ve been looking for this summer.

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

I didn’t realize I would be getting on a national bestseller train when I read this second novel from Brit Bennett, author of the well known debut, The Mothers. All I knew was that I couldn’t put it down. I loved the writing; I loved the complexity of the characters and the story. I loved how many ways Bennett found to talk about the hidden parts of each of her characters. This is the story of twin sisters from a town so small it isn’t on any map. Beginning in the 1950s, in the Jim Crow south, Desiree and Stella have just disappeared from their community. They run away to New Orleans to make a bigger life for themselves. When Stella discovers she can “pass” as white, she takes her chance, leaving her twin behind. Years later the narrative passes to their respective daughters, and the paths their lives take. I found it fascinating. This has already been a hit with our customers, and we are working on getting more copies in soon (maybe signed ones!) so it is well worth getting your name on the list for when more come in.

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June 2020 eNewsletter

"For all those that have to fight for the respect that everyone else is given without question."

— N. K. Jemisin, The Fifth Season
 

This month marks two months closed to the public. We are so thankful for our community's support. In order to re-open our doors when it is safe, we need to continue to keep afloat and still need your support.

You can find more information on how you can support us throughout this newsletter. We want to take this space to acknowledge the kind and encouraging notes from our customers. WE APPRECIATE YOU!

"Thank you for your quick and pleasant staff who are ready to assist us customers when we call. Island Books is 'THE BEST'!"
Mercer Island, WA

"I placed an order with you after reading about your store on Slate. I just received my book yesterday and it was gift-wrapped, plus had a sew-on patch. It felt like a birthday present. Thank you for the personal touch." Naperville, IL

"I'm desperate to get back into reading and haven't been able to focus lately. I loved your blog post on the topic and recommendations, and I can't wait to come get even ONE book from you all IN PERSON!!!" Seattle, WA

"My household misses the hours spent in your cozy chairs! We so look forward when we can all get together again." Mercer Island, WA


"I'm sorry you had to close, these are difficult times. I hope we will all get out soon. I hope everyone and all your families are home safe. Thank you for continuing to provide storytime. My baby loves it." Mercer Island, WA

"I grew up on MI and spent an inordinate amount of time in your store as a child. Hoping this little bit helps, and am of course looking forward to reading some great titles!!" Seattle, WA

"I saw your 'Coronavirus Diaries' entry on Slate and wanted to help in a small way. I'm sure our local community (including my own small business) will be feeling the same effects shortly, but wanted to reach out while I can. All our best... hang in there! And keep pulling for one another." Glenview, IL


We want to extend our gratitude to everyone near and far for their support. It is not lost on us that we would not be here without each and every one of you. Your calls, emails, and continuous love of our bookstore is what keeps us going.

We also want to acknowledge the heartbreak we feel for black people around the country. It is difficult not to be able to hold our community close during this time, but we do not want to stay silent in the face of the injustices they have been fighting for centuries. We are a resource to help educate our community, and as such we will continue to lift up the voices of black people through their works.


On a personal note, my third child, Liuci, will graduate from Mercer Island High School next week. While it's not how any of us imagined she, or any of the graduating class of 2020, would celebrate ending their high school years, we are proud of her and know that she will go on to do amazing things in this world. (Go Cougs!)


Be well, stay safe, and wash your hands,
Laurie Raisys
Owner
 

Read more...

Madeleine

mercer-island-books-independent-bookstore-seattle-staff-recommended-moment-of-tenderness-madeleine-lengleSomewhere in the middle of the doors closing at Island Books, the never ending stream of online and email orders and the trying to figure out exactly how we were going to keep getting books into the hands of our customers, Madeleine L’Engle’s posthumously released collection of short stories, The Moment of Tenderness came into the store. I saw it on the cart, its cover lovely and speckled with stars, and immediately purchased a copy for myself. My plan has been to read one story every day. I don’t have the best relationship with short stories... continued.

Get Lost in a Book

My first English class in college was the most varied and exciting. “Literature in Film” was probably the best 100 Level class offered in the whole college. The entire lesson plan consisted of reading amazing books that were adapted into movies. Then, of course, we watched the movies. I was introduced to film genres previously unexplored, like noir, and classic films, like Apocalypse Now or Double Indemnity. Best of all was reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and watching the requisite Blade Runner. I was in love with this cyberpunk aesthetic formed by simple and straightforward language. Young Harrison Ford didn’t hurt, either ...continued.

Why I Read What I Read: A Note from Cindy

I have been in bookselling, and bookreading, for many years and in my opinion, I am undeniably an expert at choosing the right book for me to read at any given moment. I am always confident that I will choose a book to read that will be worth my while and that I will, without any doubt, be entertained, rewarded, and even maybe eternally changed for having read it  ...continued.

May 2020 eNewsletter

"You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep spring from coming."

— Pablo Neruda
 

mercer-island-books-independent-bookstore-seattle-newsletter-covid-19April is finally behind us. We hope for better days ahead.

First, I’d like to start this month’s letter by thanking our customers, our supporters, our cheerleaders, and our community for their support during this incredibly difficult and challenging time. We appreciate your patience, confidence, support, and limitless supply of love for Island Books. I also want to thank the Island Books staff. They are experiencing what all of us are experiencing – a time of fear and uncertainty.  In this time of fear and uncertainty, they’ve never worked harder (from home), and they continue to show their commitment and dedication to Island Books and our customers during this unprecedented crisis. Without all of you, keeping Island Books alive would not be possible. THANK YOU!  

April has been a weird month for us at Island Books, as it has for everyone. I was struggling with what to write in the owner’s letter this month. Usually I write about upcoming events at the store, upcoming holidays that I’m looking forward to, and upcoming book releases that I’m excited about. Somehow that didn’t seem appropriate right now. I spoke to a friend, who is also an Island Books customer and supporter, about what to write this month; she encouraged me to speak from the heart about what we’re experiencing. So that’s what I’ll do this month.

This experience has been unreal and scary. We don't know what’s going to happen in the coming weeks and months. We don’t know what the new normal will look like when we begin to emerge from this. When this crisis began and we had to close our doors in late March, Victor woke up one night and found me on the family room couch crying at 2am. I was crying because I was scared and had no idea what the immediate future would hold. I was crying as I read post after post about little bookstores around the country closing their doors. I was crying because local businesses that I loved felt they could no longer stay open. The next morning, he gave me a note that you see in the picture. This past week I taped the note to the window so I could look at it every day and remind myself that Island Books has this community supporting us, and together, we will survive.

We’ve always said that Island Books is in the business of community and experience. Our tagline of “Real Books.  Real People. Real Community” reflects that. As a result of the crisis, Island Books has been forced by necessity to work online and to try to bring “community” and “experience” to an online world. Our staff has struggled to figure out how to work remotely and virtually in a business that is essentially personal. We've made mistakes and we appreciate your kindness and patience when we do. Working online is not our comfort zone, and it’s not what we do best (but we’re quickly working on it). We can make your orders happen, but we love talking to you. We love finding the books or gifts for you or the special people in your life, then wrapping them up with a bow. That’s our thing – that’s what we do. We love giving personal attention to each of you. Not seeing all of you and not being able to personally help each one of you has been incredibly hard. We really miss it.  

We have been fortunate to adjust our business and to be able to work from home and behind the closed doors of Island Books to fulfill your order for books, puzzles, toys, and gifts. Like other businesses in other communities across the country, we are one of many small businesses on Mercer Island trying to survive this crisis. We appreciate all you have done to give us your business, support, and love. It helps us survive this crisis, keep our employees working and paid, and it helps ensure that Island Books will be here to serve our community in better times ahead.    

Also, Happy Mother’s Day to all of the amazing moms out there – especially my mom.

Best,
Laurie Raisys
Owner
 

What to Read When You Don’t Know How to Read Again

Lately, I have found myself in the not-so-unique position of being a bookseller who doesn’t know what to read to begin reading again. There is a lot going on in the world, and it can be very distracting from the now. As of late, stress has been my deterrent. Like many of my coworkers (unsurprisingly, not Lori Robinson, though), I have had trouble staying on task, let alone allow myself to get swept up into a book. And for a couple of weeks, it was okay. I didn’t particularly like it because half of my identity is reading, but I let myself exist in this state of overwhelm. Sometimes the only cure for all that overwhelms me in the world is reality TV, because books do not numb your mind the way that TV can.

But it has been almost a month since we have been at home, and even in the overwhelm I have been aching to read. All I want to do is curl up and get lost in a mythical world or good narrative. I have read bits and pieces of random books, stopping and starting as my mood dramatically changed. I tried family dramas, historical fiction, and even a mystery, but nothing kept my interest. Then it worked! I was sucked into Blue Flowers by Carola Saavedra. I think it was because of the intensity of the first person writing and the mystery behind the epistolary element. Nothing sucks me in like a forbidden romance. But then my stamina faded out, and I still have sixty pages left of this 200 page book... continued.

Homebody

Hello mid-April. I started thinking about and drafting this piece in the early days of March, and with each passing week and new development in our current lives, the words I had to say around this subject changed. Little did I know then how apropos the subject of home would become. With at least the rest of the month to go, I think we’re all trying to make some sense of where we find ourselves: Home.

Back at the beginning of March our Island Books Knitting Book Club read Marisa de los Santos’s I’ll Be Your Blue Sky, which coincidentally has a predominant theme of home. De los Santos asks a series of questions in her novel: Where is home, who is home, what is the importance of have a home to go to? What happens when you lose your home? Her writing is beautiful, and I found myself envying both the homes described and the friendships enjoyed. In this dual timeline story the predominant “home” is Blue Sky House, a place of refuge for both Edith, in the 1950′s, and later for Clare in the present day. For Clare it contains a safe place to recover from a broken engagement, and also an intriguing mystery to solve concerning Edith and her life in the small coastal town in Delaware. 

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