Thursday, August 2, 2012

Keep talking, books. Keep talking.

One thing I love about working with books is that it can mean working with just about any idea in the world. Right now, I'm reading a middle-grade novel that takes place in an underground fantasy world and a YA novel set in eighteenth-century France. In the past month or so, I've read about mental illness, a town full of unusual families and magical realism, an siege in ancient Rome, time travel, superhero sidekicks, word origins, ghosts with gruesome designs on 1926 New York, the writing experience of our current Ambassador for Young People's Literature, hobbits on a journey, a third grader's quest for a halo, and an airport caper involving a stolen Star-Spangled Banner. (Two points if you can guess which two of the above were classified as adult literature.)

I've grown to think of the bookstore as a commons for the exchange of ideas. It's a place where I might find myself politely defending the presence of a book that I personally dislike. It's a place where I might quietly read a particularly adult title over the phone one minute, and the next minute joyfully reassure a customer that yes, of course we have board books featuring children of color.

The staff reading this weekend made it clear how comfortable we all are exchanging ideas of all kinds. Held in honor of assistant manager Kate Robinson's new book of poetry (psssst... she's really talented), the event gave a bunch of us a chance to share our "works in print and in progress," as the events calendar put it. If I worried that my selection from a middle-grade novel wouldn't fit in, I needn't have. Yes, many of the other readings covered very different ground. But just as the evening's atmosphere created a safe space for those who read dirty ghazals and free verse about bodily functions in front of a sizeable crowd that included their coworkers, it was also safe to read about a character who's the only boy over eight at an arts and crafts camp.

Keep talking, books. And keep talking books.