Independent bookstores are undoubtedly one of the most hopeful things going for writers and readers today. With special pleasure this month we feature Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe (www.malaprops.com) which spoke up and pushed back pushed back in North Carolina this spring. We are talking today with store owner Linda-Marie Barrett.
MUF: During the recent controversy over gender laws in your state, you appealed to authors and businesses not to boycott bookstores as part of their protest. Was the response encouraging? What role do you think bookstores like Malaprops can play in shaping independent and inclusive outlooks, particularly in the young?
Linda-Marie:After our open letters to authors, published in Shelf Awareness, in which we urged authors not to boycott us, we received very encouraging and supportive letters and phone calls from authors, publishers and other booksellers. Independent bookstores like Malaprop’s are often the only space in communities where controversial ideas are discussed. Independent bookstores are guardians of freedom of expression. We host authors and carry books that nurture inclusivity and awareness of different ways of being in the world.
MUF: Describe the atmosphere you have created in your shop. What do you want people, especially young people, to experience when they visit?
Linda-Marie: We hope most to be welcoming, inspiring and safe. We want to be a place where people relax when they enter our doors, find their next great read, laugh at some of our silly gift items, and engage with our booksellers and learn something new. We love our young readers and encourage them to find books that open their minds and their hearts and spark imagination.
MUF: What’s a good day at Malaprops?
Linda-Marie: Every day is a good day, but the best day for me is when I have a conversation with a customer and learn something from them that I can apply in my own life. I love when matching readers with books that might change their lives, or at the very least, bring a smile and a lightness to their hearts.
MUF: Malaprop’s is a relatively small shop. How do you decide what titles to carry and feature at your store?
Linda-Marie: We are not small for an independent bookstore, but we are very selective about what we bring in. We purchase based on what our customers have loved in the past, what we see being favorably reviewed in media we respect, and according to our tastes, too. We carry all of the favorite books of our staff. We also look for those special books that readers won’t find anywhere else. We like to surprise and delight our customers.
MUF: As middle -grade authors, we’d love to know what titles, old and new, fiction and nonfiction, you find yourself recommending to ages 8-12 these days? Linda-Marie: I love Mr. Puffball: Stunt Cat to the Stars by Constance Lombardo, and The League of Seven by Alan Gratz. Lombardo and Gratz are local authors whose reads have a lot of heart, humor, and imagination. Lombardo illustrated Mr. Puffball and her drawings are hilarious!
MUF: Does Malaprop’s have any activities or events coming up in July or August that would be of particular interest to middle-graders?
Linda-Marie: Our big event will be the Harry Potter midnight release party. Too much fun!
MUF: If a family from out of town came to visit your store, would there be family-friendly places in the neighborhood where they could have lunch or snacks after shopping?
Linda-Marie: We are fortunate to be surrounded by family friendly restaurants. Great places to eat are Early Girl, Laughing Seed, Tupelo Honey, and Loretta’s.
Thank you for talking with us, Linda-Marie. Readers, have you been to Malaprop’s or think you’d like to visit? Please add your comments.
Sue Cowing is the author of the middle-grade puppet-and-boy novel, You Will Call Me Drog (Carolrhoda 2011, Usborne UK 2012)