Monday, December 17, 2012

Bookstores Help With Grief and Tragedy

Just this past weekend, an autistic man walked into an elementary school in Connecticut and shot/killed over 20 children and 7 teachers. I had a very vivid dream the night before of trying to tell people that I know and love not to board a certain airplane that I knew was going to have a mechanical failure, and telling parents not to send their kids to Cedar River Middle School, because I had seen the boots of a man with an assault weapon going into the school and I knew those boots would get bloody soon enough. The frustration of the dream was that, like Cassandra from mythology, though I knew something terrible was going to happen, no one believed me, and in fact felt that I was crazy and/or trying to admit that I was going to do something terrible myself, so why would these people listen to me? When I heard the news on Friday, I was not at all surprised, then, and my husband was flabbergasted that I seemed so calm in the face of such a huge waste of life and cruel truncating of the lives of these innocent kids and teachers.
He didn't realize that I had already mourned for these kids in my dream.
Here's a response from an author about how one town's bookstore helped people deal with this senseless violence.

Bookstore: 'A Bank of the Human Condition'

After learning about the horrible tragedy in Newtown, Conn., Friday,
author Tiffany Baker (The Gilly Salt Sisters) resisted her initial
reaction ("to drive straight to my children's school, bring them home,
line them up on the couch, and then throw my body over them. For the
rest of time.") and instead went to her local bookstore, Book Passage, Corte Madera, Calif.

In a moving post on her blog,
Baker wrote: "Book Passage is more than just a store. It's a
longstanding community hub, a place to grab coffee and talk, a locus for
lectures, classes, and clubs.... When I walked in, I was met by my good
friend, Calvin, who manages events for the shop. He knows I have kids,
and he, too, had heard about the shooting. He hugged me, and then we
talked books, recipes, family, and discussed the merits and drawbacks of

"I ran into Luisa, the daughter of a famous local writer and a family
friend, who also works at the store, and who, like me, has young
children. We shook our heads, our faces long and worried, and wondered
what would happen if book people ran the world.

"Since I couldn't go snatch my kids out of school, I began snatching
books off the shelves for them. That novel my oldest daughter's been
asking for? In the basket. A book about trolls for my middle daughter?
Yes. The Lego book of ideas? Why not? Books for my husband, a paperback
for me, more books for the kids.

"Maybe it seems silly. Maybe it seems like I'm trying to buy my kids'
affection, and, to be honest, I worried about that, but then I realized
what was behind my book binge. When my kids got home from school, I knew
I was going to have to tell them about the shooting. I just wanted to
make sure that when faced with an unthinkable and awful story, they know
there are a million other voices in this world, and that not all of them
are evil.

"A bookstore--a good one, at least--is far more than just a retail
establishment. It's a bank of the human condition. The shelves of Book
Passage offer succor to the grieving, wonder to the jaded, advice to the
confused. You can go in alone, and come out with an armful of company.
If you are a regular, chances are you can walk in and someone there will
be able to prescribe exactly what your spirit needs."

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