Posts filed under ‘Neighborhood News’

Je Suis Charlie

je suis

In answer to why we have put the posters in our window with Je Suis Charlie.

We must stand firm in defense of free speech. It is one thing to not sell or read or ally ourselves with what we see as destructive imagery or language, it is another to say nothing when there is a fundamental attack on free speech. Book Culture is in the publishing business and as such we are obligated, without equivocation, to support that right.
We are not defending “Charlie Hebdo” or any idea or publication no matter how offensive or acceptable to us. We are defenders of the right to free speech.
Standing for the rights of only ourselves, our views of what is acceptable, proper, meritorious or warranting the right to publication, is not standing for the right at all. We are committed enough to stand up for the right to free speech for others. This is the commitment we must make if we are to uphold free speech as a right.
It is perfectly right and just that somewhere at the far edges of decency where Charlie Hebdo and super right wing literature exists we find ourselves deeply offended. We can see the devastating effect that inciting anger can have in Rwanda or Bosnia or Nazi Germany for example and we can make sense of the idea that some of this stuff ought to be censored.
But it is only in those places where censorship has won that day that we see the awful results of living in a place where the fundamental rights are not guaranteed to all. Every genocide in history has come in a land without the right to free speech.
We stand with Charlie Hebdo now because free speech has been attacked, and those attackers are asking for our complicity.

Je suis Charlie means we believe in democracy, human rights, the right to dialogue and the power of ideas and writing over violence and coercion. Je suis Charlie means that we will not review the content of our book shops to ensure we are not offending someone. Je suis Charlie means that as coworkers in the business of publishing and books we support, above the ideas themselves, the right of those ideas to be published. Je suis Charlie means that we’re booksellers and it’s a badge of honor. I say- wear it well.

In 1988 Salman Rushdie had published Satanic Verses in England and was almost immediately condemned and threatened with death because in an Ayatollah’s view it was blasphemy. Penguin in New York almost withdrew the publication and when it was eventually published the major chains and many smaller bookselling outlets didn’t offer to sell the book because they were afraid. Many indie booksellers, including the founders of your shops, did sell it. Because we were one of the few outlets that did, we put a mountain of 500 copies in the front of the store and sold 800 copies in a weekend because people didn’t want to be threatened and have their rights infringed upon. Another of the stores that did in Berkeley, Cody’s, was bombed. The question of offensiveness in the book was without question.
If the few outlets that sold the book didn’t what would that say about our democracy, about our commitment to the first amendment?
Where would we be without the first amendment?
We never have issues of free speech when the material being defended is without critics and universally regarded as culturally beneficial or innocuous.
We only have to defend free speech when it is being attacked, that is the nature of the right. If we don’t defend others rights to free speech we cannot claim it for ourselves.
As booksellers, as independent booksellers, we are committed to free speech. It is what we do. We offer a place to criticize governments, religions, ideas, each other. We do not condone or agree with all the ideas, nor do we purvey language that we do find hurtful or denigrating to others without merit.
We do however stand firm on the right to Free Speech.

Chris Doeblin

January 17, 2015 at 3:29 pm Leave a comment

Meet the Staff at Book Culture on Columbus: Kiley McLean


I’m from Chicago by way of Worcester, Massachusetts. I moved here a few months ago for grad school and when I’m not at Book Culture, I am teaching second grade.

What is your role as a bookseller for Book Culture? 
On top of having store hours, I also work as the accounting assistant. I wouldn’t necessarily say I control all the money for the new store, but…

How did you come to be join the Book Culture family?
I recently graduated and was looking for a job that would be flexible as I pursue my graduate degree in Special Education and Social Work at Bank Street/Columbia.

What are your areas of expertise? 
Children and middle reader books. If you want your kid to be the next Junie B. Jones or Nate the Great, I got you.

What are you currently reading?
I’m currently reading Frog and Toad, Amelia Bedelia, and Henry and Mudge…. so mostly classic literature.

What are you looking forward to most at Book Culture on Columbus? 
The comfy chairs.

November 21, 2014 at 12:51 pm 1 comment

Interview With Jenny Milchman, Founder of Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day


If you haven’t already heard, this year’s fifth annual Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day falls on Saturday, December 6th. We are so pleased to be a part of the holiday again and hope you will join us at Book Culture (including Book Culture on Columbus!) to celebrate the joy of reading and, of course, the magic of bookstores for children. This past week we had the chance to interview Jenny Milchman, the founder of TYCBD, about the roots and development of the holiday. We’d like to thank Jenny for taking the time to answer our questions and we look forward to seeing you all December 6th!

On your website you mention that the idea for TYCBD came about while taking your own children to story time at different bookstores each week. Can you speak a little bit more about what inspired you to create TYCBD? What were the early stages of development like?

      In 2010 I had two young children whom I was bringing to story hour at our local bookstore almost every week. After all, what better activity to do with kids? It was enriching, fun, even relaxing. I didn’t have to feel guilty when I drank that 700 calorie butterscotch latte from the coffee bar. I was running back and forth between adult fiction and the flower-flocked children’s section—working off the calories for sure. My kids probably didn’t realize it was as much of a treat for me as for them. Which started me thinking—were other parents in on this secret? How many children knew the pleasure of spending time in a bookstore?

I frequent the mystery listserv, DorothyL, and a more avid group of readers you couldn’t hope to find. When I floated the idea for Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day, DLers spread the word. My husband designed a poster, a website, and bookmarks, and we designated the first Saturday in December as Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day. This would coincide with holiday gift giving, hopefully giving people the idea that books make great presents. Just two weeks later, 80 bookstores were celebrating. (more…)

November 17, 2014 at 3:00 pm 1 comment

This Week: Film Society begins Marguerite Duras Retrospective

the lover

Beginning this week, The Film Society of Lincoln Center is launching a retrospective on playwright, novelist, essayist, and film director Marguerite Duras. The retrospective marks her centennial as well as the re-release of Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959), directed by Alain Resnais with a screenplay written by Duras. Though I have not yet seen Duras’ films, her writing has resonated with me since I first encountered her autobiographical text, The Lover (1984) in a graduate seminar last year. I remember her book fascinated me as her writing broke all conventions of storytelling. Unlike other authors, Duras’ writing is both visceral and unblinkingly literal; she gives voice to silence, and shapes what cannot be seen—desire, loss, memory. In anticipation of the retrospective, I recently returned to The Lover, and found, again, a window into the life of an artist whose writing questions not only how we write, but also how we see.  So in hopes of stirring our thoughts as we look forward to Duras’ films this week, The Lover is the subject of this post.

The Lover tells the story of a French girl growing up in colonial Indochina. The narrator lives in Sadec, a city in the Southern part of the colony, with her widowed mother and two brothers. Elliptically tracing her departure into adulthood and her development as a writer, the narrator tells the story of her life, which she describes, in a moment of both defiance and negation, as having no “center,” “No path, no line.”

The story opens with a description of a “photograph” that exists only in the narrator’s memory.  The image is of a girl—the narrator—crossing the Mekong River at age fifteen and a half, traveling to her boarding school in Saigon. She remembers herself wearing her mother’s silk dress, a man’s flat brimmed hat, and gold lamé high heels.  She recalls:

“I think it was during this journey [across the river] that the image became detached, removed from all the rest. It might have existed,a photograph might have been taken, just like any other, somewhere else, in other circumstances.  But it wasn’t.  The subject was too slight.  Who would have thought of such a thing?”

As her childhood is marked by her family’s failure to recognize her as an individual, denying her subjectivity, it is precisely the photograph’s “slightness” that marks its importance to her life: “it’s to this, this failure to have been created, that the image owes its virtue.” The photo exists for no one but the narrator; she is its only creator.

The details of the photograph unfold over the course of the book and take on new meaning as time moves forward and backwards, within and around the image. With the movement of the story, we learn that this image takes place before she meets the older Chinese man who will later become her lover; before their clandestine affair causes an unbridgeable rift between the narrator and her family; before desire carves out a space that undercuts and reveals her alienation from her colonial environment.

By focusing on the non-existent photograph, Duras’ text speaks to a new way of seeing. It is provocative that the narrator chooses to call her memory a “photograph,” as the image is not still, but moving; she is journeying across the river. Unlike the manicured and stagnant portraits that the narrator’s mother sought for herself—portraits that the narrator describes as “uniformly rejuvenated”—the photograph that the text returns to again and again expands and changes as the story and narrator evolves in time.

Images, as seen in Duras’ fixation on the absent photograph, appear differently throughout the story to not only the narrator, but also to the reader . Unlike other narratives about growing up, we are not meant to accept one version of the story and then move on. Instead, as the narrator writes, we can always find “hidden stretches of that same youth, of certain facts, feelings, events that [are] buried.” Indeed, I only realized on a second reading that the narrator’s shortest (and very first) recollection of the photograph is, perhaps, the most expansive:

“So, I’m fifteen and a half.

It’s on a ferry crossing the Mekong River.

The image lasts all the way across.”

From this early description, she reveals that the image of herself crossing the river can never be concluded, that all events preceding and following that day are and have always been contained in its memory. For Duras, the photographic image becomes a site of constant movement, a space of departure and return. The image lasts all the way across.


For more information and a schedule of the upcoming screenings, visit the Film Society’s website.


By Maxine


October 16, 2014 at 12:47 pm Leave a comment

Join Us In Opening A New Bookstore


Dear Friends and Neighbors,

As you may have heard (or read), Book Culture is endeavoring not only to keep operating our two independent bookstores in Morningside Heights – but also to open a third location at 450 Columbus Avenue, between 81st and 82nd Streets (which many remember as the home of Endicott Booksellers from twenty years ago).

Our target date of mid-November 2014 is fast approaching and we need your help.  We are asking for you to be an integral part of the effort through supporting memberships and several other options that have been created for the cause.

This is an opportunity to have a real effect on what our city looks like, to take part in creating a community bookstore and to keep the discovery of books and reading a part of our lives.

To find out more about helping a new independent bookstore open its doors, please click here.

Thank you.

Chris Doeblin,,  and Annie Hedrick,

October 15, 2014 at 8:43 pm Leave a comment

Q&A: Dr. Bashi

DrBashi_Logo (2)1) Could you give us a little history of Dr. Bashi?

I was a graduate student in New York when I became a mother and was inspired by the abundance of children’s educational and art venues in the city. I’d constantly come across wonderful books and educational toys but had a hard time finding any Persian children’s books, let alone educational toys. This made me look into the state of children’s education and literacy in my area of expertise, namely the Middle East. As a child in Iran myself, I had a difficult school start, for learning the Persian alphabet, diction and math all seemed like a punishing exercise. I believe that my negative experiences could have easily been avoided. Because with the right tools and stimulation, nearly all children are capable of visually memorizing the core elements such as the alphabet, numbers, shapes and basic cognitive concepts years before kindergarten/school-start.

So last year I took a leap of faith and fulfilled my dream of making the very materials I wanted for my own children.

2) Book Culture recently hosted a launch party for the Arabic and Persian block sets. What makes these sets different from other similar products?

I was very happy that we could have our first official launch event in Book Culture! Frequenting Book Culture both as a student and later as a mother was instrumental in the realization of our venture!

What makes our sets different from other similar products is that our blocks are ethically-made in Vermont, USA (no one is hurt making them) and of premium quality, which means they are made to last generations. When parents or a school purchases a set of Dr. Bashi blocks, they are also buying it for the next generation of children and their children…we guarantee it! Furthermore unlike the lindenwood and basswood alphabet blocks commonly found in the market, our blocks are suitable for children 1 years of age and older, they are made of sustainably sourced American hard maple wood – lacquered and painted with non-toxic ink–which creates a solid, non-splintering toy that is safe around the edges. This is particularly important as children under 3 tend to bite toys and lindenwood blocks are known to splinter (small chunks of wood can be bitten off) and lose their color fairly quickly.

persian_anatomy_99 (2)

Dr. Bashi Persian blocks, available at Book Culture for discounted prices.

Secondly, when you take into account that every square cube has 6 sides to it, you realize that each side of a wood block is prime time real estate! So you don’t want to waste it!

On just 1 side for instance, we have added 2 combined educational components– color and geometric shape for children of all ages to learn—so when you add a triangle why not color it, and add the name of the color too—so e.g. red triangle instead of just red or triangle?

So both our Persian and Arabic block sets offer 10 different colors and 11 geometric shapes, as well as the entire Arabic or Persian alphabet and all their conditional forms, vowels and numbers, basic math symbols, useful sight-words, the four seasons, and weather types, and even the 5 senses (for the Persian). The typography, choice of words and illustrations on our blocks are unique, artistically-exciting and wherever possible race and gender conscious—created in close consultation with scholars in the field.

So our blocks are packed with education and help with developing fine and gross motor skills and cognitive concepts, while also promoting parent/teacher-child interaction.

It is important to keep in mind that while in Europe and North America, ABC wood blocks for children have been part of every home, nursery and elementary school’s inventory for centuries, this has not been the case for Persian and Arabic speaking regions. So when I decided to venture into the field of children’s products, I wanted to make the best ABC block ever made–surpassing 300 years of experimentation with English or French wood blocks, both in terms of material but also content.


Dr. Golbarg Bashi with her children, at her graduation from Columbia University.

3) It is rather remarkable how much Dr. Bashi has accomplished, all while you maintain a full life as a scholar and as a mother. How do you do it?

Thank you for your kind comment! We have just begun our work. Parenthood and full-time work is always a challenge. I personally had to wait until my children were older before I could begin this venture. They have both finished preschool now.

4) Dr. Bashi will be hosting a Persian language story time on Saturdays at Book Culture on Broadway. What can parents expect for their children from these story times?

Persian storytime is a partnership between Dr. Bashi™ and Book Culture, a free program for the advancement of Persian literacy, language and heritage. My own children grew up attending story time in Book Culture’s 114th location. We’d pop in during story time even in languages we don’t speak because it was a chance for the kids to meet and play with other children and listen to an engaged adult reading from colorful books.

What parents can expect for their children from Persian story time is engaged and playful readings from a carefully selected list of beloved Persian children’s stories, both modern and medieval. It will also be a time for families and our children to come to Columbia campus, get to know each other, and have fun. I’d love to offer movie-time called something like “Persian n’ Popcorn” for older children with the option of writing and discussing the films or TV series we’ve watched. Hint hint, Book Culture ; )


5) Are there any other products currently in the works? What can we look forward to from Dr. Bashi?

We are working on a Persian-English children’s books project that we hope to launch next year. We are also working on offering our blocks in a number of other languages such as Urdu, Hebrew, Swedish and even English! Our capabilities to make educational toys in any world language or in any particular theme (chemistry, geography, botany, history, stories and much more) are endless. Hopefully with more visionary investors on board, we can realize our full potential.

6) Where can people find out more about Dr. Bashi? and follow us on our Facebook, Twitter (@Dr_Bashi), instagram (@dr_bashi), YouTube, and pinterest channels. And come to Persian story time on Saturdays at 2:30 PM in Book Culture on 114th Street, New York, NY.

Questions by Cody

August 5, 2014 at 8:19 pm 2 comments

Call for Submissions: Table Talk

Our friends at Table Talk have put out a call for new submissions!

table talk


          Table Talk is a new kind of magazine that brings together people, both renowned and unknown, from different professions, countries, and contexts. Each issue focuses on a rarely discussed idea or experience that appears in all of our lives. By gathering voices from seemingly unrelated perspectives, speaking through different media, we hope to create a new space for intellectual exchange.
          The inaugural issue released this past May focused on duende, the Spanish word for a heightened state of emotion we often experience as shivers up and down our skin when we are moved by a powerful performance. Contributors ranged from the contemporary American philosopher Alphonso Lingis, to Jazra Khaleed, a Chechen-born poet and boxer living in Athens, from the Australian anthropologist Michael Taussig, to Chris Buczinsky, an Illinois-based children’s book author and illustrator. The first issue is now carried internationally in top bookstores and magazine shops in Berlin, Istanbul, London, and New York. Online, the magazine has been read in over 27 countries, from South Africa to Japan, Brazil to Bangladesh.
          Submissions are now open for the second issue, centered on the idea of dyno. In rock climbing one normally needs three points of stability to safely navigate an ascent. There are some moments, however, when the climber reaches an area that she cannot overcome using this particular approach and must instead let go of everything, leaping through mid-air in order to surpass the obstacle ahead. Climbers call this dyno, a dynamic move. This decision to surrender all comfort and risk everything for one’s goal is not restricted to rock climbing. From fishermen who venture into dangerous waters for the big catch, to poets who abandon the rules of convention and risk their reputations to create new styles of writing, this moment of dyno is an intriguing lens through which to look at perseverance, innovation, and creativity across professions and disciplines.
          Any form of writing (essays, fiction, poetry, interviews, recipes, etc.) or visual art and media (photography, paintings, films, documentaries, etc.) that approaches the theme in innovative and accessible ways is open for consideration. Dyno can be explored directly or used as an underlying theme for the piece. Written submissions should be limited to 2,000 words, visual submissions 8 images, and video submissions 10 minutes. Any selected films will be featured in the print magazine as a QR code that links to the video on the website. Previously published submissions will not be accepted. Simultaneous submissions are allowed as long as we are immediately notified upon acceptance to a different publication.
          All submissions are due by September 16th, 2014.Please submit via this link: and address any queries or thoughts to:
          Issue II set to release early November.

July 23, 2014 at 5:10 pm Leave a comment

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