A Love Letter to The Women’s Bookshop, from Deborah Shepard

Go into your local bookshop & write a love letter, and be in to win $500 in Book Tokens! 

Deborah_Dhepard_photo_by_John_McDermott

photo by John McDermott

My favourite bookshop is the Women’s Bookshop in Ponsonby Road. It opened, first, in Dominion Road in 1989 the year I moved, reluctantly, from Christchurch to Auckland, following the dictates of my husband’s career.

Only one year earlier I had been immersed in a new paper in Feminist Studies at Canterbury University, one that had turned my world on its head, providing a theory and an explanation for the vague feelings of alienation and dissatisfaction that had been surfacing since becoming a mother, or, ‘just a mother,’ that’s how you were viewed then, and not a human being with a brain and yearnings to write. The move to Auckland changed my academic pathway, although the seeds of my future had been planted in that one revolutionary paper. Through a course in film studies with Professor Roger Horrocks I embarked on PhD research and it was Carole Beu’s bookshop that provided the resources I needed to do that work and write my feminist revisionist history of New Zealand film, Reframing Women: a history of New Zealand film (Harper Collins 2000).

The day I found the new bookshop in Dominion Road I felt immediately at home and excited. The atmosphere was so welcoming. You could make a cup of herbal tea, settle into a sofa in the corner and take a leisurely browse through the revolutionary texts. Carole offered an amazing collection of fiery texts. These were the heady years of the feminist movement, where there was an explosion of writing by women that provided the theoretical underpinnings for a better understanding of the gendered nature of the society in which we live. This was where you could find the Virago ‘Modern Classics’ a series that reclaimed the earlier texts of hundreds of women writers. It’s where you could source the work of feminist historians who were critiquing the masculinist bias in the historical records whilst recuperating the contribution of brilliant women writers, artists, musicians, philosophers and scientists who had formerly been ‘hidden from history.’ It’s where you could find the texts by feminist economists, planners and geographers who were re-envisioning society and how it might be better structured to create fairer, more cooperative and supportive communities for us to live in.

Carole stocked the seminal texts by: Betty Friedan, Marilyn French, Germaine Greer, Gloria Steinem, Kate Millett, Dale Spender, Mary Daly, Adrienne Rich, Audre Lorde, Linda Nochlin, Phyllis Chesler, Erica Jong and the follow up books by Gloria Steinem Revolution from within, Germaine Greer The Whole Woman, Naomi Wolf The Beauty Myth and later The Backlash by Susan Faludi. She also, critically for us, supported the work of New Zealand women novelists and non-fiction writers and kept the fires burning through the 1990s and 2000s when feminism was under attack and almost went underground, until recently when we got Caitlin Moran and Clementine Ford, the younger spiky feminists who are taking us forward again.

These days when I visit the bookshop in Ponsonby Road, I value it even more. It is like a heart beating for women, in the centre of the city. I love that it is staffed by women, some of them published authors in their own right, and by Carole herself, a feminist legend, who over three decades has championed and supported women’s literature through the Listener Women’s Book festivals in the 1990s, through her radio and television book reviews, the Auckland Writers’ Festivals, the book launches at her store and her own annual Litera-Teas. While the work of male writers is included at the Women’s Bookshop it must be one of a very few public spaces that offers a kind of intellectual retreat where women can read to be empowered and inspired to be braver, bolder, wilder and more staunch. Experiences like these can’t be had through Amazon. The Women’s Bookshop is a precious institution, a taonga in our nation’s bookselling network, long may it thrive.

Deborah Shepard, 2017
Deborah Shepard is an Auckland biographer, life writing mentor and teacher of memoir with a PhD in Film Studies.

The Women’s Bookshop, Ponsonby
Stopping Passers-By! An artist will be stopping passers-by on the pavement, by painting colourful illustrations on the outside of our shop window from 11.30am to 1.30pm.
Spot Prizes! We have heaps of give-away books – enough to give a Spot Prize every 10 minutes from 10am to 5pn!! No matter what time customers come in, they will have a chance to WIN! They can select their own prize from the scintillating stack.
PLUS: Visit two of the best bookshops in Ponsonby – and win! 
On NZ Bookshop Day, buy any book at both The Women’s Bookshop AND the Dorothy Butler Children’s Bookshop down the road, get a stamp from both shops, and WIN a children’s picture book – choose from the delicious pile.

A love letter to Books a Plenty, from Angie Belcher

Go into your local bookshop & write a love letter, and be in to win $500 in Book Tokens! 

Dear Books a Plenty,

My heart dropped when I approached your door and saw it closed. Brown paper covered the windows blocking out light. Like a door slammed in my face I stood, stunned, lost for words. Anxiously I peered through a tear in the paper searching for clues as to why you had left. It was then that I noticed the slip of A4 which had dropped to the ground. In heavy black felt pen were the words “Moved to 74 Grey Street”. Like a page torn from a novel, scooped up by the wind and blown along the road, I scurried towards you.  Your doors opened wide, welcoming me once more.

Inside, I stopped, took a deep breath and inhaled your scent. The makeover had transformed you. Smaller, brighter. There was a new clarity and confidence about you. Your shelves decorated with words. In one of the most prominent area stood the New Zealand titles and in another, local authors. I was dizzy with excitement and knew you had not forgotten me, a small independent never-to-be famous wannabe writer. And there, crowing aloud in front of all the other children’s books was The Farmyard Idol. The shining bunting on the cover reflecting light and begging to be read. A wave of gratitude filled me.

Books_a_plenty_and_staff
Books a Plenty staff

For a moment, chapters of my life flashed before me; evenings spent drinking wine on your Book Club nights, seated in your window as a living book week display and the sound of your EFTPOS machine as you sold books on my behalf.

From the first time we met you have supported me, encouraging me when I was down and celebrating even the smallest of my successes. Your kindness was not just limited to me but to Tauranga Writers, Bookrapt and Friends of the Library. Your generosity reaching out with sponsorship of local reader writer events.

For the first time I really saw how important you are in my life. You, and your books, so many books, Books-a-Plenty. There are no more words. Just love and gratitude.

Happy Book Week.

love, Angie Belcher
Writer, Researcher, Author and Educator
www.angiebelcherwriter.com

Books A Plenty, Tauranga
Tauranga Arts Festival continues on Bookshop Day weekend. There will be displays and signings in-store for that and NZ Bookshop Day.