Lesbian-owned Charis Books & More celebrates four decades of selling books and providing a safe space to many communities in November and plans are to have special birthday events through the next year.
Co-owners Sara Luce Look and Angela Gabriel head up the store that offers everything from writing workshops to a trans youth support group to yoga to offering the best selection in progressive children’s and adult reading materials.
Elizabeth Anderson, executive director at Charis Books, answered a few questions about how the bookstore continues to remain successful and what is planned to celebrate this momentous occasion.
What does it mean to Charis to reach its 40th anniversary?
We have been so honored to be a part of Atlanta’s LGBTQ, feminist, and progressive literary scene since 1974. It is significant for any bookstore or community space to reach its 40th anniversary because so much of our culture has been moving away from investing in media as objects. First many record stores closed, then bookstores, then video stores and movie theaters.
We are all for the digital content revolution but what folks often don’t realize is that when we lose the stores we lose the communal gathering spaces around which we build new ideas and culture.
More books are published today than at any time in our human history, yet fewer people are reading than ever before. Part of what we are proud of is the way we get to connect people to the right books, the right stories, at the right time. We have folks from all over the South drive hundreds of miles to browse our shelves because they know they or their family will be well represented.
People attend our events because they love sitting in a room with other people who love books and talking about them. We know how invaluable a space like Charis is because we see it transform customers’ lives each and every day. We have always been more than a bookstore, and we are always excited when we get to celebrate that with the general public.
What has contributed to Charis’ success?
We have loyal, interested, committed customers who seek us out for our selection because they know they can trust the books we place in their hands. We also have a very strong nonprofit programming arm, Charis Circle, which creates over 200 diverse events a year.
From the expected offerings like book groups, author readings, and writing groups, to the very unexpected: Sunday morning yoga, health and wellness programs, cooking demos, spirituality groups, anti-racist workshops, trans youth support groups, teen ‘zine making classes and so much more.
We have also been successful mostly because it is a blood sweat and tears effort on the part of many community volunteers, board members, and especially our staff. Co-owners Sara Look and Angela Gabriel work very hard to be as responsive as possible to the community’s needs.
What does Charis have planned to celebrate?
We are thinking about the entirety of November 2014 as kicking off our birthday year—since we are turning 40, we still have a whole year to celebrate! Events will all be on the website as soon as possible but here are the major highlights.
• Monday, Nov. 3 at 7:15 p.m.— Charis kicks off its 40th anniversary year celebrations by welcoming Azar Nafisi, author of “Reading Lolita in Tehran” and “The Republic of Imagination,” to the First Baptist Church of Decatur in conjunction with the Georgia Center for the Book. (Free)
• Wednesday, Nov. 5 at 7:30 p.m.—Charis continues its 40th anniversary celebrations this week by welcoming longtime Charis favorite and former Atlanta resident Nicola Griffith back to Atlanta to read from the paperback release of her dazzling and powerful new work of fiction, “Hild.” ($5 suggested donation)
• Thursday, Nov. 6 at 7:30 p.m. — Charis welcomes back former Charis Books co-owner, Sandra Lambert, with her new book, “The River’s Memory.” We invite everyone, but especially all former and current Charis staff, board, and volunteers to join us for this special evening. ($5 suggested donation)
• Friday, Nov. 7, 7:30 p.m. — at the Solarium in Oakhurst, Charis board member, author, and member of the Crunk Feminist Collective, Susana Morris, in conversation with Kiese Laymon (“How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America, and Long Division”). ($10 suggested donation, no tickets necessary).
• Saturday, Nov. 8 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. — Charis Books in store sale and celebration. Stop by the store all day to see old friends, eat cake, and buy books!
• Saturday, Nov. 8 at 7:30 p.m. — Charis Books Homecoming Party and Birthday Bash at the Marianna (above the Wrecking Bar) in Little Five Points. Join us for a true birthday homecoming in honor of where we have been and where we are going. Tickets available in the store and online now.
• Friday, Nov. 21 at 7:30 p.m. — Anne Lamott at First Baptist Church of Decatur.