Drunk on Ink Q & A with Sara Luce Look and Indie Bookstore Charis Books and More
Charis Books and More was established in Georgia since 1974. We Need Diverse Books named co-owner Sara Luce Look the 2017 Bookseller of the Year. Charis is the South’s oldest independent feminist bookstore and specializes in diverse and unique children’s books, feminist and cultural studies books and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer fiction and non-fiction.
I knew from the beginning that the dream of a bookstore was a vision and that developing that vision was my calling, my purpose. When we looked for a name for our bookstore, I found the word Charis in a Greek lexicon at Columbia Seminary where I’d gone to volunteer in their bookstore to learn something about retail bookselling that summer. “Charis” means grace or gift or thanks and Barbara and I knew immediately that it was the right name for our bookstore.
Soniah Kamal: First author/book you read/fell in love with?
Sara Luce Look: I checked out biographies of Johnny Appleseed and Marian Anderson from my local library repeatedly as a child. I I re-read The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath as a teenager. And fell in love with Dorothy Allison’s writing as an adult.
To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?
All of the above.
Origin story of your book store and you in it?
Charis Books & More was founded in 1974 and grew into a feminist bookstore by the early 1980’s. I was a women’s studies intern from Emory in 1991. I started full-time in 1994 and became a co-owner in 1998. I grew into myself at Charis. In 1996 we started the non-profit, The Charis Circle. Charis Circle is the non-profit programming arm of Charis Books and More, the South’s oldest independent feminist bookstore. Charis Circle exists to foster sustainable feminist communities, work for social justice, and encourage the expression of diverse and marginalized voices.
A novel, short story, poem, essay, anything you believe should be mandatory reading?
I don’t believe in one-size-fits-all mandatory reading. I always want to know what someone already likes and go from there…and I always recommend reading the introduction to Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology by Barbara Smith as a great place to start when you want to know more about “intersectionality “.
The one thing you wish you’d known about the indie bookstore life?
It is hard to read whatever you want when you are always thinking about if you can sell it in your store…
Any classic you wished you’d pushed through in your teens?
Jane Eyre. I read the Cliff Notes.
A favorite quote ?
“whatever happens, this is.”
From the Floating Poem, Unnumbered, Twenty-One Love Poems by Adrienne Rich
Favorite book to film?
How can an author read at your store?
Dog, Cat, Or?
Jasmine the miniature dachshund comes to work daily.
Favorite book cover?
Recommend a literary journal?
Last impulse book buy and why?
I’m surrounded by books to buy, so I’m not very impulsive…but it would probably be a cookbook.
Soniah Kamal is an award winning essayist and fiction writer. Her novel Unmarriageable: Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan, a parallel retelling of Pride and Prejudice and set in contemporary Pakistan, has received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Library Journal. NPR calls it ‘thought provoking and deliciously readable’ and People Magazine says “This inventive retelling of Pride and Prejudice charms.” Unmarriageable is an Amazon Best Books pick, a People Magazine’s Pick, a New York Post Best Book pick, a Library Reads pick and more. Soniah’s debut novel An Isolated Incident was a finalist for the Townsend Award for Fiction, the KLF French Fiction Prize, and is an Amazon Rising Star pick. Soniah’s short story ‘Jelly Beans’ was selected for the Best South Asian Short Stories Anthology 2017. Her TEDx talk is about regrets and redemption. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, Buzzfeed, Catapult, The Normal School, Literary Hub, and has been widely anthologized. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Georgia State University where she was a Paul Bowles Fellow in Fiction. She currently teaches creative writing at Rhineheart University and reviews books for the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Soniah will be giving a keynote address at the Jane Austen Summer Program Conference (2019) and she is a Jane Austen Literacy Ambassador. She was born in Pakistan, grew up in England and Saudi Arabia, and currently resides in Georgia.
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Anne Boyd Rioux: Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters, non fiction
Devoney Looser: The Making of Jane Austen, non fiction
Kristen Miller Zohn: The Currency of Taste- Gibbons Georgian Silver, coffee table book
Vanessa Hua, A River of Stars, novel
Chaitli Sen, The Pathless Sky, novel
Sonya Huber, Pain Woman Take Your Keys, memoir
Kathy Wilson Florence, Three of Cups, a novel
Sara Luce Look, Charis Books and More, independent book store
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Rosalie Morales Kearns, Kingdom of Men, a novel
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Rene Denfeld: The Child Finder, a novel
Jamie Brenner, The Husband Hour, a novel
Sara Marchant, The Driveway has Two Sides, memoir
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Thrity Umrigar, The Secrets Between Us, novel
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Rachel May, An American Quilt: Unfolding a Story of Family and Slavery
Rebecca Entel, Fingerprints of Previous Owners, novel
Jamie Sumner, Unbound: Finding from Unrealistic Expectations of Motherhood
Falguni Kothari, My Last Love Story, novel
Tanaz Bathena, A Girl Like That, YA novel