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Drunk on Ink Q & A with Sara Luce Look and Indie Bookstore Charis Books and More

Drunk on Ink is a blast interview series by Soniah Kamal author of  the novel Unmarriageable a parallel retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and set in contemporary Pakistan 

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.

Charis Staff (Sara far right)

Founder Linday Bryant’s fascinating and inspirational history of Charis Books. 

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?

The Perks of Being a Wallflower 

How can an author read at your store?

Dog, Cat, Or? 

Jasmine the miniature dachshund comes to work daily.

Favorite book cover?

The hardback edition of The Children’s Book by A.S.Byatt

Recommend a literary journal?

Sinister Wisdom

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 novelist, essayist and public speaker.  Soniah’s novel Unmarriageable is a Financial Times Readers’ Best Book of 2019, a People’s Magazine Pick, a Library Reads Pick, an NPR Code Switch Summer Read Pick, a 2019 Book All Georgians Should Read, a 2020 Georgia Author of the Year for Literary Fiction nominee and more. Her novel An Isolated Incident was shortlisted for the Townsend Prize for Fiction and the KLF French Fiction Prize. Soniah’s TEDx talk is about second chances and she has delivered numerous keynotes addreses. ‘We are the Ink’, her address at a U.S. Citizenship Oath Ceremony, talks about immigrants and the real American Dreams, her keynote at the Jane Austen Festival is about universality across time and cultures and she’s given keynotes at Writers Conferences. Soniah’s work has appeared in critically acclaimed anthologies and publications including The New York Times, The Guardian, The Georgia Review, The Bitter Southerner, Catapult, The Normal School, Apartment Therapy and more.
She’s on twitter and instagram @soniahkamal

More Drunk on Ink Interviews:

Mike Chen: Here and Now and Then, a novel

Ruth Franklin: Shirley Jackson A Rather Haunted Life, biography

Colleen Oakley: Before I Go, a novel

Emily Midorikawa: A Secret Sisterhood: The literary friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, George Eliot, and Virginia Woolf, biography

Shabnam Samuel: A Fractured Life, memoir

Elise Hooper: The Other Alcott, a novel

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 ZohnThe Currency of Taste- Gibbons Georgian Silver, coffee table book

Vanessa HuaA River of Stars, novel

Chaitli SenThe Pathless Sky, novel

Sonya HuberPain Woman Take Your Keys, memoir

Kathy Wilson FlorenceThree of Cups, a novel

Sara Luce LookCharis Books and More, independent book store

S J SinduMarriage of a Thousand Lies, a novel

Rosalie Morales KearnsKingdom of Men, a novel

Saadia FaruqiMeet Yasmin, children’s literature

Rene DenfeldThe Child Finder, a novel

Jamie BrennerThe Husband Hour, a novel

Sara MarchantThe Driveway has Two Sides, memoir

Kirsten Imani KasaiThe House of Erzulie, a novel

Thrity UmrigarThe Secrets Between Us, novel

John Kessel, Pride and Prometheus, novel

Lisa Romeo, Starting with Goodbye: A Daughter’s Memoir of Love After Loss

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 BathenaA Girl Like That, YA novel



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