Sometimes I hate the world. At times I wish it would spontaneously combust.
I hate that there are millions of starving people around the globe when I see perfectly good food go to waste and girls starving themselves to be skinny. I hate that today’s teens look up to people like Paris Hilton, The Hills girls, and Soulja Boy as role models. I hate that feminists are still looked at as she-devil dyke man-haters. I hate that my parents don’t get/accept my queerness. I hate that there are still some people in this country that think we are not ready for a black president. I hate working for a government that is patriarchal, corrupt, and unjust. I hate eating meat knowing the cruelty animals suffer because of my carnivorous cravings. All these things, all the injustices we suffer at the hands of bigotry, imperialism, racism, misogyny, and xenophobia give me the blues like nobody’s business.
And when I hate the world and get blue like this, the only place I can find some solace- besides my sleep- is at Bluestockings, a radical little bookstore/fair trade café/ activist center on Allen Street in Manhattan. Always smelling like a strong cup of joe, this cozy little spot in the Lower Eastside is a queer feminist bookworm’s nirvana. Surrounded by awesome literature, cute girls, and the white noise of NYC, Bluestockings is the ideal place to go when you need to escape into a book, search information for your cause, hear some inspiring words, need the company of cool strangers, or just crave a cappuccino and a window seat to this mad mad world.
I can easily spend an hour at Bluestockings just browsing their book selection. In a world where today’s lit lovers are Amazon.com’s best patrons, I prefer to support indie bookstores like Bluestockings in an effort to preserve the precious process that is the art of reading: the dance between the books and the reader in the bookstore, the paperback the reader will pick, the places they’ll go together…. I can’t get that kind of satisfaction from the internet. Book-hunting at Bluestockings is where it’s at if reading is like dating for you- you need to feel the book/person out before you take them home with you.
Besides your bestsellers and popular picks, you can run your fingers across shelves and shelves stocked with literature on gender/queer and cultural studies, science fiction, global capitalism, war and militarism, class and labor, and poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. They have tons of books on all subject matter, documenting countless lives, fantasies, and movements in his/herstory. Hence, Bluestockings is not your average bookstore, and its literature and wares are not your ordinary books and products. Green and girl-friendly, you can find diva cups, organic menstrual pads, T-shirts, calendars, notebooks, CD’s, and DVD’s- awesome products that benefit your body, mind, and spirit.
Another of my favorite aspects of Bluestockings is that they host readings, performances, workshops, films, and discussions on a myriad of subjects on an almost daily basis. Here is the place to be proactive! With almost nightly events, Bluestockings supports all movements that challenge hierarchy/ systems of oppression, and promotes democracy, equality, and art. Groups like Dyke Knitting Circle, Feminist Book Club, Indigenousness Voices series, and Women’s/Trans Poetry Jam & Open Mic run on a monthly basis and are excellent ways to create and bring communities together in a safe, positive space.
Last Wednesday night, I attended one of Bluestockings September events Benefit for Books through Bars and Prison Legal News Presentation: Incarcerated Women: Conditions, Profiteering and Resistance. This forum focused on the female prison population that has tripled within the past 20 years and the deplorable conditions these inmates suffer within the correctional system. "Women Behind Bars" author Silja Talvi, founding editor of "Prison Legal News" Paul Wright, former drug war prisoner Yraida Guanipa, and Books Through Bars co-founder "Resistance Behind Bars" Vikki Law presented an eye-opening and alarming discussion on the lives of incarcerated women, our bogus drug laws, the privatization of prisons, the resistance movement inside/out of the prison system, and hoe prison functions as a tool of social control, slave labor, and institutionalized racism. Watching these activists fight the very system that once oppressed them reminded me of how much goes on in the world that we are (kept) blind to, how injustice prevails but the need to revolt and resist is vital, now more than ever.
It’s forums like this one, like the kinds that Bluestockings hosts, that make it the raddest place on planet earth, or at least in NYC. Bluestockings by no means cures all the ills of the world. It does not have the infinite selection of literature that you can access at the click of a mouse. My being there does not directly make a difference in my life, in the world. But what Bluestockings does is remind me that there are places that promote and inspire change, places I can go to if I’m bummed and know I’ll leave there feeling at least 50% better. Bluestockings promotes change, peace, and revolution, and allows for marginalized voices to be heard, provides a sanctuary for inspiration-homeless artists. Bluestockings offers an alternative to Barnes and Nobles, to bars and shopping malls. It is the alternative to mediocrity, consumerism, complacence, and run-of-the-mill in a world of retail therapy and overstock.
If you catch a case of the blues as often as I do, don’t let them beat you down. Grab your journal and run over to Bluestockings; read Bitch magazine, browse the poetry section, and sip on some chai. Take a deep breath, and feel Bluestockings change your colors immediately.