As an estimated 500,000 men, women, and children descended upon Washington, D.C. for the Women’s March on Saturday, including four charter buses full of book people from New York City spearheaded by Riverhead Books’ associate publicity director Katie Freeman, indie booksellers in the nation’s capitol welcomed book industry professionals and other booklovers with open arms. One bookseller, Laurie Gillman of East City Bookshop, went so far as to collaborate with bookstore consultant Donna Paz Kaufman of Paz & Associates to organize a meet-up on Saturday morning in front of the Library of Congress for people in the book industry who wanted to march together. While the group that gathered ended up being fewer than 20, Paz Kaufman told PW, it was outsized in their advocacy for freedom of expression.
“Participating in the Women’s March on Washington was an important statement about our future in so many ways," she told PW later. "With the massive crowd, we were dispersed, but still fully present."
Several D.C. indies held events throughout the weekend, both in-store and offsite, that drew crowds of people. Busboys and Poets threw a star-studded Peace Ball at the National Museum for African American History and Culture on the night before Donald Trump’s inauguration that was co-hosted by a slate of 31 prominent activists and other celebrities, including authors Cheryl Strayed and Alice Walker. In its report, NBC News called the Peace Ball “equal parts rally and therapy session” for “thousands” of attendees, who jammed the museum, which first opened its doors in September.
The following evening, while a long line of elites in black tie and ball gowns stood on Massachusetts Avenue waiting to gain entrance to an inaugural ball taking place at the National Building Museum, a few blocks away, approximately 200 people packed Busboys and Poets’ 5th & K Street’s outlet—one of several events held that evening at three of the four Busboys and Poets’ District bookstore/cafes. The event at 5th & K, billed as an evening of “the poetry of rising and resistance,” was more like a prep rally for the Women’s March, with playwright Eve Ensler denouncing President Donald Trump's misogyny, and author and film-maker Michael Moore delivering his customary barn-burner of a speech, comparing the Women’s March participants to the early 20th-century suffragettes and 1960s-era Civil Rights activists.
Politics and Prose Bookstore also held in-store events throughout the weekend that kept the store packed with customers. On January 19 New York Magazine columnist Jonathan Chait spoke to a full house about his recent release, Audacity: How Barack Obama Defied His Critics and Transformed America and urged the audience to get involved to protect civil rights. The following evening, the store held the second in its new Teach In series of panel discussions led by experts on topical issues, with National Women’s Law Center program vp Fatima Goss Graves, Georgetown law professor Jennifer Klein, and New York Magazine writer Rebecca Traister discussing women’s rights under the Trump administration.
Co-owner Lissa Muscatine explained to the standing-room-only crowd that the store’s teach-in programming, which was launched on January 8 with a program on civil liberties, was inspired by feedback from store customers who repeatedly told staff that the store had become a place of refuge for them since the election. “”What more can we do,” she explained of the store’s decision to hold the teach-ins, and promised that the store would continue to hold the panel discussions as long as necessary to accommodate customers wanting to be educated about the ramifications of the 2016 election.
East City Books, which opened in April, hosted a sign-making party the day that Trump was inaugurated that was supposed to last for two hours but went on for four hours. It wound up the weekend with an evening of women’s poetry following the Women’s March that began with booksellers passing out copies of Lucille Clinton’s poem, “won’t you celebrate with me,” the last line, “something has tried to kill me and has failed” highlighted in yellow. Poets reciting their own poems as well as those of other poets included editor and poet Carolyn Forché, and the poets Samantha Thornhill, Lauren Alleyne, and Danielle Chapman.
“It was just something people needed,” East City Bookshop's Gillman said of the store’s weekend programming as some of the marchers streaming down Pennsylvania Avenue after the march officially ended stopped by the store for refreshments and poetry.