Gretchen Treu, the co-owner of A Room of One’s Own bookstore, should be celebrating next week the first anniversary of her purchase of the iconic, Madison, Wis., indie bookstore. Instead, Treu is spearheading a fundraising campaign, #BookstoresAgainstBorders. Treu is asking indies across the country to join A Room of One’s Own in donating a percentage of their sales during the July 5-7 holiday weekend to the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services [RAICES], a Texas-based organization that provides low-to-no-cost legal services to the people who are incarcerated in the immigrant camps run by the U.S. Border Patrol. These camps have been much in the news lately, due to their inhumane living conditions for the inhabitants, many of them children separated from their parents when attempting to enter the country.
“I feel furious, I feel helpless,” Treu told PW. "I’m certainly not celebrating. To think of children very like mine living in the conditions we're seeing, in the richest country in the world, in the supposed ‘land of the free,’ that is such a deep and growing anger in me. I can't keep doing only what I have been doing.”
In an email sent to booksellers Thursday evening, Treu in her position as coordinator for #BookstoresAgainstBorders wrote, “We are doing this not only to raise more money for this vital organization but to show the country we are more than just places of business, we are members of our communities in ways that go far beyond the transactional.” #BookstoresAgainstBorders suggests that indies commit to donating 5-15% of sales during the holiday weekend to RAICES under the auspices of #BookstoresAgainstBorders, but any amount is sufficient. Bookstores wanting to participate are guided to create an account on Classy.com and also their own fundraiser page, which will be a subset of #BookstoresAgainstBorders’ account. Participating bookstores can thus personalize their fundraising appeals.
For those stores unable to donate a percentage of sales to RAICES, #BookstoresAgainstBorders asks them to ramp up visibility and support for the campaign by promoting it on their own websites and on social media.
Treu says that the fundraising campaign was inspired by a Room of One’s Own employee, Misian Taylor, wanting to do something constructive in response to the news that immigrant children in the camps are being denied necessities like soap and showers. At first, the bookstore was simply going to reach out to its own customers but then decided to expand the reach of the campaign by encouraging the participation of “everyone who loves books, readers, authors, publishers, industry professionals, individual booksellers, and more," according to the open letter to booksellers.
RAICES was selected as the recipient for the funds raised, Treu said, because after doing their due diligence, she and her colleagues at A Room of One’s Own considered that RAICES is “one of the most effective organizations” providing legal aid to immigrants detained at the U.S. border. “They are working to advocate for and represent immigrants and refugees through the American legal system, and have a program to specifically provide representation to unaccompanied children coming over the border,” Treu said.
A Room of One’s Own, which pledged to donate at least 10% of sales made during the July 5-7 weekend to RAICES, has already raised, as of Monday morning, $564 in contributions.
As of Monday morning, 21 indies across the country as well as a small press, Two Dollar Radio, had signed on with #BookstoresAgainstBorders to raise funds for RAICES.
The Independent Publishers Caucus also is participating in this fundraising campaign: the organization is donating books from five indie presses -- Other Press, Europa Editions, Akashic Books, Seven Stories, and Soho -- to booklovers who make a contribution to #BookStoresAgainstBorders. IPC's premiums range from a "surprise" book for a $10 donation to a collection of six titles and swag for a $75 donation.
"When we heard about A Room of One's Own's campaign, it was immediately obvious that this was something that IPC could and should be a part of," wrote Terrie Akers, marketing director at Other Press and an IPC steering committee member. "We're so grateful to them for taking action, for inspiring us to do the same, and for all of the booksellers, publishers, and supporters who have joined in to support this worthy cause."