The Midwest Independent Booksellers Association announced Tuesday afternoon that its third annual Bookseller of the Year Award was given to Jamie and Angela Schwesnedl, the owners of Moon Palace Books. The store, located in South Minneapolis, boasts two floors of new and used books, a café (Geek Love Café), and a performance space for readings and music.
“Moon Palace is known for its expansive footprint—within its physical space and the hearts of the community,” MIBA stated in a release, “Moon Palace is radically welcoming, with a generosity of spirit that radiates throughout the community and the book industry at large.”
The store, which opened in 2012 and moved into its current space in 2017, received national attention during the civil unrest following George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police officers in May. The store is located down the block from the Minneapolis police department’s Third Precinct station, which was heavily damaged during protests following Floyd’s death. While several buildings in the vicinity, including a U.S. Post Office, were burned to the ground, Moon Palace remained virtually unscathed. Angela told PW at the time that she’d heard that demonstrators admonished each other to leave the store alone, as its owners were allies.
“They got more nominations than anyone ever has,” Carrie Obry, MIBA’s executive director, told PW.
“Angela and Jamie responded to both the pandemic and the civil unrest after the killing of George Floyd by prioritizing the safety and well-being of their community before their bottom line,” MIBA stated in a release, noting that before Floyd’s death, the bookstore was providing meals to people in need and, in partnership with Milkweed Editions, books for prison inmates. After Floyd’s death, when protesters gathered on the street outside the police station, Moon Palace fed them pizza, allowed them use of the store’s facilities and its parking lot.
Jessica Peterson White, owner of Content Books in Northfield, Minn., one of the booksellers, publishers’ reps, and others who nominated the Schwesnedls for the award wrote, “Jamie and Angela adapted their business to the pandemic and the heartbreaking destruction of the neighborhood with agility and care, setting a brilliant example of resilience and allyship for booksellers across the Midwest and the country.”
Zsamé Morgan, the owner of Babycakes Book Stack in St. Paul, recounted in her nomination letter how she reached out to the Schwesnedls for advice before launching her mobile bookstore. Morgan wrote, “Angela tirelessly mentored me, provided a listening ear and critical feedback and gave me a strong foothold in the bookselling community. Jamie has been generous to a fault with his wisdom and practical advice. Together, this powerhouse couple, the staff, and the store itself have become an immovable force for good—for diversity, inclusion, and community involvement, for honesty and integrity.”
“Through Moon Palace,” Morgan wrote, in a reference to the civil unrest in the Twin Cities this spring and summer, “Angela and Jamie have been a voice and a fearless champion for the disenfranchised in a heartbroken community.”