While the June 24 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that overturned Roe v. Wade stunned the nation, it especially resonated with mission-driven independent booksellers. Throughout that day, several indies contacted by PW reported that customers congregated at the stores, seeking, in Left Bank Books owner Kris Kleindienst’s words, “a safe space in which to be with people who would give them comfort and help them make sense of this terrible world.”
In response to Friday’s news, the St. Louis, Mo., indie set up a special book display featuring books on reproductive justice, abortion rights, and misogyny. “We live in Missouri and this is very real for us,” Kleindienst noted, as that state’s trigger law regarding abortion outlawed the procedure there after Roe v. Wade was overturned.
Left Bank’s bestsellers this past weekend were New Handbook for a Post-Roe America; Turnaway Study: Ten Years, a Thousand Women and the Consequences of Having – or Being Denied – an Abortion; and The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade.
Sales of stickers bearing such statements as RBG I Fucking Dissent; My Body My Choice; Laws Don't Stop Abortions; and Destroy Patriarchy are also selling “very well,” said Kleindienst.
“Wherever you are today,” began a statement posted on Friday on Charis Books and More’s social media channels, “We are with you. In mourning, in rage, in terror, in numbness, in shock, in preparedness.” Customers thronged the Decatur, Ga., feminist bookstore all day, reported E.R. Anderson, executive director of Charis’s nonprofit arm, Charis Circle. They were processing “their rage and also their grief,” while seeking refuge in “a space in which to cry among people who get it.”
While Anderson and store owner Sara Luce Look declined to specify which books have spiked in sales in the aftermath of Friday’s ruling, they disclosed that the books listed on Charis’s website as resources for those wanting more information about reproductive justice, abortion rights, and health care alternatives are selling well. In general, books in all genres were selling on Friday, as customers were telling the store's booksellers, Anderson said, that they wanted books “that were enjoyable, rather than stocking up [on books about abortion rights or resources]; they’ve been stocking up for a long time.”
As for special displays, Anderson explained that the store already has a section on books about abortion, and that there are also “always books in the front area about abortion. We don’t need a special display.” The store instead will be “pivoting the conversation” during previously scheduled author events towards discussions of the meaning and impact of the demise of Roe v. Wade, Anderson said.
Women and Children First in Chicago also reported a “very busy day, a very emotional one,” said co-owner Sarah Hollenbeck, noting that “people wanted to be in a safe space, similar to after the 2016 election. There were so many people in the store.”
Hollenbeck reported that books on reproductive justice and abortion rights have been selling well since the news leaked almost two months ago ago that the Supreme Court intended to overturn Roe v. Wade. The store set up in early May its special display of books on the issue and sales have been brisk. New Handbook for a Post-Roe America has been in such demand this spring and summer that the store has been trying for weeks to replenish its stock. WCF also has been ordering 20 copies at a time of a 1996 release reissued in 2019, The Story of Jane: The Legendary Underground Abortion Service; Scarlet A: The Ethics, Law, and Politics of Ordinary Abortion and an April release, Bodies on the Line: At the Front Lines of the Fight to Protect Abortion in America were also store's bestsellers this past weekend.
On Friday, WCF closed at 4 p.m. two hours early, in order to allow employees and customers time to get to downtown Chicago to participate in a protest against the Supreme Court’s ruling.
While Zenith Bookstore in Duluth, Minn., describes itself as a community bookstore, not a mission-driven bookstore, it took a strong stand this past weekend, issuing a statement on social media condemning the Supreme Court’s ruling, describing staff as “outraged," because it will have “a devastating effect” upon people’s health care and rights as citizens.
“We usually do not take political positions,” Zenith co-owner Bob Dobrow told PW in an email, “However, this was such a huge attack, affecting women, health care, democratic rights, and really all people, we had to say something.” Underneath the statement, Zenith featured four books on abortion rights, as well as The Handmaid’s Tale and promised to donate 10% of store sales this past weekend to ProChoice Minnesota. Store bestsellers this past weekend included A New Handbook for a Post-Roe America and The Body Keeps Score.
As for A Room of One’s Own in Madison, Wis., its bestseller this past weekend was A New Handbook for a Post-Roe America, but it also began prominently promoting a 'zine produced by bookseller Fawzy Taylor and free to customers, Accessible Abortion Forever: Resources for Folks After 6/24/2022. “They're here! They're free!,” Room announced on Twitter this weekend: “Got 150 copies and they'll be restocked by next Weds once they're gone.” While the list of resources in the ‘zine is directed towards Wisconsin residents, the store assures those living elsewhere that the information can be applied towards residents of any state with trigger laws. Staff will mail the PNG to anybody who wants to make copies and distribute it.
Susan Post, owner of Book Woman in Austin, Tex. reported that there were "crying sessions in the store on Friday [June 24]; women came in, just bawling." The store's bestsellers last weekend were New Handbook for a Post-Roe America, Radical Reproductive Justice, and Turnaway Study. A postcard declaring "Abort [Texas Governor] Greg Abbott" is also selling very well.
Post disclosed that the estate of Sarah Weddington donated books owned by the Texas lawyer who argued Roe v. Wade before the Supreme Court to the store and she is planning on using them in some way to raise funds for Planned Parenthood and the Lilith Fund.
Book Woman is also partnering with A Room of One's Own bookseller Taylor to create an edition of their 'zine that will include information specifically relevant to Texas residents for distribution to its customers.
While, like Zenith Bookstore, a number of indies raised money for pro-choice organizations this past weekend by pledging a percentage of store sales, Second Star to the Right Books in Denver is donating 5% of store sales to Planned Parenthood for a month. Katonah Reading Room in New York's Westchester County took its fundraising to the next level by announcing on social media that they would match up to $500 per individual and $20,000 total donations made this past weekend that were directed towards women's health, reproductive rights, and human rights organizations in any state. By midnight Sunday, the store had reached its goal: it had raised $20,000 in donations that were matched by the store's $20,000 contribution.
"We did it," Katonah Reading Room's Instagram page declared last night. "135 community gifts to 34 different organizations. With the match, $40,000 is going to work to help individuals in need all over the country."
An earlier version of this story misidentified a title that Women and Children First has had trouble stocking. The correct title that the store has had difficulties obtaining in recent weeks is New Handbook for a Post-Roe America. The error has been corrected.
This story has been updated with more information.