Lots of people have complained about the policies of the Trump administration, but Becky Anderson, co-owner of Anderson’s Bookshops, is hoping to do something about them. Anderson has never shied away from public service: she was a member for seven years of the board of the American Booksellers Association, including two years as president (2011–2013), and since 2015, she has been on the city council in her hometown of Naperville, Ill., where the flagship Anderson’s Bookshop is a downtown anchor. When Anderson announced in July that she was launching a campaign to unseat Illinois’s sixth congressional representative, six-term Republican incumbent Peter Roskam, many in the industry who know of her long record of community activism and civic involvement applauded her.
In an email sent to industry friends and colleagues the day she announced, Anderson explained that she was throwing her hat into the ring for many reasons, including the Republicans’ attempt to repeal Obamacare, the party leaders’ disrespect toward women, and their denial of climate change. “As the co-owner of Anderson’s Bookshops, a city councilwoman, and a mother, I can tell you—none of this is good for business, none of this is good for government, and none of this is good for families,” Anderson wrote in the release. “I’m fed up.”
Though, Anderson says, her experience on the ABA board and Naperville’s city council paved the way for her decision to run for Congress, it’s her expertise as an independent bookseller that she sees as the source of her qualifications to effectively represent the residents of Chicago’s western suburbs. Anderson’s main talking points in her political campaign reflect her values as an indie bookseller. She is running on a platform of supporting small businesses (as she does with Indiebound Naperville, an alliance of locally owned businesses she founded), opposing tax breaks for large corporations, and expanding high-quality childhood education and literacy.
Being in Congress isn’t all that much different from selling books, Anderson points out: to be successful, an indie bookseller has to invest in the local community and commit to celebrating “diversity, conversation, and the exchange of ideas” inside the store and outside in the larger community. A bookseller must not only demonstrate empathy but must be adept at meeting the customer’s needs, “whether or not you agree with their politics.”