by Betsy Burton
I just got back from the Indian Walk-in Center in downtown Salt Lake City where I gave away 20 copies of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie in a little over 20 minutes. I would have given anything to have twice as many books—there’s a youth program there that would have cheerfully taken 30 and a new book club of Junior High kids who would have given anything to have enough copies to make it their first “read.” They want to read all Native American writers—especially people writing now (so if there are any extra copies of Alexie’s book in the warehouse please send them their way!)
But the best part was handing copies of the book to people who had nodded doubtfully to the question, “would you like a free book I think you’re going to love” (or, in the case of the mothers who were there, “that your older children are going to love—and probably you too”)? One “customer” was a grizzled biker who said cheerfully, “Ya, I’ve got a kid in Junior High I’ll give it to.” Then he flipped through it, read part of the first page, and grinned. “I think I’ll read it first, though.”
I left feeling pure joy—at being part of something that can help spread this contagion of book love around the world, at being allowed to connect a specific book with a person who will love it and whose life it might change (over and over again—twenty times over), and for being part of the world of books. Who could have guessed, all those years ago when we started our store, that it would lead to such a life? Thank you Jamie and Carl and the ABA and the ALA and all you wonderful authors and publishers and booksellers and librarians! We did it.