Since I was a little girl, I had always wanted to read anything I could get my hands on. Where I was born there was no real encouragement for girls to read, but when I could I would find books and go read in a corner somewhere. In my youth my tastes developed toward astronomy, history and nonfiction. I read classic Russian and French literature translated into my language, Farsi. I had a collection of Gorky’s books, and some by Sholokhov, Tolstoy, Romain Roland, Emile Zola, Ernest Hemmingway and a few more to my likening. Then I had to leave Iran, and when I arrived in Canada my English was not very strong, so to improve my English I thought it best to find the English translations of the books I had already read, and re-read them, using my familiarity with the stories as an aid to improving my language.
I began at the big book store chains I seemed to find everywhere, and looked around for a few of my old books. Not finding any, I asked a store clerk where to find Tolstoy or Roland.
He said, “Ahh, for these books you have to go to a used bookstore.”
“What is that?” I asked.
“Well, they have old books which people used and then resold to the store. You can go there to buy the books on your list.”
I was taken aback: “I did not think that fine literature is like fashion to go out of style and not be reprinted!”
He smiled and shook his head and said, “Sad isn’t it?”
He then gave me addresses to a few “used” bookstores, wonderful independent book sellers happily free of the cozy blankets, kitchenware, and candles that seemed to surround the cookbooks, VIP biographies, and actor selfie-books prominent in the chains. The independent bookstores featured very knowledgeable booklovers who owned these magnificent little places all around the city.
So since my arrival to this side of my planet, in every city I lived the first thing I did was to find my favorite independent bookstores. Of all the ones I have enjoyed over the past three decades, there is one in New Westminster, BC that has given me a new perspective on these cozy little knowledge stores. Renaissance Bookstore, run by Lavana and John, has become a second home to me. In addition to their marvellous collection of books, they have reading nights, featuring short stories, poetry, art and music. It’s a marvelous forum for local authors and artists.
Renaissance Bookstore warms my heart, and I am hopeful that this couple not only keeps alive the rich traditional of vast knowledge available in an old independent bookstore, but can continue to offer regular live readings, just as they do now. Come and read a poem, share your story and sing a song in the warm cozy atmosphere of their little heaven in New Westminster, British Columbia.
- Nasreen Pejvack, author of Amity (Inanna, fall 2015)