The last two years have been challenging for many businesses, prompting them to think of new ways to engage target consumers. In a pandemonium brought about by several uncertainties, Barbara’s Bookstore stood firm to provide refuge for those who are seeking a sense of truce. Everyone has, after all, somehow experienced their life force drained by the pandemic. 

Barbara’s, a bookstore inside Macy’s on State Street, has been steadily surviving thanks to the readers who continued to support the business during such a difficult time. Its unparalleled customer service also gains the store new patrons. Today, in its second year in a row, its leaders express solidarity with their Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) customers and the rest of the community by setting up a prominent display of 70 relevant books. “We decided to have a very large display because we were deeply disturbed by the rise of anti-Asian violence in the United States,” said Barbara’s Bookstore Manager Chris Mahin.

In consideration of different preferences, the said display offers a variety of options including children’s books, young adult novels, and books for adults ranging from novels to biographies to works of ethnic studies. Some authors featured are Maxine Hong Kingston, Carlos Bulosan, Cathy Park Hong, Amy Tan, Vijay Prashad, and Ronald Takaki among others.

“The owners, Don Barliant and Janet Bailey, work closely with publishers’ representatives to pick out quality books for the branches of Barbara’s Bookstore,” Chris explained. The staff also works with them to customize the selection per location taking into account the interests of customers. This adds a layer of care as they personalize their suggestions which certainly translates well as more people take notice of their initiative. “Here at the Macy’s branch of Barbara’s, the entire staff contributed suggestions of what books should appear in the AAPI Heritage Month display,” Chris added. 

When asked about his book recommendation, he shared that “One Sunny Day: A Child’s Memories of Hiroshima” by Hideko Tamura Snider struck him the most. It is the autobiography of a woman who survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima as a young girl and then emigrated to the United States. “I had the honor of introducing the author at a book signing held to mark the 50th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing,” Chris said. He also underscored how relevant this is today with the possibility of a world war looming on the horizon, encouraging readers to ponder the lessons of the suggested book. 

Chris has also been trying to secure a hard copy of the poem “I Want the Wide American Earth” by Carlos Bulosan which they could hopefully offer from the store. It is said to have similarities in style to Walt Whitman and Pablo Neruda. These are only two of the beautiful works of AAPIs and there are more that could be eye-opening for many regardless of their race. “I would urge people to research the origins of the holiday itself and to look for events that commemorate the AAPI Heritage Month.” He expressed that while they are looking forward to holding in-store events, they can’t just yet as a precautionary measure against the spread of coronavirus. Still, they are doing their best to publicize their book display on social media.

Patrons can expect more displays relevant to various celebrations in the coming months such as Pride Month and Labor Day. Like how reminiscing history should not be a one-time, big-time event, it can be expected that Barbara’s Bookstore will continue to display AAPI books on its shelves as a reminder of how significant the community is in establishing the foundations of the United States. “The more you know about AAPI history, the more you know about the real, complete history of our nation,” said Chris. 

May everyone seize the opportunity to be better citizens by taking the initiative to know more about their country’s roots which can help them defend the democracy their ancestors have fought for.  

May 17, 2022

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