Storyhouse Bookpub, Bookstore Seeds Around Des Moines
You know that Dr. Suess book everyone buys around graduation, “Oh the Places You’ll Go?” The cynic in me is thinking, “Oh the Places You Won’t Go” for 2020. And yet, when I take a step back, that’s not entirely true.
I moved from Denver, Colorado back to my home state of Iowa in January with a business plan and vague hopes of starting a bookstore “one day.” Six years ago, I stumbled into the book industry while taking a break from my job as a high school English teacher. The charms of working among the shelves of a quirky indie bookstore bar worked magic on me, the books swimming in all their potential energy, almost twinkling with the laughter, wine, and conversation floating around them. Bookstores contain multitudes because they contain books.
It didn’t take me long to realize once settling into Des Moines that I couldn’t set aside the bookshop dream. In the first week of March, I tentatively established Storyhouse Bookpub with plans to test the idea of a bookstore built around reading experiences with pop-up events while I worked a part-time job that would allow me some flexibility. As happened for so many of us, my job evaporated the same week my plans and meetings for Storyhouse did.
Neither a pandemic nor a civil rights movement seems like an obvious moment to launch a bookstore.
In many ways, we are grieving. As it should be. Families are trying to find the words to explain to four-year-olds how wearing their pink striped mask means being a good neighbor. The news this summer has jolted some of us into seeing how far our country, our city, still is from true freedom in light of police brutality and the ways the coronavirus disproportionately affects communities of color.
For white folks like me, maybe we’re waking up in new ways to the Black Lives Matter movement. Maybe we’re questioning our tendency to shield children, only speaking with them about hope, progress and the future. Maybe wondering, how we can include the youngest of us in grappling with hard truths of our collective past and present? How can we prioritize joy and reckoning at the same time?
I imagine parents and educators all over the city flopping into bed at night, wondering, ‘did we do that right? And I imagine books can help.
The bookstore business plan from January feels wildly out of date. I am grateful for that. Because I am honestly not certain of the role a bookstore start-up has to play during this moment in Des Moines in 2020. Except that in reading, we can listen to our best thought leaders and storytellers. We can start to make space for moments to face what must be changed. We can collect ourselves to imagine something new.
So Storyhouse is launching creatively – staying curious as we plant bookstore seeds around Des Moines.
Our first mini bookstore is now open for distanced browsing inside MoMere, a uniquely lovely indie gift and home goods shop in Historic Valley Junction. The collection features children’s books that reflect the joy of reading, represent many different kinds of kids and families, and are designed to open up good conversations between adults and the little ones in their lives. Storyhouse also has a digital bookshop, offering a local option for online ordering. It’s fully searchable for any book with browsable lists as well.
Storyhouse will keep connecting with Des Moines small businesses, organizations, families, schools, and local bookworms to create reading experiences that bring us together and serve as a space connecting books and people, even if it’s at a distance for a while. I’m looking forward to the day where we can do storytimes, author readings, and bookish events, but in the meantime, follow Storyhouse as it grows, and don’t hesitate to reach out if you have thoughts or ideas for us or just want to talk books.
So happy reading, Des Moines. Oh, the places we’ll go, as we grow.
Check out these 7 bookish resources for families to engage with this fall.
- If you have 3-7 year-olds, PBS’s YouTube channel is a treasure trove featuring Michelle Obama among many other leaders. Many authors such as the hilarious Mac Barnett Mac’s Book Club Show are Instagram doing fun virtual story times to break up your day with little ones
- If you have kids 8 and up, make sure they’re reading Jason Reynolds, author and National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, and following his live Brain Yoga on his Instagram on Fridays and his writing episodes on this YouTube channel, Write. Right. Rite. with the Library of Congress.
- Check out a fellow indie bookstore, Brain Lair Books in Indiana, online and their fantastic diverse readings lists including Black Lives Matter and Anti-Racist books for kids and grown-ups
- See our Pandemic Reads for Joy & Rest list for anti-anxiety, pro-creativity suggestions
- Read Breathe: A Letter to My Sons by Imani Perry and listen to this episode of The Stacks Pod where host Traci Thomas and author Kiese Laymon (Heavy: An American Memoir) discuss the book, Black identity and family
- Follow Jennifer Harvey, local Drake professor and award-winning author of two books directed toward white families, Raising White Kids and Dear White Christians, about how white communities can more deeply support racial justice work being led by communities of color
- Join the SURJ (Showing up for Racial Justice) Book Club: Our Des Moines SURJ chapter hosts an antiracist book club – find the past reads here – [Storyhouse will be donating a portion of the proceeds to local justice organizations] and stay tuned for upcoming meetings
About the Author
Abigail Paxton is the owner of Storyhouse Bookpub and loves nothing more than handing the perfect book to a fellow reader at just the right time. She is an enthusiastic bookseller and writer, and in her space time, you can find her reading, running or hunting out the best beaches in her 1957 camper with her husband & big fluffy dog. Follow Storyhouse Bookpub’s journey in Des Moines on Instagram @storyhousebookpub and at storyhousebookpub.com.