When I visit a new bookstore, I demand cleanliness, computer monitors, and rigorous alphabetization. When I visit a secondhand bookstore, I prefer indifferent housekeeping, sleeping cats, and sufficient organizational chaos . . .
― Anne Fadiman, American essayist and reporter, from Ex Libras: Confessions of a Common Reader
For weeks I was stressed out about my book reading event at Green Apple Books (506 Clement Street, San Francisco, CA 94118, 415.387.2272). Would enough people show up? At a certain point, after numerous local media listings, FB posts, and tweets and retweets from family friends, I told myself to go and have fun. And I did.
We met our dear friends Alex and Victor for dinner at King’s Thai Cuisine a block away from the bookstore in the Inner Richmond district. That put me at ease. When we walked into Green Apple Books, which I haven’t set foot in since I lived in the neighborhood after returning from grad school in Syracuse 25 years ago, I felt as if the shop hadn’t changed at all ― the scarred, uneven hardwood floors. Shelves bursting with books. The tight staircase leading us to the second floor and then around the corner to a tiny room, the reading room. The room was wallpapered with shelves of books.
The room was cozy enough that the 18 people there, including Green Apple Books’s Ray, who introduced me, made the reading a full house. But if I had to pick 18 people to the reading in San Francisco, everyone who was there would have been on that list. Stephen from the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), which is a Quaker organization that promotes peace and justice, was already there with his partner. AFSC supported the farm workers during the strike in the 1960s, and in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Stephen helped me with some research. So it was great to finally meet him. There was a time when he sent me an email out of the blue a number of years after helping me, asking me if my novel had been published. Um, no, I had to tell him back then. But when my novel was accepted to be published, he was one of the first ones I reached out to so I could share the news.
Ali, my Jesuit Volunteer Corps. mentor, when I was a Jesuit Volunteer in San Francisco from 1987-88, also came. Though she stayed in the City after her JVC service, I haven’t seen Ali in more than 20 years. I saw her slip in while I was reading, and I was so thrilled and couldn’t wait to catch up with her after the reading.
Andy, who was on the same dorm floor ― Struve II ― as I at the University of California at Davis, arrived just before the evening program started, and he looks the same. I haven’t seen Andy in more than 15 years, so it was great to see him.
My cousin Daniel came, which was sweet because he was at my book launch a few week earlier at Eastwind Books of Berkeley. One couple came, with the woman telling me that she is Filipino and grew up in Watsonville. She told me later that everything I’d read rang true to her, as she had grown up in the fields. David’s old structural engineering co-workers from a previous company also came, and we haven’t seen them in several years, either. So it was a reunion of sorts, not only with old friends but with my old neighborhood indie bookstore too.