Whole Universes Where Before I Saw Only Words
Before we left Toronto, Zahra and I both got tattoos from Pete in his house
full of light and suspended glass and the sounds of his partner and children
happy. Daniel Heath Justice had talked about his new tattoo at his book sign-
ing for Our Fire Survives the Storm at the Toronto Women’s Bookstore that year;
I tucked Pete Commanda’s card into my copy of Our Fire. Wincing up at the
warehouse- high ceiling, I squeezed Mill’s hand and thought, if I hadn’t been
so committed to the design, if it wouldn’t be silly to have a partial line on my
leg, I might have stopped Pete, given up the bone- searing pain, and walked
out into the sunlight. Instead, like the women in this book, like the writing of
this book, I have the ink of that year in my skin: “Give me the woman strength
of tongue.” It’s Audre Lorde’s line from “125th Street and Abomey.”1
Revisiting my journals and interviews from this time of leaving the To-
ronto Women’s Bookstore, the end of my feminist bookstore years, I see in
these stories, in these relationships, an enactment of the feminist account-
ability and feminist shelf practices of the bookwomen. I offer these final
stories as a bridge, from history into activist present and future dreams.
When we are immersed in movement organizations, we are in intense, lov-
ing, difficult, heartbreaking relationships; when the movement moment
changes—or when we move on— what do we bring with our daily selves?
After the bookstores, feminist bookwomen have gone on to, yes, other
bookstore work and library work, and also to public health and Aids / hiV
care work, psychotherapy and counseling work, antioppression training
work, union or ganizing work, lgbtq center work, accounting work on
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