With two years of operation under its belt, All She Wrote Books — an intersectional, feminist and queer bookstore in Somerville — continues to strive to be a space for all people and voices to feel welcomed and heard. Christina Pascucci-Ciampa opened All She Wrote Books first as a pop-up store in 2019 to address a gap she saw in the world of independent bookstores, and she is celebrating the store’s two-year anniversary today. According to its website, All She Wrote Books “supports, celebrates, and amplifies underrepresented voices through … thoughtfully curated selection of books spanning across all genres.”
The bookstore’s niche focus provides space for underrepresented and marginalized voices all year round, rather than only spotlighting them during identity weeks and months.
“To me, it was really just making those books more accessible and having a space for them consistently,” Pascucci-Ciampa said.
The inspiration for the store came from Pascucci-Ciampa’s own experience struggling to find books she could relate to and finding that they were often shortchanged by publishers. Another source of inspiration was from a feminist bookstore, New Words Bookstore, that was open in Cambridge from the 1970s until the early 2000s.
“[New Words Bookstore’s] status in the world paved the way for All She Wrote Books to exist as well,” Pascucci-Ciampa said. “It makes sense to have this space and create this space because it allows folks who identify as queer folks, who identify as a person of color … [to] know they can come here and find books that either have themselves reflected in the pages or folks within their community reflected in those pages.”
Pascucci-Ciampa discussed how impactful it has been for customers to come in and see themselves in the books through a story about two individuals’ experiences in her bookstore. They combed every shelf during their appointment, and when one of them got to the children’s section, they started crying while looking at the book “Jack (Not Jackie)” (2018).
“I remember this person picking up the book and starting to cry because of the fact that they saw themselves reflected in a children’s book,” Pascucci-Ciampa said. “That, to me, was one of the most powerful moments … knowing that [in] the books that we stock, people are finding themselves within those pages.”
Not only does All She Wrote Books provide space for and exposure to voices often left out of dominant narratives, but it also allows for conversations. Niche independent bookstores like Pascucci-Ciampa’s “allow for teaching and understanding of things that may not necessarily happen at a general independent bookstore,” according to Pascucci-Ciampa. And while the store does have a specific focus, “We still have books on a plethora of topics that are relevant and important,” Pascucci-Ciampa said.
All She Wrote Books started as a pop-up with Pascucci-Ciampa running the business from her second bedroom. Through dedicated budgeting and slowly increasing inventory and its customer base, Pascucci-Ciampa was able to speed up the original five-year plan and move into a physical space in 2020. Right before the pandemic hit, it moved to a brick-and-mortar store, officially opening its doors to customers in July 2020. Though opening a store during a pandemic was not an easy task, she said that the support she’s gotten from the community has been vital to the store’s survival.
For Pascucci-Ciampa, the question always was how she could maintain a COVID-19 safe environment while allowing customers to do something they love. So although her vision for the store was to have seating areas where customers can sit and spend time, it currently functions without that aspect. It offers curbside pick up and in-store browsing appointments where customers can have the whole store to themselves. Walk-ins are also welcome.
However, once it is safe to do so, Pascucci-Ciampa talked about utilizing the space for customers to sit and read in the store as well as for community events. It has already hosted some more typical bookstore events, like virtual author readings, and hopes to continue to do so and eventually host them in person. Yet, she also wants All She Wrote Books to be a space for community conversations about current events and ideas of intersectional feminism.
“The infusion of more community events, and more community as in ‘physical spaces,’ is kind of where I see the vision of the store going even more,” she said.
The store also continues to foster strong community connections, partnering with the Somerville Public Library, the nonprofit East Somerville Main Streets and local Parent Teacher Associations. Instead of working with Scholastic, the PTA for the Arthur D. Healey School collected books from the community and worked with local bookstores to set up a free book fair for students. All She Wrote Books was one of the book fair’s sites, and parents could set up an appointment for their children to go to the back of the store and pick up books from the store’s designated book fair stock.
“Being able to see their faces come into the store and pick up five books that they are so excited to read, and they don’t even have to worry about paying $1 for them … that’s where it’s so important,” Pascucci-Ciampa said. “And [it shows] how independent bookstores can help partner with their communities and really foster reading within those communities.”
Once COVID-19 concerns lessen, Pascucci-Ciampa hopes to open the bookstore up more and increase in-person events. Between events and the store’s inventory itself, All She Wrote Books’ goal continues to be existing as a communal, people-centered space that represents voices often left out and marginalized on its shelves.
“It’s just so important to have that representation wherever you can,” she said.