How would you describe your job to someone you just met?
I'm a Used Book Buyer, which means I get to give a second life to books people are ready to part with. I’m also one of the people who run our graphic novel and manga sections, so I spend time ordering books, maintaining the sections, and curating displays. On top of both jobs, I'm also on the events team, and I am one of two people who order in vinyl for our store. Basically, I keep myself very busy!
Last book you loved:
My favorite book of last year was In the Dream House
by Carmen Maria Machado. I feel lucky that we're contemporaries and I get to read her work. I love reading about music and I'm currently reading Are We Not Men? We Are Devo! by Jade Dellinger, which is a history of Devo, their wacky endeavors, and their politics.
Where are you originally from?
I was born in Anaheim but my family moved to the Portland area when I was a baby, so I consider myself an Oregonian.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to own a sandwich shop when I was a child, but that dream was quickly squashed when my family got a copy of Queen Rock Montreal
and I became enamored with Freddie Mercury after watching it over and over. From then to about the age of 16 I wanted to be in a band. He's brought profound inspiration to my life, and I now own many of Queen's live performances and a giant wooden Freddie Mercury cut-out from an awesome local artist named Mike Bennett.
What is the best part of your job?
I love running events because every event is different and being in a room full of people excited about books is a great feeling, especially when everyone is there to celebrate the same book. Providing a space for authors to share their craft is important and it's meaningful when people get to connect with authors they admire. Recently I've been pretty stoked about curating our vinyl selection and displays. Every few weeks one other employee and I tear through a catalog of 35,000+ albums and send in a list of the ones we want to have in stock. Music is a huge part of my life and I have so much fun ordering those albums.
What is the most interesting part of your job?
Buying used books is always interesting because you never know what to expect. I've found lots of books with funny messages inscribed in them, or pages filled with notes. Out of books fall a variety of objects that were stuffed between the pages, such as: hair ties, concert tickets, candy wrappers, photographs (once they were some very old, explicit photos), letters, Australian dollars, pressed leaves and flowers, receipts, dead bugs, and (my personal favorite) a Fortune Teller Miracle Fish. Sometimes we sort through less pleasant things like books with dust or moisture damage, but other times people walk in with rarities that take a lot of research and care to price. Recently someone came in with boxes full of very, very old mathematical and technical reference books, and the oldest set ended up being from 1754 and has pages filled with diary entries from one of its owners about lots of old things like Thomas Jefferson and musings about the trials and tribulations of a new governmental system.
Share a memorable experience you've had on the job:
I love talking about pet peeves and I have many.
When we hosted David Sedaris
a couple of years ago I had very long hair and the first thing he said to me was, "What are you doing working in a bookstore? You should be a head model for Pantene!" He said a lot of strange things and was a joy to host.
When you're not reading what do you like to do in your free time?
Besides working full time for Powell's, I also work for our union (ILWU Local 5) as a chief steward, which means I represent workers, attend lots of meetings, organize events, and collaborate with other labor activists. On my days off I spend time enjoying bowls of vegan ramen, expanding my record collection at any of the fine record stores around Portland, browsing the racks at Red Light and other vintage stores for anything that catches my eye, or making soup.
What's your favorite spot in Portland?
I have a burning passion for karaoke and you can often find me at Capitol, Baby Ketten Klub, or the Alberta Street Pub singing very bad renditions of ’90s songs with my friends.
What makes for a good book in your eyes?
If I read a book and find myself thinking about it for days on end and talking about it to everyone I know, that's a good book. My Favorite Thing Is Monsters
by Emil Ferris, On a Sunbeam
by Tillie Walden, My Sister, the Serial Killer
by Oyinkan Braithwaite, and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
by Taylor Jenkins Reid are all books that have made me feel that way over the past few years and I still think about them constantly. Though I deeply value thought-provoking books, I also love a feel-good read. I've been known to sit in the bath for hours reading "brain candy."
Why do you think bookstores remain so popular in the digital age?
Books carry so much emotional weight and they hold an abundance of purpose for those who consider them important. Bookstores, specifically independent bookstores, should be popular because they allow the opportunity to directly support local businesses and the creators who made the books. Plus, you get to interact with the books in person in a cool place! Sadly, it feels as though the business of independent bookstores has been on the decline for a long time thanks to unkind and self-serving corporate overlords in the online book world, and we've seen many good stores close their doors. There are many ways to combat this issue and to continue supporting bookstores, and those are highlighted wonderfully in a zine called How to Resist Amazon and Why
by Danny Caine, the owner of The Raven Book Store. It includes information and helpful QR codes about the importance of shopping local and how Amazon puts independent bookstores at risk. I feel lucky that Powell's is a staple in the city of Portland, and that the folks who walk through our doors are choosing to support a local business and local workers.
Walk us through your favorite route when browsing at Powell's:
The children's room is always the first stop, where I look at graphic novels, then I move onto lit, small press, sci-fi/fantasy, horror (though I usually chicken out and don't buy anything), and adult graphic novels. Sometimes I'll browse nonfiction when I have something specific in mind, usually anything that has to do with contemporary social issues. I love browsing the other locations and checking out all the displays people have created!
Do you collect any particular types of books?
I have a pretty large collection of kids’ graphic novels, they're so creative and fun. It's easily my favorite genre!
What's your biggest literary pet peeve?
Don't even get me started; I love talking about pet peeves and I have many. One of my biggest is a deckle edge. People seem pretty divided on them, and though I agree they can look nice, they are a nightmare for those of us that flip pages with our thumbs. You go to turn a page, and next thing you know you accidentally let 20 pages go! Modern deckle edges look obviously manufactured, and if they have to exist, I wish printers would make them more unique and not so uniform. Another peeve of mine is a lazy ending to an otherwise good story. It's so frustrating to read a good book only to be blindsided in the end by something that seems very obvious, or characters that fall right back into old patterns after undergoing intense development.
Tell us about your first memorable reading experience:
When I was really young I was absolutely obsessed with a Sesame Street book called The Monster at the End of This Book
. My mom read it to me all the time and my childhood copy is very much loved.
Do you have any odd reading habits or book rituals?
Reading in the bath is something I've done for years and years and I'm proud to say I've never dropped a book in the water. I'm currently trying to form a new habit of writing down quotes I like so I can reference them for reviews later.