How would you describe your job?
I try to provide a framework and let everyone else paint inside that frame.
Where are you originally from?
I was raised on the South Side of Chicago.
What did you do before you came to Powell’s?
I worked for seven years for a local chain called the J. K. Gill Company. They had about 50 stores on the West Coast that had book departments. I was one of the three book buyers for this company. I started my book career as a volunteer at A Woman’s Place Bookstore in its infancy (mine too!) in the mid-1970s.
What is the best part of your job?
I can leave my office at any time and walk through the store and be reminded of the power of books.
Why do you think bookstores remain so popular in the digital age?
Bookstores are an incredible cauldron of serendipity. What comes next into your field of vision is a combination of randomness and curation by staff, a totally human and irreplaceable experience. I can walk down the same aisle every day and see something different.
Share a memorable experience you've had on the job.
They happen all the time. This week I was helping a woman find a book to help her child move through her gender crisis. The mom almost cried when she saw how many books we had.
Recommend a book or author you think everyone should read.
Everyone should read — and I don’t care what they read. The act of reading opens your mind to new possibilities, and that’s good enough for me.
What was the last book you loved?
The Summer Before the War
by Helen Simonson.
What’s your favorite book of all time?
Pride and Prejudice
. I know. So banal, but it’s the truth. The most well-written romance ever.
What makes for a good book in your eyes?
A good book takes my singular view of the world and turns it into a prism.
What’s your biggest literary pet peeve?
The facile ability of some authors to kill off their characters with no finesse. Not all coughs become consumption. Sometimes a cough is just a cough. But with some authors, a cough is the not-too-subtle end of a character.
Tell us about your first memorable reading experience.
I very fondly remember a Landmark series biography of Marie Curie
. I was reading a lot of biographies, trying to figure out what people did with their lives, particularly what women did with their lives. I was presented with two options in the 1950s — become a nurse or become a primary-grade school teacher. Neither appealed to me. And then I read about Marie Curie, and what struck me the most was that, as an 18-year-old girl, she got on a train in Poland and traveled to Paris to go to the Sorbonne. I have absolutely no aptitude for science, but I was fascinated and inspired by the courage it took to get on that train and throw herself into a new life. I knew I wanted more from my life and I was determined to find my Paris, my train.
When you’re not reading, what do you like to do in your free time?
Hiking. I love the quiet of the woods.
What’s your favorite spot in Portland?
10th and West Burnside. Duh.
Browse all bookseller portraits
| Learn more about Powell's Books