December 20, 2012

Word Up: a tale of murals, multilingualism, and just plain wonderful community organizing


One great way to end the year would be to help an indie bookstore, right? Well, direct your dollars to Word Up in Washington Heights and their Indiegogo project to raise $60,000 to move the store, which began as a pop-up in an empty storefront, to a permanent location. MobyLives interviewed one of its founders, Veronica Liu, when the store was in its early stages (and, full disclosure, Liu and I used to set up mics together, working for the Barnard A/V department, so I am a longtime fan of her mic installation skills, her radio DJ-ing, her small press initiatives, and her all-round awesomeness). Though originally Word Up was intended to be a temporary project, the response from the community was so positive that the landlord extended the lease and the store was able to stay open, with the help of the Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance. Until last August, when the building was sold to a new landlord and the lease was terminated. But the Word Up-pers are persistent and their community loves them, and they’re looking for a new space.

Elvish specialist and bestselling author Junot Díaz has lent his support to the cause, describing his involvement with Word Up as “perhaps the best thing that going to happen to me this year”… and you know, it’s been kind of a nice year for Díaz. Here he is, making the case:


The New York Daily News, the Huffington Post, Publishers Weekly, Shelf Awareness, local radio stations like Thirteen/WNET, and other media have covered the Word Up story over the past year and a half, and the argument for a Washington Heights bookstore seems solid as a rock: as Liu says, some of the store’s large volunteer staff include “people who had lived around the corner for 30, 40, 50 years without a bookshop nearby (no one is counting the Columbia Med School textbook store).”

If you’d like to give, go to their Indiegogo page (chosen by Word Up over Kickstarter to avoid funneling money to Amazon, who administers the payments for Kickstarter) or consider joining their CSB here.


Sal Robinson is an editor at Melville House. She's also the co-founder of the Bridge Series, a reading series focused on translation.