At this point in my life, I’ve come to the conclusion that bookstores are one of society’s only redeeming qualities. For me, they provide a safe space where I can go to seek quiet and solitude among stacks of literature or enlightening non-fiction, inhaling the crisp scent of freshly printed words on paper or the dusty, comforting aroma of worn and well-loved books (I’m still wondering why Bookstore-Scented Perfume isn’t a thing). Honestly though, what’s better than a bookstore? The question sounds rhetorical, but there’s a legitimate answer, and that’s a feminist bookstore. They exist, and they are magical oases in the misogynistic hellscape that makes up much of this planet—though there aren’t many of them. So, we here at BUST have compiled a list of our fave feminist bookstores in the U.S. that you 100 percent need in your life. Head to one of these gems near you, kick back, relax, and enjoy a good book (or 20).
1. Bluestockings – New York, NY
Located in the Lower East Side, Bluestockings is one of my favorite haunts in all of NYC. As a radical, 100 percent volunteer-run bookstore, Bluestockings offers a wide collection of books on topics ranging from feminism, LGBTQ+ and gender studies, global capitalism, climate and environmental studies, political theory, police and prisons, race and black studies, and more. On top of the rad reading selection, it also has a cafe that serves fresh coffee and tea, as well as an activist center that hosts readings, workshops, discussion, and performances almost every night. (Fun Fact: I’m actually writing this article as I sit and sip tea in Bluestockings.)
2. Women & Children First – Chicago, IL
Women & Children First is one of the largest feminist bookstores in the country, offering more than 30,000 books by and about women, children's books, and LGBTQ books of fiction and non-fiction. The store, cozy and welcoming despite its large size, is in Chicago's north side, surrounded by various women-owned businesses and a thriving, diverse community. W&CF also hosts events and readings, and you can find them on its website (linked above).
3. A Room of One’s Own – Madison, WI
As a student who calls Madison home, it's accurate to say that approximately 70 percent of my time living there is actually spent amongst the rows of books in A Room of One's Own. The store is massive, offering a wide selection of current and classic fiction, nonfiction, periodicals, graphic novels, local interest titles, gifts, greeting cards, and t-shirts – you name it. It’s a deeply treasured place for women and LGBTQ-identifying folk in Wisconsin’s capital city, providing a meeting and event space since 1975.
4. In Other Words – Portland, OR
If you're a fan of IFC's genius sketch comedy, Portlandia, then you likely recognize In Other Words, as it is home to the infamously ridiculous and hilarious radical feminist characters, Toni (Carrie Brownstein) and Candace (Fred Armisen). The scenes at “Women and Women First” (the name of the store in the show), are actually shot at In Other Words. The real store has served as a women and LGBTQ community center since 1993. It’s also the only feminist bookstore in the United States that functions as a nonprofit organization, and it regularly holds events like workshops, readings, etc.
5. Womencrafts – Provincetown, MA
Womencrafts is one of Provincetown’s oldest stores. Showcasing over 100 female artists, 1,000 books, and various gifts for purchase, the store has been lesbian owned and operated for 40 years. It also holds monthly book club meetings year-round.
6. People Called Women – Toledo, OH
PCW is a multicultural feminist bookstore in Toledo, Ohio that’s been serving the community since 1993. Like a lot of the stores on this list, the cozy store provides books (duh), as well as unique woman-made gift items, music, educational resources, a safe meeting space, as well as fun events like Saturday Night Socials and mini craft fairs.
7. Antigone Books – Tucson, AZ
Named after the legendary daughter of Oedipus, Greek legend’s King of Theebes, Antigone is a feminist oasis in the steamy Arizona desert. The store is uniquely 100 percent solar-powered, making it an eco-friendly environment that prides itself in selling inclusive books for feminist of all ages and backgrounds. And, it’s been voted as Tucson’s best independent bookstore by the Tucson Weekly.
8. Bloodroot – Bridgeport, CT
Bloodroot is truly a one-of-a-kind establishment. It’s a feminist bookstore, yes, but it’s also a vegan/vegetarian restaurant offering a seasonal menu set in a homey, antique-decorated environment. The New York Times has even described it as “legendary” – which is impressive praise. If you’re anywhere near Bridgeport, it’s an absolute must-visit for dining and shopping.
9. BookWoman – Austin, TX
BookWoman, Austin’s premiere feminist bookstore, began serving the women and LGBTQ community 39 years ago. It boasts an impressive collection of feminist books, as well as unique t-shirts and handmade jewelry that can add some fab feminist flair to your wardrobe.
10. Common Language – Ann Arbor, MI
Ann-Arbor-based haven Common Language is not only a feminist-identifying bookstore, but also an LGTBQ-identifying bookstore. It offers book clubs (including one called LezRead, clever!), a wide variety of thought-provoking reads in various socially conscious genres, and, a resident pup! That’s correct – you can browse progressive books while petting a dog – it’s the literal dream.
11. Wild Iris Books – Gainesville, Florida
Wild Iris is Florida’s one and only feminist and LGBTQ bookstore. Established in 1992, the store has played a significant role in Gainesville’s activist community for many years. It offers books in women’s studies, minority studies, civil rights studies, etc. and also provides queer and trans resources, children’s books, and even alternative healing modalities.
12. Charis Books and More – Atlanta, GA
Within an adorable lavender house, Charis Books and More is the oldest feminist bookstore in the southern United States. For 40 years, it’s been specializing in providing alternative children's books, feminist and cultural studies books, and LGBTQ fiction and non-fiction.
13. The Big Idea Bookstore – Pittsburgh, PA
Rounding out the list is The Big Idea Bookstore located in Pittsburgh’s happening Bloomfield neighborhood. In this shop, you can find an array of radical, socially conscious books, zines, and art for purchase. You can also enjoy yummy vegan eats and freshly prepared coffee while you browse. It’s a must-go if you’re ever in the ‘City of Bridges.’
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An excessively queer Aquarius with a LOT of opinions. Things I'm passionate about include, but are not limited to: writing (duh), my pet bunnies/animals in general, LGBTQIA+ issues, Sleater-Kinney, massive helpings of spaghetti, RuPaul's Drag Race, tacky horror movies, never shutting up about astrology/how gay I am, et cetera.
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