Feminist bookstore in Somerville thrives despite pandemic

Christina Pascucci Ciampa picked up the keys to her new storefront on March 13, 2020. One year later, All She Wrote Books is a thriving feminist bookstore in Somerville’s Assembly Square. Photo by Devon Moos/East Somerville Main Streets

By Hannah Green
Boston University News Service

On March 13, 2020, Christina Pascucci Ciampa picked up the keys to her new storefront in Somerville’s Assembly Square. After a year of selling feminist books at pop-up events, she was ready to give her business, All She Wrote Books, a permanent home.

The bright yellow walls would need a fresh coat of paint and she would have to stock up on new releases, but opening day seemed close enough. 

In just a few days, the future did not feel so certain. The COVID-19 pandemic hit Massachusetts, and businesses shut their doors. Some would never recover. According to Opportunity Insights, a Harvard-based economic policy nonprofit, as of Mar. 4, the number of small businesses open in Massachusetts decreased by 39.1% at the end of 2020.

Pascucci Ciampa has defied these odds by sticking to her roots as a feminist bookseller.

One year later, All She Wrote Books’ shelves are now brimming with colorful covers. Customers drive by for curbside pickup and stop in to browse the stacks. Pascucci Ciampa said she’d come a long way from the beige, three-tiered IKEA cart of books she pushed to pop-up events in 2019.

As a feminist bookstore, All She Wrote Books only stocks its shelves with queer, non-binary and feminist authors. In other bookstores, these writers are often forced to share just one or two shelves. Pascucci Ciampa credited her growth to the community’s appetite for these diverse and often underrepresented voices.

“Of those who have come in here and have looked at our shelves and taken it in, I think the concept of [these people] feeling seen in the books that we carry adds a piece [to their experience],” Pascucci Ciampa said. “This is their community. This is where they can speak and be themselves and have books that reflect that.”

Feminist bookstores have served as safe havens for their local communities for decades. According to Kimm Topping, a researcher for the Cambridge Commission on the Status of Women, these bookstores have a history of serving as political and personal gathering spaces. Topping said this tradition continues to this day.

“People are coming into this space looking to politicize themselves or to find people who are thinking the same way that they are,” Topping said.

As the only self-proclaimed feminist bookstore in the Boston area, All She Wrote Books plans to continue this legacy as a community gathering spot.

Pascucci Ciampa places symbols of inclusion throughout the store, from the Black Lives Matter signs on the windows to the rainbow paneled wall in the children’s reading section.

“That’s what makes this community the way it is,” Pascucci Ciampa said. “It’s the connection piece. It’s feeling safe in a space. It’s feeling seen in a space and knowing that you are loved no matter who you are.”

For now, that promise of safety also comes with wearing masks, gloves, and social distancing inside the shop. In the future, Pascucci Ciampa plans to share her space for community meetings, writing workshops and art displays. 

A promise Pascucci Ciampa believes keeps people coming back.

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