Wednesday, May 18, 2016

18 Miles of Knowledge

Travelers Ashley and DaNaya look at books at the Strand

By Brittany Tuggle and Tiffany Tuggle

A book lover's fantasy lives on BROADWAY—at 828 BROADWAY to be exact wherein a lofty shop simply called "The Strand"—and it boasts a staggering 18 miles of books! The store itself contains multiple levels that showcases books of all genres. It is a store of wonders and fame for book lovers everywhere.

Being confronted with many levels of books of all kinds and sorts made it hard to figure out where to begin first. Being inside a bookstore of this caliber made our inner book aficionado jump for joy. We scrambled through the aisles of various categories littered throughout the wooden floors. We thumbed through the rare book sections, found vintage reads (which is not something often found back home). Watching the excited faces of our young fellow travelers turn the pages of a book they had chosen (and showing others a passage they enjoyed) was inspiring.

The store features a small rare books section on the lower level (there is a sizable collection upstairs to satiate the hunger of a rare book aficionado). Ten Little Niggers by Agatha Christie, first published in 1939, was the first rare book we happened to mutually come across. The pages were well-worn and barely holding together when we turned them. We had heard of "Ten Little Indians" (rather than "Ten Little Niggers") and knew of the folk song and tale as both are very intertwined with American nursery rhymes. Upon seeing the book, we wanted to know the origins of the title itself, and which version came first.

We found that both versions of this nursery rhyme depict dark-skinned children who essentially all die—signifying a type of racial extinction, or loss of survival. It is not known for certain which version came first, and which version followed suit, but the common strand, so to speak, is that both versions reflect racial hostilities and the fear of otherness. Thus, the "need" to isolate and eliminate said otherness, which happens within the context of both nursery rhymes.

The "African American" or "Black Studies" section stretches on and on. It was truly something to see as it was not the typical small section of a book store contained in the back. We were able to go down multiple aisles and really look through the books. One could explore the Harlem Renaissance through Langston Hughes, or take in the struggles of Black lives through Toni Morrison's vivid stories. One could also investigate the aspects of the Civil Rights Movements and Black families with Gail Lument Buckley, or racial injustices with James Baldwin.

Strand bookstore is the perfect place to unwind and relax, to learn and research. To be a scholar or a hipster (or both simultaneously) as people of all walks entered. It is a niche of knowledge...18 miles worth.

Brittany Tuggle and Tiffany Tuggle are graduate students in the English program at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

NYC 2016

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