Monday, June 4, 2012

A Story to Read and Smile About: La Casa Azul Bookstore Opens for Business in East Harlem

On Photo: Aurora Anaya Cerda Photo Credit: Enid Alvarez/New York Daily News

So many of the complaints often heard in this digital age revolve around books and reading. How we don't read, how social media is turning us into robots, and how the Internet is like a cultureless Godzilla out to eradicate publishing houses, authors, bookstores, and printers with a growl and the clumsy lifting of its dark, hairy arms.

But here's a story I'm happy to be a small part of, because it points to a panorama in which readers and the businesses that revolve around them are much more empowered to sustain the essence of what they care about, precisely because of the Internet, than they might think.
The woman in the picture above is Aurora Anaya Cerda.I first met her when I found out she had been one of the judges who awarded my first novel, The Heartbreak Pill, first prize as Best Romance Novel, English, during the 2009 International Latino Book Awards. Aurora had founded "La Casa Azul Bookstore" as an online bookstore months before, and had been working extra hard at it because she wasn't about to settle for providing readers a hyper-tech, warmth-free experience. Instead, she coordinated author events in small businesses in and around Harlem, the community she loves, and made sure to use the Internet as a bridge to her dream, instead of as a reason to give up and go home. Here are a few photos from the reading she co-sponsored for me some time after that. The event took place at the East Harlem Cafe, and served to launch the US Spanish-version of my novel.

Aurora to my left, smiling at one of the many interesting questions I got that night. Who knew Harlem was so into heartbreak?
Signing books, and meeting a reader who'd become one of my good friends, Singer-songwriter and novelist, Raquel Z. Rivera
Now, years later, after a very successful fund-raising campaign, she has opened the doors to her very own brick and mortar "La Casa Azul." I'm happy my name will be there on the artist-designed donor wall, but I'm even happier to see this "wise Latina woman" making her dream come true by the power of her passion, hard work, and smarts.

She says: "Our goal is to create a community center in East Harlem for both readers and writers, to create a place where reading, writing and creative expression is encouraged, and a place where ideas, curiosity and community spirit are celebrated."

Though they opened their doors just this past Friday, the celebration continues all month. To view the event listings for June, visit the bookstore's website, ¡Muchos más éxitos, querida Aurora!
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