It started off innocently enough. The St. Louis Independent Bookstore Alliance had a meeting to discuss holiday plans. It came up with Hope for the Holidays, a book drive sort of like the one Left Bank Books had held last year: In addition to their other purchases, customers could buy a book for a Good Cause, which the store would wrap and deliver on the appropriate day. But instead of giving the books to public school students, the Alliance decided to make their donation to the Gateway 180 Homeless Shelter.
Jane Henderson, the Post-Dispatch book critic, posted the information on her blog. It didn't take long for the gentle, kindhearted P-D readers to start stirring up a shitstorm.
Now Jarek Steele, co-owner of Left Bank Books, has responded in a post on his personal blog.
The reason the Alliance chose Gateway 180, Steele explains, is because it has Bedtime Story Time every night:
The folks at this particular 110 bed shelter read to the kids every night because, according to Jenn Gauthier-Lyke the Development Director, when families become homeless, the everyday family structure breaks down. The moms they serve come from abusive relationships and virtually no support network. They're freaked out. Playtime and bedtime stories get lost in the day to day struggle to find a place to rest their and their children's heads.
Can you believe it? These books are actually going to be read, instead of used for toilet paper or re-sold for extra cash.
People without homes are still people. They are not their homelessness. The books we give these folks will give them some dignity. Isn't that valuable, too?
Now that we've cleared that up, we'd like to add that ten stores in the Alliance are participating, and that the shelter has specifically requested books with African-American themes, though all children's books are welcome. If you need a recommendation, ask a bookseller. That's what they're there for.