Dear Bookstore Friends,

Gayle ShanksSo many times over the years when I write those three words to start this letter to you, I have joy in my heart, even if it is sometimes mixed with a need to share something that is troubling me about our world, my life, or our bookstores. This month I sit with my laptop and there mostly is just sadness. Deep sadness and an intense belief that the goodness I want to see in the world and have our bookstore encompass is lost right now. As a country, we are steeped in mourning and grief for Black lives taken by senseless police violence; we are watching videos of Black men and women murdered by the very people ostensibly hired to protect and serve us all. It makes no sense to me. We cannot, as we have done in the past, just be outraged, attend protests, pass laws that are not enforced, fire certain police chiefs only to see them replaced with new ones who do no better. I can’t just vent to my loved ones about injustice and then carry on once my rage has diminished. I need to stay focused to really understand the underlying causes and manifestations of racism, to read books about antiracism, to continue to protest, hold elected officials responsible, support organizations that are speaking truth to power, and support leaders who are teaching us what we can and must do to change our world. Then, hopefully, I can take real, meaningful action to help dismantle systems of oppression. I hope you will help me with your ideas, what you are learning, what resources were helpful. And if you notice I’m doing something wrong, you will tell me. I want to get it right, not be right.
Changing Hands on Mill

I’ve started by reading books which I know doesn’t surprise you. I’m working my way down this list of titles for adults and children that can help us understand what racism means and how to uproot it from our hearts, our communities, and our public policy. I’m watching videos, listening to podcasts, paying attention to what friends are sharing with me. As you’ll see below, I’m also sharing with you many of the resources I’ve found most informative, actionable, or inspiring. I hope you’ll take some time to explore it all.
Changing Hands on Mill

At the same time, we’ve been preparing our stores to welcome you back safely. We reopened to the public this week, and are eager to see you again—from behind a mask, of course, which we’ll be requiring for employees and customers alike. We’ve worked hard to make it as safe as possible to shop at Changing Hands and First Draft Book Bar, and can’t wait to hear about your own inner journeys and changes you’ve made in the way you’re living each day now. Our world is not the world we knew in 2019, and it is up to all of us to make it safe, to continue to work for freedom from fear and from racism, to educate ourselves, and to work for peace.


Questions or comments? Email Gayle at

The viral Monopoly video by I’m Not Dying with You Tonight co-author Kimberly Jones is one of the most powerful I’ve ever watched articulating the history of economic disparity in our country. Six minutes of brilliance.

Trevor Noah talking about social contracts and the domino effect of systemic racism. As always, he is able to speak to our hearts as well as our minds.

Dr. Robin DiAngelo discusses “White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism," telling us from her research how white people can develop their capacity to engage more constructively, take criticism, apologize, learn from it and change. She is tough, funny, honest, and pulls no punches. This is an hour-long video and well worth the time but if you want a shorter introduction to her research, try this brief interview she did with PBS host Michel Martin where she confesses, “I'm a vegetarian, how can I be racist.” She will tell you and I suspect you will giggle and squirm a bit as I did.

James Balwin debated William Buckley 55 years ago, in 1965. The topic was: “Has the American dream been achieved at the expense of the American Negro?” For Baldwin, the question itself indicated glaring ignorance. The American dream was a nightmare from which he was trying to awake. If you get a chance to watch the entire debate, do it. Here is an excerpt to give you a taste of Baldwin’s erudite argument.

BOOKLISTS to educate yourselves and your children, curated by Changing Hands buyers and booksellers.
This is the one for kids »
This is the one for adults »

Brené Brown, Unlocking Us

Brené with Austin Channing Brown on I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness
“Austin Channing Brown’s anti-racism work is critical to changing our world, and her ability to talk about what is good and true about love, about our faith, and about loving each other is transformative. She is a writer, a speaker, and a media producer providing inspired leadership on racial justice in America.”
Ibram X. Kendi on How to Be an Antiracist
“I’m talking with professor Ibram X. Kendi, New York Times bestselling author of How to Be an Antiracist and the Director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University. We talk about racial disparities, policy, and equality, but we really focus on How to Be an Antiracist, which is a groundbreaking approach to understanding and uprooting racism and inequality in our society and in ourselves.”

ORGANIZATIONS you might want to join us in supporting:
Black Lives Matter NAACP Legal Defense Fund
The Bail Project Campaign Zero
The Loveland Foundation Color Of Change
Equal Justice Initiative
Phoenix bookstores owned by BIPOC:
Grassrootz Palabras

Local First AZ created this list of local Black-owned businesses that can use everyone’s support.

Nicholas Kristof: When It Works to ‘Defund the Police’
“That’s the idea behind 'Defund the Police' as most conceive it—not to eliminate every police officer but to reimagine ways to make us safe that don’t necessarily involve traditional law enforcement.”
The Great Unlearn - A community of everyday human beings committed to curiosity for what is possible in the world. Monthly self-paced syllabi curated by @rachel.cargle.

8 Online Classes and Workshops That Help You to Examine Your Own Bias.

UPLIFTING VIDEOS that will help heal your heart:

Morally speaking, there is no limit to the concern one must feel for the suffering of human beings. Indifference to evil is worse than evil itself. In a free society, some are guilty, but all are responsible. —Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel
At the time, I am a budding scientist in middle school, just trying to learn all I can about the universe. I hardly ever think about the color of my skin. It never comes up when contemplating the cosmos. Yet when I exit my front door, I’m a crime suspect. —Neil deGrasse Tyson, Reflections

by Langston Hughes

Loud laughers in the hands of Fate—
My people.
Ladies' maids,
Nurses of babies,
Loaders of ships,
Number writers,
Comedians in vaudeville
And band-men in circuses—
Dream-singers all,—
My people.
Story-tellers all,—
My people.
God! What dancers!
God! What singers!
Singers and dancers
Dancers and laughers.
Yes, laughers . . . laughers . . . laughers—
Loud-mouthed laughers in the hands of Fate.
by John O'Donnell

And when this ends we will emerge, shyly
and then all at once, dazed, longhaired as we embrace
loved ones the shadow spared, and weep for those
it gathered in its shroud. A kind of rapture, this longed-for
laying on of hands, high cries as we nuzzle, leaning in
to kiss, and whisper that now things will be different,
although a time will come when we’ll forget
the curve’s approaching wave, the hiss and sigh
of ventilators, the crowded, makeshift morgues;
a time when we may even miss the old-world
arm’s-length courtesy, small kindnesses left on doorsteps,
the drifting, idle days, and nights when we flung open
all the windows to arias in the darkness, our voices
reaching out, holding each other till this passes.