Cook, however, was undeterred. As an arts educator and writer raised by a librarian, she finds books central to how she understands her place in the world and the impact she wants to make in it. In February, Cook opened Harriett’s Bookshop, which specializes in the work of Black and women authors. Philadelphia’s close-knit literary community was eager to welcome Harriett’s to the small but historic coterie of Black-owned bookstores in the city. But, as the saying goes, there are our plans, and then there is 2020. Six weeks after opening, Harriett’s had to temporarily close its doors because of the pandemic. Cook has nonetheless begun to establish Harriett’s as a vital part of the city’s literary and activist scene; in May and June she could be found handing out books from the shop to protesters during the Black Lives Matter demonstrations. Cook spoke about how she and Harriett have weathered quarantine, the Black women artists and thinkers who have shaped her mission, and how books can be a vital part of liberation work.
What you were doing before you opened Harriett’s?
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September - October 2020