Amongst the all of the bars and eateries on South Street, there is a book and record shop that embodies anarchy, social justice and homeyness. Wooden Shoe Books & Record has been collectively running since 1976; with South Street being its third location. A fire and the need for a bigger space caused the previous two moves. The Wooden Shoe will celebrate its 42nd birthday at the end of this year; its name is a reference to those who protested working conditions during the Industrial Revolution by putting wooden shoes into cogs of machines to halt production.
The shop is run by volunteers who form a collective that comes together to make decisions. A member of the collective, Avery Cerulean, says, “The collective aspect is a major feature; no bosses, no paychecks, no hierarchy.” They also host events (check out on their Facebook page) that focus on art, poetry, social justice issues and more. Poet Laureate, Raquel Salas Rivera, held an event there on February 24.
Filled with books, records, and even an old mac desktop for guests to use, the Wooden Shoe may seem small and simple based on the exterior but on the inside its colorful, warm, and inviting. Avery Cerulean sums up the store the best, “a second home.” Cerulean, now 24, began visiting Wooden Shoe at age 19. “Back in 2012, I lived in South Philly as a dropout and I started going to The Shoe often to sit and read because I couldn’t afford most things,” says Cerulean. Cerulean visited so much that volunteering made sense.
The Shoe is like a haven for its regulars, the homeless, travelers and a few furry friends. If you read the reviews on their Facebook page, it is clear that the Wooden Shoe is well loved and respected by the community. The Wooden Shoe Books & Records is more than books and music; it’s anarchy and love.
Now before you go running off to The Wooden Shoe; I have some book recommendations, all of which can be found at The Shoe.
Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
Upfront, unapologetic and extremely honest, “Bad Feminist” will invoke an array of emotions as you read. You’re going to feel mad, sad, frustrated and appalled, but you will never feel like you are being lied to. Roxane Gay discusses gender identity, race, culture, rape, politics, body image, and more, using a short essay format. Don’t let the short essay format fool you; this isn’t a quick read, at times I just needed to stop and breathe. Despite all that I was left feeling hopeful at the end. Recommend for young adults.
Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West
West writes candidly and manages to do so with endearment and humor, which I find aids in making certain subjects easier to discuss. West writes about finding her voice as a writer, her family, weight, being a feminist and having an abortion. As the title of the book alludes, being a candid writer comes with drawbacks, chronicled in the book are a series of personal attacks West received online. A powerful, emotional and relatable book. Recommend this for teens and adults.
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in The Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
Author Michelle Alexander challenges the idea that electing President Barack Obama has ushered a new era of color-blindness. Alexander is brave, bold, sensational, and downright furious as she breaks down racial discrimination, the biased criminal justice system, and how the war on drugs stifled communities of color. She illustrates how together all these things have ushered in, “the new Jim Crow.” A highly timely read in addition to being a call to action that will have you rethinking everything you thought you knew.
A is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara
As a mother, I wanted to recommend something for children. Unapologetically about activism, this book covers a spectrum of topics ranging from politics, to capitalism, feminism, LGBQT rights, racism and the environment. Nagara uses wit, rhymes, and beautiful imagery to display important social justice issues and human values. “A is for Activist” is a safe way to start a conversation with your children about the critical issues happening in the world.
The Earthsea Series by Ursula K. Le Guin
(Recommended by Avery Cerulean, a member of the collective at The Shoe.)
If Earthsea sounds familiar to you that’s probably because the books have been adapted a few times, most notable is the series on the Syfy Channel and the Hayao Miyazaki animated film. This YA series has 6 books in the series and is often compared to Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings.” Filled with magic, mythical creatures, complex characters and adventure, it’s a great series for all ages with some parental supervision.