Political Opposition Finds A Home At New Women & Children First Series

By Stephen Gossett in Arts & Entertainment on Jan 26, 2017 9:10PM

Women and Children First / Facebook

In the wake of Donald Trump’s election, one of Chicago’s longest-running, most explicitly politically engaged independent bookstores has become even more of a locus of opposition. Now, with the store's popularity surging, Women & Children First’s latest event series, The Conversation, kicks off on Thursday to explore ways of fighting back against the administration's effects.

The Conversation isn’t a traditional reading. It’s not a reading at all, in fact, but a talk between authors that opens up to the audience. Tonight’s debut theme is Art and Resistance. But it wasn’t initially intended as such an outwardly woke affair.

The series organizers—celebrated local authors Zoe Zolbrod, Rebecca Makkai and Aleksandar Hemon—originally wanted a series in which an out-of-town author would be in conversation with a local author, then an after-party/discussion at a local would carry the event on into the evening, Sarah Hollenbeck, co-owner of W&CF, told Chicagoist.

“But during the planning process of the first event, the election happened,” Hollenbeck said. Everyone quickly “decided it was necessary to change it into something more political.”

The new conversation series is just one of several new event series that the galvanized bookstore has initiated since the election, including a monthly Feminist Craft Circle (which transformed into a pussyhat knitting circle earlier this month) and a monthly activism series. The store also became a de-facto meet-up spot for volunteers for the Women’s March on Chicago.

In fact, the shop has sustained a surge in in foot traffic and sales since the election. “People were devastated. They needed community, solidarity and solace.”

It follows the recent success of the Writers Resist event, a nationwide one-day reading series in which hundreds of authors explored "compassion, equality, free speech and the fundamental ideals of democracy."

The renewed sense of grassroots political commitment was “maybe the only good thing that came out of the election,” Hollenbeck added.

Conversation debuts at Women & Children First (5233 N Clark St.) on Thursday, Jan. 26 (7:30 p.m.). Aleksandar Hemon, Roger Reeves, Coya Paz, Eula Biss and Monica Trinidad are scheduled to appear. February's theme will be Civil Disobedience

[H/T Reader]