My favorite bookstore in the whole world is a little place called Resistencia in Austin, Texas. They have a fantastic selection of rare and out of print books as well as a wide variety of titles by Native American, Latina/o, and black authors. They specialize in literature by people of color, poetry, Southwestern writers, and nonfiction on social justice issues, particularly incarceration. (Those of you who know me can see clearly why this is my kind of bookstore!) The books are just the beginning. A very active and progressive community organization called Red Salmon Arts also resides in this bookstore (which is in truth more of a community center than anything else) and hosts a ton of really exciting readings and social justice events. If I lived anywhere near Austin, I would be there all the time.
Resistencia’s founder, raulrsalinas (also sometimes written as Raul R. Salinas) was one of the greatest human beings I have ever known, and his life and legacy are honored every day by the work of the good folks who keep Resistencia and its programming going every day.
I first encountered raul’s poetry when I was in high school–about a year and a half after my father entered prison. raul spent many years in prisons all across the US and wrote some of the most enduring poetry of the Chicano Movement from solitary confinement, including his landmark poem “Un Trip Through the Mind Jail.” His poems were the first pieces of writing that helped me begin to understand what my father experiences every day behind the walls. raul’s strength, fortitude, and passion for life gave me hope that my father and our family might be able to endure this particular form of devastation. After he got out of prison, he went home to Austin and spent the rest of his life doing work that served others–those in prison, struggling youth, and the people of his beloved Austin.
I cannot do raul justice through mere description. Here’s a taste of him performing some of his poetry:
My senior honors thesis when I was an undergraduate at Yale dealt with the subject of poetry written by Latina/o prison–a project inspired by raul’s writings.
By the time I actually met raul in person, I was a graduate student at UC San Diego, living in Sherman Heights–a historic Chicana/o neighborhood in the heart of the city. The next neighborhood over from mine hosted a Barrio Book Fair in 2004, and raul was one of many distinguished speakers. I introduced myself to him and told him how much his work had shaped my understanding of incarceration and its impact on communities. By the end of the day, he had invited me to perform my then very new play about the families of prisoners, Doin’ Time: Through the Visiting Glass, at Resistencia. He was one of the earliest and strongest supporters of the play, and in hosting my performance, he not only provided opportunities for my work to grow but also introduced me to the incredible community of folks who make up Resistencia and Red Salmon Arts.
raul left this earth in 2008, and those of us who loved him continue to raise his name and honor his life by doing the kinds of community work he taught us to do. The folks at Resistencia do an unfathomable amount of service for the people of Austin, for youth, for the queer community, African Americans, immigrants, Chicana/os, Native Americans, prisoners, and a whole bunch of other gente, and now in these tough economic times they need our support. Here are a few things you can do:
- BUY THEIR BOOKS! You don’t have to be in Austin to do that. I order books from them through the mail on a regular basis. You can also order by phone: (512) 416-8885. If you are lucky enough to be in Austin, check them out in person:
1801-A South First St.
Austin, TX 78704
- GET THEIR EMAIL NEWSLETTER! I often learn of new book titles from the newsletter, which is awesome. It also provides listings of all the exciting events happening in connection with Red Salmon and Resistencia. Like I said, if I lived within driving distance of Austin, I’d be there every week. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up for the newsletter.
- DONATE TO SUPPORT THEIR WORK. You can mail a check made out to Resistencia Bookstore to the above address or use their PayPal account.
Pa’ la gente de Resistencia, with gratitude and admiration.