Bigots in the Bookstore
I LOVE bookstores. They’ve been one of my favorite places to go since I was a child. I love to browse the shelves for hours.
When I go to shop, I will usually leave with about $150 worth of books. As a writer, book-shopping is one of my favorite parts of the job.
So the other day I was in a well-known bookstore chain, Barnes & Noble. I had a list of books I wanted to pick up. I always hit the store and pick up the trending books, new bestsellers, etc. It’s part of my job to know what’s trending, selling, and popular.
As I’ve been working on a project in the Young Adult market, today was to be the deep dive into the Young Adult Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre.
On my way in, I do my customary pilgrimage to the in-store Starbucks because coffee and books on a rainy day are an amazing combination.
On the shelves is a single book of the Quran and a number of scathing titles about escaping Islam.
As I buzz by the religion section on my way to coffee, I happen to glance at the wall of Christian books. I’m impressed that religion gets so much visible shelf space. To me, that’s a good thing. Religions are the backbone of civilization, so the fact that this bookstore is giving them so much prominent display is great. My eyes slide over to the Judaism section, which is quite a bit smaller, but still prominent.
At this point, I’ve stopped walking toward coffee because I’m curious. If this much wall space has been dedicated to religion, then what must the other religion shelves contain? So I turn, look, and scan. My eyebrows pinch together, creating that deep-groove frown that I am trying to avoid. But I can’t help it. I am disgusted. On the shelves is a single book of the Quran and a number of scathing titles about escaping Islam. I wasn’t even sure it was actually the Quran—I didn’t pull it out. I just saw “Quran” in the title. It could well have been some offshoot book, pummeling the beliefs of more than a billion people across the world. There were certainly no books featured that promoted the religion, only the titles that smashed it.
I must admit, I was surprised. My eyes scanned the rest of the shelves and found the section on Scientology. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was. The bookstore had just three titles on its shelves to represent my religion—two of which were written by former Scientologists expelled for their unethical behavior, and the third a “journalist” whose book was discredited more than 1,000 times. (He actually quoted someone who was dead as though they were still alive and as if he interviewed them for his book. Like, for real.)
And these are the people who get to tell my story? How is that NOT bigoted? There’s not a single copy of Dianetics on the shelves, Scientology: The Fundamentals of Thought or A New Slant on Life. None of the books that represent me or my religion, or what we even believe. The only thing I can conclude is that there are bigots in the bookstore, or that this bookstore has deep-seated prejudices built on a foundation of religious intolerance.
I never made it to the Starbucks that day. Nor did I spend my 150 bucks on new books. I left without giving them a dime of my money, using my wallet to protest this injustice.
I’ll do my shopping on Amazon from this point forward, where Scientology has a great presence, walls of digital shelf space and they don’t go out of their way to present a grossly biased view of my religion.