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  • cassieebrown

When You Leave Your Mark.

The days are clear, and the leaves are turning autumn bright. They turn gold, then scarlet day by day. They are vividly red for a moment, and then they fall. Now that the time has changed, I rise out of bed without slogging, but at night, I leave work to a sunset painting itself like a watercolor rainbow and a rising moon like the smile of a Cheshire cat.

Things are changing.

Yesterday I walked into the small, proud, independent bookstore in Real Town. It’s going out of business—or at least, seeking a new owner, as its current, amazing owners retire. It’s a wild and hardheaded little place that sells tarot cards as well as Christian fiction. It celebrates both banned books and Black History.

From between the shelves of Fierce Books, I called the local Rural Library and asked them if they would accept a donation of new books. They agreed, provided the number of books was small. They had—they said—just received a very large donation and were still processing the books.

I purchased from the Fierce Books’ “frequently banned books” shelf four LGBTQ-themed children and teen books.

When I carried them to the register, the tattooed and smiling bookseller had obviously overheard my plan in the small store. She giggled, delighted and supportive. She told me a story of another customer who purchased the book George, a middle-grade story of a young trans-girl, and gave it to the store to give to “a kid who needs it.”

“I knew the kid who needed it right away,” she said.

People who give up on places like this forget about Georges like her and booksellers like this.

I drove my books to Rural Library, and when I plopped the thin, plastic bag down on the counter, I held my breath for a moment. The librarian in charge of the children’s collection clapped when she saw And Tango Makes Three among them.

“I had just asked my director to purchase some of these books!” she squealed with excitement.

The other librarian who initially accepted my “frequently banned” offering looked at me with a calm face and asked, “Do you want us to put your name in them as the donor?”

My brow wrinkled. It was a decision I had not expected to have to make.

“We often put ‘This book generously donated by…’ in books given by people,” she said, the frozen look on my face interpreted as confusion.

Should I take credit for a good deed? My father believed good acts should be private. Should I put my name in these controversial pages? It felt a little uncomfortable.

And then, I imagined a teen opening a book about being transgender and seeing that this book had a name in it, that it was donated by a person. Someone unafraid to put their name in it. That it was given to this library with pride.

And I think of what it would have meant to me as a child or a teen to see someone unafraid to put their name on something queer in Real Town. At Rural Library.

“Yes,” I said.

And she didn’t need to ask my name, because she had known me since I was a patron there when I was a child. She hadn’t needed to ask my name to look me up in the system to recheck my book a few minutes ago. She had just reminisced aloud how I had volunteered there, reading books to children, performing storytelling, and shelving and processing books.

And now, I added silently in my mind, bringing “frequently banned books” to your shelves.

“Yes, you can put my name in.”

And she smiled a small, approving smile.

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