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Abe Proctor of The Skanner
Published: 11 January 2006

The stretch of Killingsworth Street from Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to Albina Avenue is fast becoming a literary bastion, a stronghold of light and learning.

Between Talking Drum Books, the North Portland Library, Jefferson High School, Portland Community College's Cascade Campus and the area's newest literary arrival, In Other Words Bookstore, the street is replete with intellectual vigor.

In Other Words has long been a fixture on Southeast Portland's bohemian Hawthorne Boulevard, but rising rents have led its management to relocate to its new place of business at the corner of North Killingsworth Street and Williams Avenue. The store opens for business on Feb. 1.

In Other Words' status as one of the only nonprofit feminist bookstores in the United States will add to the area's intellectual flavor. Talking Drum and Reflections cater to a primarily African American clientele, and other organizations headquartered along the same stretch of Killingsworth — such as Ethos Inc., Sisters in Action for Power, the Bread and Roses Center and North Portland Bike Works – also lean toward the progressive side.

The store's new location is almost double the size of the old, and its staff and more than 50 regular volunteers who run the store are eager to have a larger space where feminist, grassroots community-building can take place, said store manager Sue Burns.

"I am so excited about the chance for our resources to be more accessible and serve a wider range of people than we do at this time," Burns said.

When the opportunity arose to lease part of the building on Killingsworth, the store's board was particularly interested because the building is owned by the Albina Women's League. The league, a nonprofit organization with a mission to support youth in the African American community, ran art classes out of the building until its funding dried up in the 1990s. Since then, the building has stood empty and boarded up.

In negotiating for the lease of the space, In Other Words and the Albina Women's League discovered that although they served different communities, they shared many of the same values. The bookstore will renew the league's space as a center for community meetings, educational opportunities, a safe place for kids and a place to develop community partnerships.

In advance of its relocation, In Other Words has begun to collaborate with new neighbor, Talking Drum Books, to hold a race and gender reading and action group.

"I feel very good about it," said Talking Drum owner Gloria McMurtry of the chance to work with In Other Words. "We make a really good match, with her (Burns) running a feminist bookstore, and my focus being African American, which is also feminist, with bell hooks — one of the more noted, acclaimed feminist writers — being an African American.

"We kind of complement each other in that way."

McMurtry said she and Burns already have plans to host a monthly book club meeting. The book club will meet at 7 p.m. on the last Monday of each month and will alternate locations between Talking Drum, 446 N.E. Killingsworth St., and In Other Words.

In Other Words has thrived as a community institution during a period when many independent bookstores around the country have collapsed due to harsh economic times and fierce competition from superstores. The store is a community center for art and politics, a place that encourages women's creative expression, radical ideas and political activism. Grass-roots organizing groups use the store for meetings free of charge. The store also sponsors lectures, workshops, open-mike evenings, readings and musical events.

For more information, visit www.inotherwords.org.

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