When she frequented indie bookstores in the area, Christina Pascucci-Ciampa kept seeing the same titles when it came to intersectional and feminist texts — books like “Bad Feminist” by Roxane Gay, “The Feminine Mystique” by Betty Friedan, and “She’s Not There: A Life in Two Genders” by Jennifer Finney Boylan.
Though Pascucci-Ciampa often loved these books, she pined for more variety. So when she founded All She Wrote Books — a bookstore in Assembly Row dedicated to giving shelf space to underrepresented authors, with an eye toward intersectionality — she set out to curate a selection that would bring texts such as these to the forefront.
“That’s part of the inspiration behind what All She Wrote Books was meant to be and what we do,” said Pascucci-Ciampa. “To showcase those authors and those voices and those stories consistently, throughout all of our shelves, all the time.”
All She Wrote Books officially opened its Somerville doors last summer, first for curbside-only service and then for in-store shopping in July 2020. Pascucci-Ciampa started the shop as a pop-up at various Somerville markets and local businesses in April 2019, lugging her three-shelf Ikea cart to places like the Winter Hill Brewing Company to sling her books, which she initially pulled from her own shelves.
A longtime avid reader, Pascucci-Ciampa said she has used books as a way to tap into the perspectives of others since she was a child. “They were also places where you could escape things, too,” said Pascucci-Ciampa, who grew up north of Boston and previously worked in marketing communications..
There were times, she said, when escape through literature was crucial. She has a learning disability, and when she was in school, writing fanfiction bolstered her confidence. When Pascucci-Ciampa left an emotionally abusive relationship with the help of a therapist in 2010, she was unable to find books that could help her through the experience. Now, All She Wrote stocks several books about domestic violence, like Lovern Gordon’s “The Legacy He Left Me,” and “In the Dream House” by Carmen Maria Machado.
Many of the store’s bestsellers are favorites of Pascucci-Ciampa, like “Hood Feminism” by Mikki Kendall and “While Justice Sleeps” by Stacey Abrams. Children’s books such as “Bodies Are Cool” by Tyler Feder and “Rainbow Revolutionaries” by Sarah Prager have also proven popular.
Emily Bordenski, a shopper on a recent Tuesday who was about to buy the poetry collection “Flower Crowns and Fearsome Things,” said she was impressed by the store’s selection.
“There’s a lot of different things that I think you wouldn’t find in a lot of normal bookstores,” she said.
An ethos of accessibility and community are at the core of All She Wrote. There are wide aisles for wheelchair users, an artists’ corner for locals to display their art, and a free box of Advanced Reader Copy books so that everybody can take something home, regardless of cost.
Even before the store began welcoming customers, Pascucci-Ciampa made a point during the pandemic to provide people with books, since libraries were closed. She started doing e-commerce, offering $1 media mail shipping or free drop-off in the Somerville area. “Putting books in people’s hands is very important, especially during a time like that,” she said.
In the broader Somerville community, All She Wrote Books has hosted a free book fair for students at the nearby Arthur D. Healey School, and participated in the Read in Color program, which filled new Little Free Library boxes around the city with social justice books in partnership with 826 Boston, and donated books to the Somerville Library.
“It’s really important to be part of the community because we’re in it, and I wouldn’t be anywhere with the bookstore if there wasn’t that community,” she said. “It’s just a no-brainer.”
Now, the goal is to bring the community to them. The store has begun to host events like a teen LGBTQ+ book club and author readings. Local author Bren Bataclan participated in a queer storytelling event at the store earlier this October.
Bataclan‘s book, “FE: A Traumatized Son’s Graphic Memoir,” is on sale at the store, which he said is more meaningful to him than having it in other indie bookstores.
“I can’t think of a better bookstore to have my book,” said Bataclan, who lives in Cambridge.
Beyond selling books, Pascucci-Ciampa wants All She Wrote Books to be an environment where people can have conversations with staff members about difficult topics, such as domestic violence. “It’s planting the seeds to let folks know that we’re here for them, we’re a resource for them, we’re a space where you can come and be loved and respected for who you are, no matter where you’re from, or who you are,” she said.
In other words, All She Wrote Books is the space Pascucci-Ciampa always knew she needed — a place for people to find themselves in the pages.
“I would have wanted a place like this growing up,” she said. “The fact that I can bring it into the world now, and have it be here is a true testament to the battling that I’ve been going through for most of my life. It’s fueled me with the energy to keep this going, and to keep fighting for all of the people that we represent in this space — including myself.”
Dana Gerber can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @danagerber6.