In a little more than a year after opening, the bookstore Literarity has become an important fixture in El Paso’s literary community in promoting regional authors and poets for readings and book sales.
The locally owned store sells new and used books as well as collectible books, rare books and signed first editions. Owners Bill and Mary Anna Clark wanted to create a welcoming shop for book lovers to browse through and included events where they can mingle with writers.
“With most authors, it’s really focused on their new book,” Bill Clark said. “At the same time, we did an event with Alfredo Corchado and his new book Homelands, which deals with Mexican-American migration and immigration.”
Corchado, a border-Mexico correspondent for the Dallas Morning News, turned his book reading event into a conversation with border journalist Angela Kocherga about immigration, journalism and cultural identity that was followed by a Q&A session with attendees.
Other writers featured at Literarity events include acclaimed poet Rosa Alcala, a creative writing professor at the University of Texas at El Paso, and Ron Stallworth, author of Black Klansman, which made the New York Times Best Seller list.
“It’s not just selling books, these days are more like old- home week,” said photographer and New Mexico State University professor Bruce Berman, who came to Literarity on Nov. 10 to promote his latest collaboration with poets Lawrence Welsh and Ray Gonzalez, Cutting the Wire: Photographs and Poetry from the U.S.-Mexico border.
“It’s beyond a commercial thing. It’s not about the money so much as it’s about affirmation, like, people must really like it,” Berman said.
Not far from UTEP at 5411 N. Mesa in Pepper Tree Square, Literarity carries a good selection of books written by university faculty as well as other notable authors who have called El Paso home at one time or another.
“I think anybody who’s a creative, or not even creative, any person who’s not from here that becomes from here has a very interesting story to tell (about El Paso),” Berman said, “This is a special place.”
Co-owner Bill Clark also tries to encourage up-and-coming writers and poets. “We’re always interested in talking with emerging voices in the local literary world in how we can possible help them and support their efforts.”
Independent brick and mortar bookstores face a lot of challenges in today’s digital culture where ebooks can be downloaded from massive online catalogs. But the Clarks are dedicated to providing a more personal experience.
“We didn’t do this for the money, we did it because we believe that El Paso needs an independent bookstore,” Bill Clark said. “We’re doing this out of commitment for the community.”