January 2023 Update: Early in the morning on January 4th there was a fire at 320 East Avenue, where Akimbo Bookshop was located. The damage was severe enough that everything in the shop has been deemed “unsalvageable”. They’ve set up a crowdfunder to help rebuild. Anything you can give, please consider so that this great shop can recover.

And here’s our original interview with Rachel Crawford from December 2022:

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We are thrilled to feature Akimbo Bookshop as December’s Bookshop of the Month. Based in Rochester, New York, Akimbo is an independent bookstore that specialize in titles published by small presses, “the kind of juicy, subversive, and award-winning books not always available at chain stores, with a particular focus on social issues, contemporary literature, translations, wellness, and feeding the planet.” Akimbo also serves as a community space, hosting film screenings, readings and book signings, book clubs, art shows and more.

What do you think is special about Akimbo Bookshop?

Honestly, we function much like a community space. We host events both in and out of the literary scope of things. For example, we host mutual aid events to help our direct community in the city of Rochester, New York; showcase local artists and offer them a platform; and yes, we of course have had several authors’ book launches and readings here at the store. Akimbo has only been around for seven months but we’ve had two out-of-state authors say that this was their favorite stop on their respective tours, so what really makes it unique is our customer base. Our audience is so insatiably curious, thoughtful, and hospitable to the guests we host. It’s a joy to share space with our intimate crowd.

If money was no object, what changes would you make to your bookshop?

This shop is so new so the wish list is one part practical and one part fun. The practical looks like more shelving, inventory, and staff. The fun stuff looks like the projector and screen I keep swearing I’ll buy for film screenings. It looks like making use of empty space in the back for a writer’s residency program.

How / why did you get into bookselling?

I guess I just knew I wanted to interact with books in any capacity. I dipped my toes in almost all of it: publishing, academia / critical theory, writing and editing, bookselling. A few years ago I was presented with an opportunity to run a bookshop from scratch for a nonprofit. I was grossly underpaid and overworked, but I learned how to do a lot. The rest came from humbling myself, asking for help, and accepting that help. Now I get to talk with folks about their favorite books, movies, and current events. It’s a lot of work but ultimately it’s a joy.

What’s the funniest thing you ever heard anyone say in the shop?

Men say hilarious things to women business owners:

“Can I speak to the owner?”

“Have you read every book in here?”

“I’m not done talking [at] you.”

What’s your favourite And Other Stories book?

This is a tricky one. I particularly love Ann Quin, Lina Wolff, and Rita Indiana. It’s hard to pick a favorite overall but I guess today I’m in an Eva Baltasar, Permafrost mood (Permafrost was translated by Julia Sanches). Good, quick read. Has a Fleabag feel to it. Excellent sardonic wit.

What book published in the last year do our readers need to get their hands on?

Stephanie LaCava’s I Fear My Pain Interests You. (You’re probably picking up a theme at this point.) As a horror fan at heart, there’s a subtlety in portraying the grotesque that LaCava tastefully executes. Shock factors are tacky, in my opinion, and she skirts that line well. This book helped whet my appetite for various media (I’ve been in a rut since the pandemic and I think a lot of us have been) through her craft / technique as well as the music and film references woven throughout the plot.

What would be your desert island book?

Hour of the Star by Clarice Lispector.  “All the world began with a yes…

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