The first time I visited Books & Books, I was twenty three years old and a student at the Caribbean Writers Institute summer program at the University of Miami. I had just graduated from college and had some stubborn notion that I wanted to be a writer so I had enrolled in the Masters in Fine Arts program at Brown University. Still needing extra fuel, commiseration and understanding from like-minded writers, I came to spend my summer in Miami, in part, to study with the great George Lamming, a giant of Caribbean letters. As part of the program, we had student readings at the older Books & Books, the one which preceded the glorious courtyard and looked like a fortunate man or woman's extensive home library.
I had never read my work in front of people before and I barely whispered my piece, never looking up once during my very first Books & Books reading. The place was packed with interested readers and in spite of my dismal presentation I still gained some admirers that night. I credit this not to myself, but to the warmth and intimacy of Books & Books. When you read there, you feel like folks are cheering for you. Everyone wants you to succeed. Whenever I am reading or listening to others read, or am just having some of the good food in the courtyard, I always feel like I am with friends. Not just the writers that the books represent, but the people they've drawn to the store.
I often hear writers say that they love Books & Books. And they don't just say it. They mean it, because Books & Books is not just a fortunate man's extensive library (Mitchell's?) but all of ours.