Posted tagged ‘Prospero’s Books’

Prospero’s Tempest

March 19, 2018

No, not that Prospero, and not that Tempest. But in a city where the overweening entertainments seem to be professional football and NASCAR, a tempest about a bookstore is heartening, even as it is unfortunate.

Prospero’s is a used bookstore (records and other media, too) in Kansas City that I’ve been patronizing for years. For a long time it was my Friday evening destination, and if on rare occasions I or my wife didn’t buy at least one book, we’d spend an hour or two browsing and chatting with the owner. We’ve attended some of their poetry readings and folk music sessions, and I’m sure that over the years, we’ve spent hundreds of dollars there.

About two weeks ago I saw on Prospero’s Facebook page that they now had stickers for the store. I collect stickers like a fool. The best ones I put in my journal. Others I will put on the (unfinished) walls of my Ozark cabin. (And some I may have been known to carry with me when I ran to apply atop stickers I’d see fomenting hateful class wars and such.) Thus I took myself to Prospero’s the next chance I had — which was a Wednesday! — to see what books they might have to entice me and to get two stickers. Lucky I didn’t delay.

The very next day, I saw a post on their Facebook page stating that the stickers were gone. It didn’t take much research to learn the ugly story.

Note the wording in the sticker above (inside the front cover of my current journal — a place of honor!). A certain word there raise the ire of some and resulted in more that 300 comments on the sticker announcement post. It seems that the word “indigenous” had greatly offended many people. When I had read it I assumed that it meant that the bookstore was Kansas City bred and raised, a home-grown store and not part of a national chain. Not so to other readers who took it to mean that the owner was appropriating Native American culture for profit. And that’s phrasing it nicely. Apparently there have been some threats of violence over this. (Read for yourself. I couldn’t get very far through the 300+ comments on the announcement post nor the continuously growing number on the — heart-rending — retraction post.)

Were this a simple matter of some people not knowing the true meaning of a single word, I think it could be more easily dismissed. But it seems that some are choosing to be offended and finding the occasion to be viciously vocal. The Right-wing noise machine has been fired up, and many attacks are now ad hominem, leaving behind the supposed original “offense” of the wording.

I think it’s pretty obvious where my heart lies in this matter. A gentle man of books and the arts, a poet who knows his way around the English language, is going to get my favor until proven otherwise, and I’ve seen nothing otherwise in all of this.


Prospero’s made it into the New York Times just over a decade ago for a sly act. Maybe it’s time for a follow up.



P.S. I did not vote in New York, but I was there for the fateful election day in 2016. I got the sticker from my daughter.