By Devon Harvey
The sidewalk down Roncesvalles Avenue, Toronto, is peppered with various shops, restaurants and cafes, all faced with quaint exteriors and large front windows. If you follow the sidewalk just south of Grenadier Road, you will come across a forest-green storefront with a window displaying an overabundance of books, radiating colour and basking in the sunlight that streams through the dusty glass. Upon entering, you are enveloped in the aroma of the books’ newly printed pages and fresh ink. The hum of the lights and the shuffle of papers pull you further into the shelves of the shop. The staff greet you with friendly smiles and invite you to browse and offer assistance should you need it.
Welcome to Another Story Bookshop
The moment you step into the store, it is evident that this is not your ordinary bookshop. From the vibrant wall colours of deep purple, grassy green and rusty orange, to the section labels on the shelves, boasting titles on wellness, feminist issues, and disability studies among others, there is a feeling of care and passion that exists in each facet of the store.
You can find customers browsing the shelves, their eyes are drawn to the vibrant covers of the novels. People can get lost in here for hours while on their hunt for the perfect resource or the perfect book. Countless customers leave the shop with a smile on their face and a book in their hand.
In the back right corner of the shop stands a wall of shelves filled to the brim with books for students from grade eight to grade twelve. Behind this bookshelf, sitting at a desk in a small alcove you can find Khary Mathurin answering emails, taking phone calls, packaging orders or answering questions from educators both near and far. Mathurin is the Education Support Manager at Another Story Bookshop, and his job is to help educators find the materials needed for their classrooms and answer their queries.
Since he started working at the bookshop in 2014, Mathurin has found a way to turn his love and passion for literature into a way to support educators and promote social justice literature in educational institutions. “We are a bookstore with a social justice lens, we have our main tenants like equity, diversity, social justice…Unlike a lot of bookstores we also do a lot of wholesale; so selling to schools, teachers and librarians…all of it is with the intention of promoting the voice of marginalized authors,” says Mathurin, with a smile. Mathurin’s cheerful demeanour is a testament to the passion he has for his work.
Another Story Bookshop stocks their shelves with books about social justice, queer identities, radicalized identities, and various other important topics. It is uncommon to find a math resource for kindergarten students that also tackles racial diversity, but at Another Story Bookshop that is just what you’ll find. The books they stock are all multipurpose. They can teach math and inclusion, acceptance and politics, diversity and science…the list goes on.
The best books with a purpose
Mathurin fondly recalls the late founder of Another Story Bookshop Sheila Koffman. “She would sometimes just look at the store and be like, ‘we have the best books’…But I would say that’s true, I mean we put a lot of care and consideration in what we stock and we bring that same kind of attention to supporting educators,” he chuckles.
Koffman’s vision was that the bookshop act as a hub for activists and activism, which remains true to this day. The goal of Another Story Bookshop has always been to bring this type of literature into schools and to make the social issues, topics and content they hold within them the norm for educators and students alike.
Although the shelves of the store are lined with many books, Khary is aware that sometimes when educators visit they don’t know where to start, and it is his job to help them get their foot in the door. “[Teachers] can do [a lesson] around something like [a general] perspective that’s such a broad topic, and bring in all sorts of things and use a picture book that has queer parents for instance and depending on how the book is written, or other themes that are in there you could bring those larger ideas about diversity into that as well,” Mathurin feels that there is a book for every lesson, and if Another Story Bookshop doesn’t have it, they will find it and put it in the hands of educators.
A study published by The Manitoba Teachers’ Society in 2015 found that educators see great purpose and scope in incorporating LGBTQ+ content into various academic subjects such as health, family studies and human ecology, social studies, social justice and law, English and language arts, science and even math. The next step for these educators is to find the literature and resources applicable to those subject areas, and that is exactly what Mathurin strives to do.
Mathurin is very familiar with the Ontario Curriculum and as he reflects on the store and the array of literature it houses within its colourful walls, he admits that people could benefit greatly from incorporating this type of diverse literature into schools, “Because school is a lot about investing into the future and giving kids the tools to understand society and be able to be in society.”
Making an impact on students and educators
While thinking about his experiences at the store Mathurin recalls how while at a vendor fair in Toronto, he was approached by a librarian looking for a book for a queer student of colour. He recommended Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. The librarian left satisfied. To Mathurin’s surprise, the same librarian came to the vendor fare the following year and told Mathurin how much the book had helped the student and shifted their entire experience of coming out into a positive one. “That’s a very affirming moment.” Mathurin recounts, “to be able to feel your effect on the students… because we’re so often dealing with educators…which is great but it’s also great when you hear about the students.”
To this day Another Story Bookshop faces the task of making the literature they house the norm in educational institutions. Many schools have yet to incorporate this type of diverse literature into their libraries and classrooms. Another Story Bookshop strives to make these resources readily available for educators and fill in the gaps in the curriculum.
“Sometimes [it] feels like I’m sort of reaching back to help myself…I wish teachers had understood this, I wish I had this resource…[its] good to know you’re able to solve problems that you saw when you were in school…When you look at the overall picture it’s like we’re just starting.”