Your weekend at Word Up

The Small Idea Family Night. Photo: Adrienne Cichelli

The Small Idea Family Night. Photo: Adrienne Cichelli

As we complete our first eight months at our new location, we’re continually in awe of all the things that take place within the walls of 2113 Amsterdam Avenue. There is nothing like coming from the after-school program we co-facilitate down the street, walking into the store to scores of neighborhood kids and parents singing together during a Family Night organized by The Small Idea, then transitioning the space as efficiently as possible—i.e. cleaning up all the ankle-high popcorn—just in time for Al Jazeera to come to film the next event, the Uptown Freegan Meetup. Yup, just another Wednesday night at Word Up! And a happy eight months it’s been.

With that, we heartily encourage you to come by this weekend for one of these great events: Friday’s usual open mic (7–9pm), Gagá pa’l pueblo in a new Saturday night timeslot (6–9pm), the Joy of Improv workshop with Bob Lamm (Sunday, 3–5pm), and a conversation between this month’s featured gallery artist Yael Ben-Zion and author Lise Funderburg, moderated by Gabriel de Guzman, with refreshments (Sunday, 5:30–7pm). See you soon!

GagaPalPueblo_140329Saturday, March 29 | 6–9pm
Gagá Pa’l Pueblo
Usually taking place every Sunday in the summertime at Anne Loftus Playground at Fort Tryon Park, Gagá pa’l pueblo is a gathering of folks preserving, enhancing, and practicing Afro-Dominican traditional music. Now that it’s a little chillier outdoors, we’re bringing the celebration indoors once a month. And for the first time at Word Up, it’ll be on a Saturday night! Come for the music, stay for the dancing . . .

Sunday, March 30 | 3–5pm
The Joy of Improv with Bob Lamm
Enjoy creating improvisational comedy in a relaxed, supportive atmosphere. No performing experience is necessary—just a willingness to play, experiment, and laugh with others. Instructor Bob Lamm is a writer and teacher who runs the Novels With a Social Conscience Book Club at Word Up. He has taught improv classes at NYU and the CUNY Graduate Center, and has run workshops at Vassar, Sarah Lawrence, the Hebrew Tabernacle, Covenant House, and many high schools.

Sunday, March 30
 | 5:30–7pm
Intermarried Artist Talk: Yael Ben-Zion & Lise Funderburg in discussion, moderated by Gabriel de Guzman
Yael Ben-Zion‘s photography exhibition Intermarried—presenting self-identified “mixed” couples in their everyday environments—is currently on view in the gallery space at Word Up. On Sunday, March 30th, she will be joined by Lise Funderburg, author of Black, White, Other: Biracial Americans Talk about Race and identity, and Gabriel de Guzman, the curator of visual arts at Wave Hill and the curator of this exhibition.

Wednesday: Family Night & Uptown Freegans

UptownFreegansWednesdays are normally our calmest days at the bookshop, but tonight we have not just one but two activities: small idea Family Night, hosted by volunteers Melissa and Kevin Guzman, and the monthly Uptown Freegans Meetup, hosted by volunteer Gio Andollo. See below for more details, and see you tonight at the bookshop!

Wednesday, March 26 | 5:30–7:30pm
small idea Family Night
Come out to Family Night at Word Up for music and fun! We will have bookmaking tables, puppets, games, storytelling, and live music. Discover Word Up, our lovely volunteers, and the friendly space. Find out how to keep this wonderful store vibrant and open to our community for many years to come.

Wednesday, March 26 | 8:30–9pm
Uptown Freegans Meetup
Word Up volunteer and Uptown Freegans founder Gio Andollo will lead a food rescue mission around the neighborhood. See for more information.

Next Saturday: Projections: The Faces Behind the Dolls / Los Rostros Detrás de las Muñecas

PROJECTIONS_MARCH_DOLLS-01Our next Projections screening is of the documentary The Faces Behind the Dolls / Los Rostros Detrás de las Muñecasdirected by Freddy Vargas and produced and researched by Mary Ely Peña-Gratereaux—about the Dominican immigrant women who labored at the Madame Alexander Doll company in New York City. Their stories demonstrate how the world economic system shaped and transformed the lives of immigrants as they integrated themselves into the US labor market, and ultimately how globalization and its discontents drowned many of these workers’ dreams as production shipped to China when the company closed its doors. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers.

Saturday, March 22, 2014
6:30 PM
Word Up Community Bookshop / Librería Comunitaria
2113 Amsterdam Avenue @ 165th St.
Admission: $5 (reduced to $3 if you sign up as a Continuing CSB Member—learn more about the CSB member program here)

Face Out: Bird of Paradise by Raquel Cepeda



Next in our Face Out series . . .
Bird of Paradise by Raquel Cepeda 
Thursday, March 20 @ 7 PM
Word Up – 2113 Amsterdam Avenue @ 165th St.

Born in Harlem and raised (mostly) in Inwood to Dominican parents, award-winning journalist, cultural activist, and documentary filmmaker Raquel Cepeda is the author of Bird of Paradise: How I Became Latina. Equal parts memoir about Cepeda’s coming of age in New York City and Santo Domingo, and detective story chronicling her year-long journey to discover the truth about her ancestry, the book also looks at what it means to be Latina today.

Raquel Cepeda is currently in production on Deconstructing Latina, a documentary focusing on a group of troubled teenage girls in a suicide prevention program who are transformed through an exploration of their roots via the use of ancestral DNA testing. Cepeda’s writings have been widely anthologized and her byline has been featured in media outlets include the New York Times, Associated Press, the Village Voice, MTV News,, and many others. Visit Cepeda at

Join Raquel Cepeda and Word Up in celebrating the paperback release of Bird of Paradise.

This Sunday: Word Up CSB Book Harvest!


This Sunday, March 16th, 3–6 PM, join current CSB members at Word Up Community Bookshop for an exclusive first pick at a huge selection of used books during this very special event. Entertainment and light refreshments—courtesy of Mambi Restaurant and Santos Catering—will be provided.

The Word Up CSB (Community Supported Bookshop) is a bookshop member program modeled on neighborhood CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture), which help local farmers sustain their operations. Check out the full details on our CSB page.

Not a CSB member yet? You can join at the event:

Basic Share is $20. When you join, you receive a hand-silkscreened tote bag, 6 wooden coins redeemable for used books, and special member-only opportunities. (Click HERE to become a Basic CSB Member.)

Continuing CSB Membership is $5/monthOnce you join, you receive a wooden token per month redeemable for used books, and special member-only opportunities. (Click HERE to become a Continuing CSB Member.)

A School Share is $50 and is an option for any school or educational organization. Every student in your class gets a wooden nickel, and the teacher gets the tote bag.  (To become a School CSB Member—or to sponsor a School Share for a classroom that is not your own—email

Join hundreds of your neighbors who have joined since we launched the program in December 2011. (An article about the program launch was published in DNAinfo.) 

Special thanks to the Uptown Community Church for organizing the Cash Mob that will be taking place during the CSB Book Harvest! For more information about the Cash Mob, see

New exhibition: Yael Ben-Zion’s Intermarried

YaelBenZion_postcardWe at Word Up Community Bookshop are ecstatic to present a new exhibition by Yael Ben-Zion, a thoughtful and talented photographer from our neighborhood whose work first caught our eye with her monograph 5683 miles away, which we didn’t get our hands on till we had nearly closed down our original Word Up location. We kept that book close till we could open our bookshop once again, and throughout those long months that we worked toward reopening, Yael had been finishing up another project, on intermarried couples in our community. A year or two ago, we would never have imagined just how much significance the topic of intermarriage would carry for many members of the Word Up volunteer staff. But 2014! Whoa, what a year! It turns out that it is just the right time for us to be welcoming Yael Ben-Zion and her work into the space.

Photographs by Yael Ben-Zion
Curated by Gabriel de Guzman

Exhibition On View: March 9 – April 9, 2014 

Sunday, March 9, 3–5 PM
Opening Reception and Book Signing with the Artist

Sunday, March 30, 5:30pm 
Discussion with Yael Ben-Zion and Lise Funderburg,
author of Black, White, Other: Biracial Americans Talk About Race and Identity,
Moderated by Gabriel de Guzman

Following her award winning monograph 5683 miles away (Kehrer, 2010) in which Yael Ben-Zion considered the meaning of “normal life” in her homeland of Israel, Ben-Zion now fixes her camera on another personal, yet politically charged theme: intermarriage. Her second monograph with Kehrer, Intermarried, which publishes nationally this spring following a winter unveiling in New York, explores a complex issue with insight and sensitivity. The book includes a foreword by Amy Chua, an essay by Maurice Berger, and an afterword by Yael Ben-Zion.

Ben-Zion initiated Intermarried in 2009 by contacting an online parenting group in Washington Heights, the Manhattan neighborhood where she resides with her husband and twin boys. She invited couples that define themselves as “mixed” to participate, leaving the definition of intermarriage open to the interpretation of the respondents. Her own marriage “mixed,” she was interested in the many challenges faced by couples that choose to share their lives regardless of their different origins, ethnicities, races or religions.

The families presented in this book gave Ben-Zion access to their homes to photograph themselves, their children, and the spaces they live in. These images are not straightforward portraiture or documentation, but rather intimate moments and depictions, which allude to the personal experiences of Ben-Zion’s subjects within a wider social and political context. Through layered images and revealing texts culled from a questionnaire she asked her subjects to fill out, Ben-Zion constructs a subtle, reality based narrative in which she explores and interprets the complex, multifaceted issues posed by intermarriage.
It is Ben-Zion’s hope that her new book will create a “platform for thinking and talking about issues that are very personal but have vast social and political implications.” In light of the current public discourse surrounding interracial and interfaith marriage, the publication of this book is very timely.

The Intermarried exhibition debuted at La Galeria at Boricua College in Washington Heights in January 2014. The Bronx Art Exchange wrote this about the show: “. . . The lines are blurring all around us with intermarriage. It is doing the great service of shattering stereotypes and is, part in parcel, the very dream that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke of and yearned for all Americans to reach . . . Ben-Zion’s work is powerful because it captures the essence of what is happening in our country today and the very nature of how identities in the future will be dramatically different than anything we know today.”

Projections: A Place at the Table


Saturday, March 8th 
6:00 PM
Word Up Community Bookshop
2113 Amsterdam Avenue @ 165th St.
Admission: $5 (reduced to $3 if you sign up for a Continuing CSB Membership)

Please join us for our next Projections screening, which is a collaboration among City Harvest’s Healthy Neighborhoods Initiative, Word Up Community Bookshop, and Partnership for a Healthier NYC.  


50 Million Americans—1 in 4 children—don’t know where their next meal is coming from. A Place at the Table tells the powerful stories of three such Americans, who maintain their dignity even as they struggle just to eat. In a riveting journey that will change forever how you think about the hungry, A Place at the Table shows how the issue could be solved forever, once the American public decides—as they have in the past—that ending hunger is in the best interests of us all. 

The screening will be followed by a panel and Q&A with 
JOEL BERG, executive director of New York City Coalition Against Hunger, and author of All You Can Eat: How Hungry Is America?; 
* YVONNE STENNETT, executive director of Community League of the Heights
* MAUDENE NELSON, community nutrition consultant
* DAMARIS CAMILO, 14 Brothers Deli