Monthly Archives: April 2017

Manhattan Times: Julia Alvarez Feature

On March 4, we were thrilled to partner with a number of great organizations, Sugarhill Children’s Museum and Seven Stories Press, for an event for Julia Alvarez’s new children’s book, Where Do They Go? ¿Donde va a parar?. In case you missed it, you can purchase a signed copy at the store and read about the event below.


Story by Natasha Soto and Debralee Santos

Photos by Emmanuel Abreu | E. Abreu Visuals

“Being an author means remaining a child,” she said during a reading with hundreds at the Sugar Hill Children’s Museum this past Sat., Mar. 4th. “People feel like if you’re an author, it’s because you know things. Actually, [it means] you’re curious and want to find things out.”She may be a bestselling author and poet whose publications have served as critical and cultural touchstones; a respected professor and mentor who has encouraged countless writers and artists; and the recipient of the National Medal of the Arts, but Julia Álvarez says she sees herself in far simpler terms.

“I think that’s a great attitude towards life,” she added. “I can be learning things all the time. When we read, we are like little children, we open up and we [exercise] our imagination.”

The intergenerational fans of the Dominican-American writer listened raptly as she read from and spoke about her new book, Where Do They Go?

Álvarez, who teaches at Middlebury College in Vermont, explained that she was inspired to write the book after the death of her beloved older sister Maury, who committed suicide.The book, intended for children of all ages, invites readers to contemplate what happens to the people they love after they die. It is illustrated by Vermont woodcut artist Sabra Field, and was translated into Spanish by award-winning poet and translator Rhina Espaillat (who is also the author’s distant cousin).

It was a devastating loss.

“I felt as if I’d been sliced open, and my guts poured out of me,” wrote Álvarez about the experience in a statement posted on her website. “Life, or the desire for it, was leaving me. Part of us dies with the death of people we love. All we can do is wait and see what is left when our grief is done with us—if it ever totally is.”

On Saturday, she said she had come to find solace in everyday moments that brought back Maury’s memory.

Word Up Community Bookshop, Seven Stories Press, and the Sugar Hill Children’s Museum sponsored the event.“One of the things that I wanted to suggest through this book is that it’s ok to have questions,” she explained. “And that one of the ways we can make ourselves feel better when we lose someone is to find them in what’s still there in our lives.  In surprising new places.”

“Seven Stories Press published Julia’s book,” noted Veronica Liu, who serves as editor of the publishing house and also is a founder of the Word Up Community Bookshop. “The community really wanted her to come to Washington Heights, so we thought the children’s museum would be a perfect venue. We strive to give communities access to great books.”

After the reading, attendees lined up to meet and speak with the author.

The winding line of readers snaked its way through the main corridor, which was outfitted with small stations of puzzles and toys for the youngest in the group.

“I read her books dedicated to adults, but my daughter reads her children’s and young adult books,” said Cuban-born artist Nelson Álvarez (no relation) while he waited in line with his young preteen. “We got the Spanish version of Where Do They Go? for my daughter. My wife and I want to keep her plugged into Spanish. She is second-generation, part of a new generation.”Many in attendance clutched well-worn copies of many of Álvarez’s older books, including her first novel, How the García Girls Lost Their Accents, which was published in 1991. Others held up her second novel, In the Time of the Butterflies, which chronicled the lives of the Mirabal Sisters, who fought against the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic, followed in 1994.

As he spoke, she smiled in acknowledgment while skimming through a Spanish-language entry in the “Tía Lola” series.

“My students read How the García Girls Lost Their Accents and In the Time of the Butterflies,” said Rivera. “I typically teach Latino authors in my classes, so that the students can see themselves reflected on the page.”Rina Pichardo and Zacarías Rivera, two high school teachers, said they had wanted to hear from Álvarez, whose work they’ve incorporated in their classrooms.

And while it did not serve as a major plotline in the day’s events, some topical references were made.

“When immigrants come to this country, they bring more soul into it, they bring their stories, their cultures, their energy, their art. Look at this,” argued the author as she gestured directly at her audience.  “All of that gets into the big treasure of the United States of Immigrant America. We have to leave many things behind, but what you carry in your imagination, you don’t have to leave behind. It’s very important for the new generation to be reminded of those treasures.”

The new books Where Do They Go? and ¿Donde Va a Parar? by Julia Álvarez are available at Word Up Community Bookshop (347.688.4456) and the Sugar Hill Children’s Museum (212.335.0004). For more information, please visit

In her own words

It was late autumn. I was jogging down our deserted country road. I found myself shouting the question in a whole range of emotions from fury to self-indulgence.  The chill was in the air, the sky was grey with November clouds, the wind was edged with the chill of the coming winter.

When somebody dies, where do they go? When somebody dies, where do they go? When somebody dies, where do they go?

Who can I ask? Does anyone know?

I couldn’t yet muster the ambition, the animo, the whatever-it-takes to write a whole poem. Instead, every time I had a new version of the question, I’d jot it down. There were little pieces of paper strewn throughout the house, scribbles in the margins of grocery lists, indecipherable scrawls on the scrap paper on the bedside table when I woke up in the middle of another sleepless night.

Even now, I keep finding little scraps that I didn’t include in the final version of the poem.

Time passed.  I finally did sit down and write down the poem/children’s book, Where Do They Go?

I wrote [artist] Sabra Field. I told her how her Demeter Suite had accompanied me in my grief. I had no idea if she would entertain such a project or feel it was below her standards to work on a book for children—though I called it a book about death for children of all ages.

She instantly responded that she would love to collaborate with me, but she would have to see the text first.

Now that the book is published, I look at Sabra’s intriguing cover art, and I feel the ascription should read “as told to Julia Álvarez ” by the wind, the rain, the flamingoes, the stars, the bits and pieces of all those I’ve loved and lost, and who come alive for me as I turn the pages of this book I wrote down to accompany those who grieve.


The Village Voice: Your Guide to Washington Heights: Living the High Life in Manhattan

We are honored to be included in the “New York by New Yorkers” edition of the Village Voice, highlighting neighborhoods and the beloved places within them.

– Original article below-

Grab a sliced mango or pineapple stick from one of Broadway’s many street vendors.

Grab a sliced mango or pineapple stick from one of Broadway’s many street vendors.

Once a stretch of rural countryside home to the native Munsee, modern Washington Heights, a hilly neighborhood covering much of Manhattan’s northern tip, was named for the fortification where General George Washington’s army camped to keep an eye on the advancing Redcoats. The neighborhood has over the years been home to a rotating cast of newcomers: revolutionary British colonists, Greeks, Irish, German Jews after World War II, and, in the late Sixties, a surge of Latino immigrants, especially from the Dominican Republic.

Known for its large, affordable apartments, Dominican food, and a number of preserved pre-war buildings untouched by new development, Washington Heights has played host to several New York City firsts. In the 1890s, the first moving pictures were broadcast at Morris-Jumel Mansion. Professional baseball has roots in the Heights, too: The New York Giants played at the Polo Grounds near the Harlem River at 155th Street from 1890 to 1957 and the Mets in 1962 and 1963; and before the Yankees were the Bronx Bombers, they played at Hilltop Park (now the site of Columbia University Medical Center) as the Highlanders from 1903 to 1912.

The neighborhood, like others, has suffered the turbulence of northern racism. Highbridge Park, which hugs the Hudson River from West 155th Street to Dyckman Avenue, opened an officially integrated pool under Mayor Fiorello La Guardia that was long kept unofficially segregated by local Irish gangs; in 1957, one month before West Side Story opened on Broadway, a white teenager was killed near the pool by gang members from Harlem during a confrontation. And in 1965, Malcolm X was murdered at the Audubon Ballroom, on West 165th Street and Broadway.

Having weathered the ills of the crack and crime epidemics of the 1980s, the area continues to display a formidable resilience; residents of neighboring Inwood to the north recently fought down Mayor Bill de Blasio’s proposals for a new housing development feared to be a Trojan horse for displacement. A walk through the Heights today reveals a dizzying array of cultural and ethnic diversity: Dominican markets, the greenery of Fort Tryon Park and its Cloisters museum, Central American fruit stands, kosher bakeries nestled around Yeshiva University, and Chinese restaurant delivery workers zipping up and down hills on mopeds. Practice your Spanish, hop the express A train north, and have a look around.

Malecon Restaurant

The tender rotisserie chickens from Malecon Restaurant are among Dominican New Yorkers’ greatest contributions to uptown, and probably to humankind. In a neighborhood with no shortage of kitchen-savvy abuelas, the restaurant draws regular crowds of locals, newcomers, and visitors alike, a testament to the allure of New York’s most beloved bird, roasted to garlicky perfection. The rest of the menu covers an array of Dominican staples — cuatro golpes and mango juice for breakfast; your choice of yuca, maduros, or classic rice and beans to go with an array of chicken and pork dishes; tres leches to top it all off. But the main attraction is the heaping piles of rotisserie, chopped and bagged to order from behind a window by the takeout counter. On a sweltering Sunday just hours after last summer’s Dominican Day parade, a massive Dominican flag was raised from the restaurant’s awning, matching mini versions that fluttered from back pockets of passersby. The menu is bilingual, but that day, little English was spoken. The line was out the door. 4141 Broadway at West 175th Street, 212-927-3812

Word Up Community Bookshop

Independent bookstores have struggled to stay afloat downtown, but a group of volunteers has managed to keep one open on an unlikely corner up in Washington Heights. Called Word Up, the shop operates more as a community library, with a deep bilingual inventory, sidewalk shelves, and a traveling cart full of free books. The place is a hub for local talks and author readings, writer meetups and kids’ story hours, many reflecting the neighborhood’s Afro- Latino focus. Word Up started as a pop-up in 2011, operating out of a donated storefront on Broadway and 167th; when the landlord advertised the space at market-rate rent, store volunteers did what any respectable startup would: crowdfund. Folks from around the neighborhood cobbled together over $60,000 to move the shop into a permanent location on Amsterdam Avenue and 165th Street in 2013 — which by then was badly needed, as the local public library was shuttered for almost four years for renovations. Word Up’s calendar proves that for black and brown folks in communities like Washington Heights, the resistance began long before last November. Join up. 2113 Amsterdam Avenue, 347-688-4456

Bodega Pizza serves up pizza and sandwiches, but it doesn’t take plastic

Bodega Pizza serves up pizza and sandwiches, but it doesn’t take plastic
Scott Lynch

Bodega Pizza

After running Apt.78, a hybrid restaurant and weekly party spot, neighborhood favorite Jose Morales closed up shop and reopened in 2015 as Bodega Pizza, a gourmet brick-oven joint. The redesign comes complete with shelves full of the usual corner-store suspects: Café Bustelo, Tide detergent destined to a life of dust, the familiar “No EBT” sign. The ten-inch pizzas borrow names from ‘hood staples: a “Paid in Full” gets you jumbo thin-sliced pepperoni over golden mozzarella and a thin, just-chewy-enough crust; the “A Tribe Called Fresh” is topped with red peppers, onions, and sweet sausage. Fresh-made sandwiches, salads, and dessert calzones top off the dinner menu; return on the weekend for a bodega brunch: breakfast pizza, omelets, or jazzed-up bacon-egg-and-cheese sandwiches with an unlimited-mimosa special. Communal tables give the place a cafeteria feel; on a Friday night, expect to catch as many Morales loyalists — young creative types looking for a hangout — as you do families and teenagers in for a pizza, a beer, and the game. Morales did parties and brunch well, but he does clubhouse better. And like every worthy bodega, this place takes cash only. 4455 Broadway at West 190th Street, 917-675-7707

Old-school graffiti art lines the 191st Street subway pedestrian tunnel.

Old-school graffiti art lines the 191st Street subway pedestrian tunnel.
Amy Arbus

191st Street Tunnel

Once a musty rat haven, the 900-foot-long pedestrian walkway leading to the 191st Street stop for the 1 train now boasts a series of colorful murals. The redo was commissioned in 2015 by the Department of Transportation. (Though the corridor leads to a train, it is considered a city street.) Five artists, including veteran graffiti artist Cope 2, covered the tunnel, which connects Broadway to the subway station buried 180 feet below an intervening ridge, in bright colors and geometric shapes that nod to graffiti-covered trains of decades past. The beautification represents a win in a city that has allowed the loss of such street-art meccas as 5Pointz in Long Island City. The tunnel might still feel a bit dank, but city employees are now more regularly seen picking up trash along the stretch. And so far, amateur tags over the murals haven’t obscured too much of the artwork. Take the 1 to 191st Street and stroll the Crayola-colored bowel on your way to Bodega Pizza, just across the street from the Broadway entrance. West 191st Street and Broadway

The United Palace

Originally built in 1930 as a Loews movie theater and vaudeville house, the United Palace, in all its red velvet and borderline-garish gold-carved glory, bragged of bringing Times Square 133 blocks north. It was later converted to a church run by the first black televangelist, the Reverend Frederick Eikerenkoetter — known as Reverend Ike — a multimillionaire with a knack for flashy suits, sermons about the almighty dollar (Saint Paul was wrong), and an aggressive pitch for tithes. Reverend Ike’s son still runs a nondenominational church, the United Palace House of Inspiration, out of the building, which is also home to a cultural arts nonprofit. The theater now hosts films, music, plays, and dance performances — and still sports the movie house’s original seven-story-high organ. Beyond the events calendar, it’s worth visiting to marvel at the architectural decadence, a window into the overindulgence of New York City’s past. 4140 Broadway between West 175th and West 176th streets, 212-568-6700

Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance (NoMAA)

Formed in 2006, the Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance has funded or sponsored arts organizations and events on the island’s northern tip (including Word Up Bookstore and the 191st Street tunnel restoration), all in the name of keeping uptown art, well, uptown. A formal gallery hosts rotating exhibitions, and the Alliance’s annual month-long Uptown Arts Stroll, held each June, floods parks and public squares all over West Harlem, Washington Heights, and Inwood with shows and performances, offering locals a walking tour of their neighborhoods, adorned with the art of their neighbors. 5030 Broadway Suite 723, 212-567-4394

Buddha Beer Bar

If you’re looking for a neighborhood do-it-all sports bar, Buddha Beer Bar is your spot. A low-key joint on a quiet street, it boasts a decent selection of craft beer at good prices, without the crowds common to trendier uptown hangouts like Tryon Public House and Dyckman Bar. There’s a night for everyone: ladies’ night, Mexican brunch, wing night, trivia night. You can catch most major sporting events and awards shows here on a row of massive televisions; when Ohio duo Twenty-One Pilots accepted their first Grammy Award pantsless, a bartender at Buddha removed hers, too, to cheers from the few dozen hugging the bar. Oh, and the bathrooms: They’re clean! 4476 Broadway, 646-861-2595

Jumel Terrace Books

Unmarked save for a wooden sign in the window reading “Word,” Jumel Terrace Books is housed in the basement of Kurt Thometz, a book collector who for years has managed rare-book collections for celebrities and socialites. Scan the floor-to-ceiling bookcases and you’ll find a wide variety of tomes, including lots on local New York City history, one of Thometz’s specialties. (He’s not a fan of the recent re-canonizing of Alexander Hamilton, whom he considers to have been a terrible misogynist; Eliza Jumel, who lived in the famous Morris-Jumel mansion just steps from his front door, was a far more interesting subject, he says.) A significant portion of the collection covers African and African-American history: the slave trade, black folks in the military, the civil rights movement, music and literature and psychology. This is fitting, given that around the corner from the quiet shop is not just Sugar Hill but 555 Edgecombe, an unassuming mammoth of an apartment building that has housed some of the most influential black musicians of our time, including Duke Ellington, Lena Horne, Johnny Hodges, Count Basie, and a woman named Marjorie Eliot, whose parlor jazz concerts attract dozens of locals and tourists each Sunday afternoon. Jumel Terrace Books is open by appointment only these days — Thometz said he has more success renting the apartment to tourists and couples than selling books. But give him a call anyway and ask nicely. 426 West 160th Street between St. Nicholas and Edgecombe avenues, 212-928-9525

Aaron Burr slept here: the Morris-Jumel Mansion, Manhattan’s oldest house

Aaron Burr slept here: the Morris-Jumel Mansion, Manhattan’s oldest house
Courtesy of Morris-Jumel Mansion

Morris-Jumel Mansion

Tucked inconspicuously behind a C-Town grocery store is Manhattan’s oldest house, the Morris-Jumel Mansion. Modest by modern standards, it was built as a summer estate by a British colonel in 1765, served as George Washington’s headquarters during the Revolutionary War, was the site of America’s first-ever presidential cabinet meeting, and was later home to the now infamous Aaron Burr (sir), the damn fool who killed Alexander Hamilton. (Washington Heights native Lin-Manuel Miranda even wrote two Hamilton songs at the mansion, in Burr’s old bedroom.) Local lore has it that the national landmark is haunted by Eliza Jumel, the last inhabitant of the house, a savvy socialite who was once married to — and divorced — Burr. While you’re in the area, check out the fifty row houses that make up the Jumel Terrace Historic District, including a set of nineteenth-century wooden homes on Sylvan Terrace, a former carriage driveway. 65 Jumel Terrace between Sylvan Terrace and West 162nd Street, 212-923-8008

We’re on the map!

Thank you to the thousands of supporters, hundreds of events, and hundreds of volunteers for your constant support: you have put us on the map! More specifically, we are delighted to be on this charming Village Voice map. As part of its “New York by New Yorkers” edition, the Village Voice highlighted businesses, museums, parks, and other go-to spots in New York City. You might not spot us on an NYC taxi map, but it feels pretty good to have an Uptown cab driver tell you about a “really cool bookshop on Amsterdam.”

– Original article below-

When a management company announced last winter that the drugstore chain Walgreens would take over the lease of one of Washington Heights’ major grocery stores, Associated Supermarket on Fort Washington Avenue, neighbors and elected officials rallied and fought back.

Their activism was mirrored in nearby Inwood, where residents fought the mayor’s plan for Sherman Plaza, a new housing development that they feared would accelerate gentrification. But perhaps the most enduring anti-gentrification efforts can be found in the narrow aisles of the neighborhoods’ many small grocery stores and meat markets, their shelves packed with Spanish-labeled products from the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. These markets offer a selection of international items you might not find in faddish organic supermarkets — and at prices that are, by New York City standards, extremely reasonable.

On a typical weekend afternoon at Antillana Meat Market on the corner of 162nd Street and St. Nicholas Avenue, you’ll find kids dashing in and out with spices and rice and multicolored beans, on errands for their mothers and aunts and grandmothers. Passersby thumb through the shop’s produce selection outside under the awning, looking for quenepas, a tart, fleshy Caribbean fruit housed in a hard round green shell, and yuca, a Dominican-staple root vegetable. Inside, slabs of meat are chopped and bagged at a counter to the strains of bachata and salsa on the radio. Antillana and countless other stores like it help keep Washington Heights familiar to those who have long called the area home. And it will be the quiet defiance of these businesses that helps sustain efforts to keep uptown uptown.

April 26 – Power to the Parents

Are you a new or expecting parent?

Do you have questions about birth or newborn care? Are you trying to figure out what kind of birth setting is best for you? Do you want to learn more about how to work together with your medical caregiver? Are you looking for a safe space to process your birthing experience? Do you need help with breastfeeding? Do you want to try on some baby carriers or learn how to adjust your carrier to your body? Or do you just want to meet and hang out with other parents?

Come to POWER TO THE PARENTS! Community Perinatal Support at Word Up Community Bookshop. Get the information you need and enjoy tea, cookies, and community with fellow parents and experienced perinatal professionals. Se habla espanol.

Tiffany Kapri Johnson – postpartum doula, babywearing educator, and mother of two (with one on the way!).
Esdras Santana – birth and postpartum doula, childbirth educator, lactation counselor, and mother of two.
Koyuki Smith – birth doula, childbirth educator, babywearing educator, and mother of two.

This event accords on:
April 26
May 24
June 28
For more information:

Power to the Parent
Wednesday April 26, 2017
Word Up Community Bookshop/Librería Comunitaria
2113 Amsterdam Avenue. (at 165 St.)
New York NY 10032


Word Up en Revistas Temporales

Gracias a  Juliana Muñoz Toro por la entrevista con la voluntaria Daniella Gitlin. para este artículo en Revistas Temporales.

Word Up es una librería bilingüe que también se conoce como espacio comunitario para exposiciones de arte hecho por artistas locales, música en vivo, lecturas de poesía y prosa, y encuentros de agrupaciones locales. Hablamos con una de las coordinadoras de este luegar, Daniella Gitlin, para que nos contara más sobre la importancia de un proyecto como este en Washington Heights, una zona de Nueva York con una gran población de hispanohablantes. 

¿Cuándo y cómo nació la idea de este proyecto?

Verónica Liu, que fue mi colega en la editorial independiente Seven Stories Press, fundó la librería en junio de 2011. Verónica había vivido en Washington Heights durante varios años y no había nada parecido a Word Up en su vecindario. La idea era que esa librería iba a durar un mes solamente y a ser un “pop-up shop” temporario, pero muchos amigos de la comunidad de Washington Heights quisieron mantenerla abierta. Así los voluntarios iban y venían, intercambiaban la llave para tener la librería abierta casi todos los días y la gente, principalmente del vecindario, venía con donaciones de libros que después vendíamos a bajo precio.

La librería quedó abierta allí, en nuestro primer sitio en la esquina de la calle 176 y Broadway, por más de catorce meses. Luego tuvimos que cerrarla porque los dueños del edificio subieron la renta. Guardamos todos los libros y durante casi un año seguimos reuniéndonos como colectividad de voluntarios y presentándonos en ferias y eventos locales. Además, iniciamos una recaudación de fondos para reabrir Word Up en un nuevo sitio. En julio de 2013 reabrimos en la esquina de la calle 165 y avenida Amsterdam y aquí estamos hasta el día de hoy.

¿Qué libros están promoviendo y cuáles son sus criterios de selección?

Word Up tiene una selección muy diversa de libros—y muchas veces inesperada porque la mayoría es donada por la gente de nuestro vecindario—. Tenemos muchos de ficción y de no-ficción, de poesía y filosofía, antologías y cómics, libros de arte y mucho más. En particular, tratamos de tener muchos libros en español disponibles ya que una gran parte de nuestros vecinos son hispanohablantes. Además, como Word Up está rodeada por varios colegios, y como una proporción enorme de los habitantes del distrito del Alto Manhattan son jóvenes, tratamos de mantener un inventario robusto de libros para niños y niñas, tanto en inglés como en español.