Massy Books is an Indigenous owned and operated bookstore and member of the Stó:lō Business Association. Patricia Massy, a lifelong book lover and collector, has over 18 years of bookselling experience. Her first job out of high school was working in the book department of Save-On-Foods. After that she went on to work at one of the largest used bookstores in the British Columbia, The Book Man in Chilliwack, where she worked off and on for 10 years. Eventually, Massy took her years of bookselling experience and began selling online out of a warehouse before moving to the Eastside Flea biweekly market in Vancouver, British Columbia. In June 2017, Massy had a pop-up shop at Main and 5th, before opening her current storefront, Massy Books, in March of 2018. Located in Vancouver’s Chinatown adjacent to the former Hogan’s Alley on the traditional, ancestral, unceded, and occupied territory of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and sel̓íl̓witulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations, the community has as rich a history as Massy Books. As soon as Massy Books moved to its storefront location, they began working to pay reparations to repair the harm to Indigenous communities that has happened in the area.
The Massy Books team are not simply booksellers — they are agents of social change. Through their bookstore they aim to strengthen the collective fabric of their community. This includes giving underrepresented and overlooked voices a platform, hosting fundraisers, and partnering with local initiatives. One such initiative, aptly named “Indigenous Brilliance,” is a collective founded by Massy and the Room Magazine editorial board members Jónína Kirton and Jessica Johns that aims “to raise the voices of Indigenous women, Two Spirit, and queer writers.”
Massy Books’ storefront has the largest collection of Indigenous titles in a storefront space in British Columbia’s Lower Mainland region. This was no accident — from the start Massy Books has prioritized in promoting Indigenous authors, leading to the acquisition of over 2000 titles. These are categorized not simply as Indigenous, but are organized by category to better serve Massy Books’ readers. These include nation-specific books, as well as books dedicated to Indigenous education, health, wellness, language, law, art, and more.
In 2020, Massy founded Massy Arts Society, an extension of Massy Books’ mission. The Massy Books team wanted to create an independent institution with knowledge beyond the literary community to have more interdisciplinary conversations and events. By providing a physical space for local artists, Massy Arts Society is able to support artists from diverse backgrounds. In describing the importance of the Massy Arts Society, Emily Dundas Oke, Media Manager and Curator said, “In the ability to gather, to share, to contemplate collectively is where a lot of magic happens.”
Currently, Massy Arts Society hosts about 10 exhibitions of diverse mediums per year, and has just expanded to a larger, accessible space. Speaking about the expansion, Dundas Oke says, “we see as what we have as an immense asset to the community, to have space.” This is part of Massy Books’ larger dedication to increasing accessibility.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Massy Books moved all their events online. While it has been exciting to meet their many collaborators physically as pandemic restrictions ease, this past year has made them and so many others realize that it’s possible to work and program in non-conventional ways. As they look to the future, they aim to find ways to have their programming reach wider audiences, including those without internet access.
Indeed, a new chapter began for Massy Books during the pandemic. In June 2020, after the murder of George Floyd, Massy Books fulfilled more online orders than they had in all of 2019. New customers flocked to them, seeking out titles that not only addressed issues such as white supremacy and racism, but ones that celebrate joy, beauty, and brilliance as well. This momentum has only continued as the spark inspiring change continues to grow. As people began to join these important conversations, and others realized that it’s easy to shop local, even when storefronts are closed, Massy Books expanded. Their staff is now four times larger than it was at the start of the pandemic as their community continues to grow nationally and internationally in new ways. The breadth of knowledge contained in their most popular titles reflect that. Right now, Massy Books patrons are flocking to: Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest by Suzanne Simard, Care Of: Letters, Connections, and Cures by Ivan Coyote, Crying in H Mart: A Memoir by Michelle Zauner, and Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi. Meanwhile, Massy Books staff are anxiously awaiting the releases of: Hunting by Stars: (A Marrow Thieves Novel) by Cherie Dimaline, The Strangers by Katherena Vermette, Out of the Sun: On Race and Storytelling by Esi Edugyan, On Freedom Four Songs of Care and Constraint by Maggie Nelson, and Disorientation: Being Black in the World by Ian Williams.
All images courtesy of Massy Books.
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