Cellar Door Books is more than a storefront to its neighborhood and owner, Linda Sherman-Nurick. Sherman-Nurick said it is a safe space for her community. As the bookstore’s founder, she said that the bookstore is more than just hers – it belongs to the community.
Like any business, Cellar Door Books has weathered unique challenges in its 11 years of existence, but in recent years the bookstore has found itself within the conflict that many establishments and individuals are facing nationally.
In 2018, Cellar Door Books began its Drag Queen Story Time, with an intent to celebrate diversity and show kids that they are loved and accepted for who they are. Shortly after the event was launched in 2018, members of the Proud Boys and other hate groups identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center began to congregate outside the entrance to the store.
But this did not stop Sherman-Nurick and others from continuing to uphold and build their inclusive community. She explained that she sees the store as a means to fight the assault on history and literature. The bookstore distinguishes itself with diverse authors and characters that historically haven’t been featured in the literary spotlight.
“It’s blossomed. It’s just this gorgeous, beautiful field of possibility,” said Sherman-Nurick. “Now we’re seeing the backlash. We’re seeing all the people trying to shut those doors, trying to close off those possibilities and stop people from reading those books and that’s why it’s really important that we continue to do what we’re doing.”
While states like Florida and Texas face censorship in their books and educational curriculum, ithas manifested differently for Cellar Door Books. On a weekend in late January, Sherman-Nurick received an email from the property management at the Canyon Crest Towne Centre where her store is located. They notified her that her lease was terminated and she needed to be out in less than two months.
“Can I say that this was caused by our drag queen storytime or our politics or our diverse books? Of course, I can’t say that. If I said that, I would be libelous, because I can’t prove that,” Sherman-Nurick said about the immediate lease termination. “But when you look at the books that are being banned in Florida, it feels just like our bookshelves. The same books are up there,” she explained pointing to bookshelves in the store. “Doesn’t that make you wonder?”
Black Voice News and IE Voice spent time with Sherman-Nurick at Cellar Door Books, photographing the space and some of its community members. Check out the photos below to learn more about the bookstore’s community and upcoming horizons.
You can still visit Cellar Door Books at its’ Canyon Crest Towne Centre location until it relocates in May. The store says they will be celebrating Indie Bookstore Day with their Drag Queens and a large celebration of their last ten years on Saturday, April 29th. Their last day at the Canyon Crest Towne Center is May 6th and they plan to open the new location later in the month. Their new location is located at 473 E. Alessandro Blvd., Suite B, Riverside, CA, right across from Sprouts!