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**All biographies were written by the candidates themselves.**
Danny Caine has been the owner of the Raven Book Store in Lawrence, Kansas, since 2017, when he took over after serving as a part-time bookseller. The Raven is a small, college-town, new-only bookstore with a legacy of celebrating crime fiction and a current focus on poetry, political nonfiction, and uplifting the Midwest. Aside from running the Raven with its talented team of booksellers, Danny is the author of the book How to Resist Amazon and Why and the poetry collections Continental Breakfast, El Dorado Freddy’s, and Flavortown. In 2019, the Midwest Independent Booksellers Association presented Danny with the Midwest Bookseller of the Year award.
Danny is a member of the ABA Bookseller Advisory Council and the MIBA Board. He founded the Paper Plains Literary Festival and has created a bestselling series of zines, including Save the USPS and the original version of How to Resist Amazon and Why. He is committed to finding ways to help bookstores create a better world for their communities and booksellers. To this end he has written about bookselling and associated issues for Publishers Weekly, Literary Hub, and Kansas Reflector.
Danny firmly believes the book industry is at a turning point: massive upheaval, from corporate consolidation to big-tech monopolizing, threatens to permanently alter the book industry in ways that do not favor independent bookstores. According to Danny, book industry upheaval demands dynamic leadership from the ABA to ensure that there is a healthy and vibrant next generation of booksellers.
To nurture this next generation of booksellers, Danny feels strongly that the ABA must push the book industry to welcome and support BIPOC booksellers, LGBTQIA+ booksellers, booksellers with disabilities, neurodiverse booksellers, and booksellers who don’t come from connected or privileged backgrounds.
The most important of the many ways to nurture the next generation of diverse booksellers, according to Danny, is to ensure booksellers make a living wage. Caine acknowledges, “There is much work to be done.” But, he adds, “It is vital work to ensure that all booksellers earn a living wage and reflect the full diversity of the communities they serve.”
Jake Cumsky-Whitlock is co-owner of Solid State Books (SSB) in Washington, D.C., the store he co-founded in 2017. SSB sells new children’s and adult books, stationery, and other book-related gifts. It has a coffee shop/beer and wine bar, and functions as a community gathering space, hosting author events, panels, and book clubs. Jake has worked for publishing houses in Boston and New York. His bookselling career began in 2004 at Kramerbooks & Afterwords in Washington, D.C., where he served as bookseller, shift manager, hiring manager, and assistant buyer before eventually being named Head Buyer. Jake is a former member of ABA’s Booksellers Advisory Council and served as chair of the Spring 2020 Adult Indies Introduce panel. He holds a B.A. in English Literature and Art History from the University of Virginia, and an M.A. in Creative Writing from Boston University. He lives in Southwest Washington, D.C. with his wife, 11- and 8-year-old sons, and 4-year-old daughter.
“I have been incredibly lucky to learn my trade from a range of talented, generous booksellers, co-workers, and bookstore owners, and my service on the ABA Board represents an opportunity to pay back some of that generosity,” says Jake. “I believe in, and luxuriate in, this bookselling community of ours. Independent bookstores, and their incredible diversity of booksellers, are a resilient and creative lot, having weathered numerous storms throughout the years. We currently find ourselves at another inflection point, as the uncertainty of the post-pandemic retail landscape, and the increasing market dominance of the multi-billion dollar internet behemoth in the corner, threatens once more to reduce our numbers. Despite such obvious hurdles, I strongly believe that, once again, our resourcefulness, adaptability, and guile will see us through. We still have such a valuable role to play in our communities, for our communities, and I believe that the pandemic has only reinforced that importance. I look forward to working with Allison Hill, the ABA, and the rest of the ABA Board to continue to level the playing field in our favor, creating a more stable environment in which all ABA members will thrive. I am also excited to be a small part of the increasing diversification of both the ABA Board and the greater independent bookselling community.”
Kelly Estep is the co-owner of Carmichael’s Bookstore and Carmichael’s Kids in Louisville, Kentucky. Kelly grew up in the bookstore that her mother helped run and in Carmichael’s, which was opened by her aunt and uncle in 1978. After starting work at Carmichael’s at the age of 13, dusting shelves and washing windows, she had several other jobs outside bookselling, but always came back to work at the bookstore. She began buying and moved on to managing as the business grew from one store to two and incorporated a wholesale division for schools. Kelly opened Carmichael’s Kids, a separate store for children, in 2014 and is currently working to expand book fair and school sales.
Kelly is completing her first term as an ABA Board member. She is a past president of the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association and is a member of ABA’s Education Task Force, as well as a former member of ABA’s Booksellers Advisory Council, IndieCommerce Task Force, and Nominating Committee.
“This is such an exciting and important time for independent bookselling. So many people have begun to recognize and appreciate the importance of bookstores in their communities,” says Kelly. “The idea that young people are opening stores and buying stores from retiring owners was really unthinkable not that long ago. I look forward to being a part of continuing important conversations with our publishing partners to assure a positive long-term outlook for all of us. Having a children’s specialty store along with general stores has also given me a unique look at some of the differences we face and some of the things we have in common. ABA has made incredible strides in making us all feel like we are part of a larger community, and I’m honored to be a part of that.”
Bradley Graham, co-owner of Politics and Prose in Washington, D.C., has been on the ABA Board since May 2017, when he was appointed to fill a vacancy created by the election of Robert Sindelar as ABA Board president. He was elected in 2018 to serve the remaining year in what would have been Sindelar’s regular term, then re-elected in 2019 to a full three-year term. He also was elected in 2019 to serve as vice president of the Board.
Since entering bookselling, Brad has been very active in the ABA and the industry. He was a member of both the ABA Booksellers Advisory Council and the American Booksellers for Free Expression Advisory Council and served on the 2016 Governance Review Committee. He also has contributed to ABA educational programming as a moderator and panelist on a number of occasions.
Before becoming a bookseller, Brad, who co-owns Politics and Prose with his wife, Lissa Muscatine, had a distinguished 30-year career with the Washington Post as a reporter and editor, focusing primarily on foreign and national security affairs. He also is the author of two books — Hit to Kill, an account published in 2001 of renewed U.S. efforts to build a national missile defense system, and By His Own Rules, a biography of Donald Rumsfeld.
“It’s been a privilege — and one of my favorite experiences in bookselling — to serve on the ABA Board,” says Brad. “Being involved with the ABA has made me appreciate just how much programming, promoting, partnering, and advocating the association does for independent booksellers. Now, with the pandemic receding, the ABA faces a great opportunity to review all it’s been doing and come up with new plans for the future. Hopefully this future will include even more educational offerings, greater efforts at promoting diversity and inclusion, intensified discussions with publishers over better terms, and a multi-year set of initiatives to improve IndieCommerce and the ABA’s other digital systems. Regarding the Board in particular, I’d like to see us become better at scanning the retail landscape and brainstorming about how to adapt new trends and technologies to indie bookselling. I also expect us to keep searching for ways to expand our communication with ABA members and regional associations and ensure we’re hearing from many voices and incorporating as many perspectives as possible.”
Melanie Knight is the children’s frontlist buyer for 10 Books Inc. locations around the northern California area. She has been working in the book industry since 2009, and has worked in everything from event coordination to managing her own store in her time at Books Inc.
She is on the ABA’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee and was elected to the ABA Board in September 2020. Melanie also currently serves as a member of the board for CALIBA, where she has helped with the education and planning of trade shows. Melanie has also served as a panelist at Winter Institute.
“I just feel like it’s important to have different backgrounds and different voices on the ABA Board. We need people with different jobs, races, and identities — that’s the only way we can help all or even most booksellers. The more people we reach, the more people we’re helping,” Melanie says. “Who knows what future rock star is out there, who doesn’t even know they could have a career in bookselling. I read so much as a kid but never thought I could work in a bookstore or advance my career in the book industry. Representation matters.”
Christine Onorati is the owner of WORD Bookstores in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and Jersey City, New Jersey. After working in publishing for several years after college, Christine decided to follow in her family’s retail footsteps and open a small used and new bookshop on Long Island. Christine considers those years to be her training for opening the Brooklyn location of WORD in 2007. Both locations of WORD stock new books and a selection of quirky stationery and gifts. Partnering with schools and presenting a strong author event program are essential to WORD’s mission, and the staff is constantly exploring new partnerships and opportunities to sell books outside of their four (eight) walls.
Christine is very focused on the role of bookstores today and the evolving nature of our industry. She’s beyond excited to work with ABA’s new CEO, Allison Hill, during her second term on the board.
“I vividly remember sitting in the preview presentation for IndieBound and bouncing out of my seat with excitement over seeing something so fresh and new for our industry. I’m looking forward to working with the ABA Board to come up with new and creative ways to get the indie message out to the masses, get media coverage for our targeted messages, and advocate for indies in a modern, meaningful way,” says Christine.
Christine also feels very strongly about focusing on the next generation of booksellers, ensuring that young people will continue to view bookselling as a viable career, and helping indies find new, modern solutions for many of the operational systems traditionally available to us. “If we’re going to be competitive in the 21st century, we need strong tools to do so, and I look forward to exploring improvements to our IndieCommerce platform and other technological advantages and partnerships,” said Christine.
Christine served on the board of NAIBA for two years and is finishing her first term on the ABA board. She lives in Montclair, New Jersey, with her husband, 12-year-old son, and 6-year-old twin daughters.
Angela María Spring
Angela María Spring is a Latinx of Panamanian and Puerto Rican descent and is the owner of Duende District, a partner pop-up boutique bookstore for and by people of color, where all are welcome. She is a poet, journalist, anti-racism activist and co-founder of the Duende-Word BIPOC Bookseller Award. She holds an M.F.A. in Writing from Sarah Lawrence College and you can find her recent poems in Muzzle, PANK, Rust + Moth, Radar Poetry, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, and Pilgrimage. Her essays and reviews are at Catapult, LitHub, and Tor.com.
“My key goals as an ABA Board member continue to be to identify and advocate for viable, financially sustainable, alternative bookstore business models, with a specific eye toward aiding BIPOC bookstore entrepreneurs; work toward aiding ABA in evolving its anti-racism work; and to help identify, recruit, and support a more representative membership, while determining what we can do as a trade organization to better serve and advocate for stores with innovative mission-based, or activist models,” says Spring.