Forever a Binc-ista

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version

In this column from the Binc Foundation Blog, Denise Chávez, the owner of Casa Camino Real Bookstore in Las Cruces, New Mexico, explains how a Book Industry Charitable Foundation scholarship to Winter Institute 12 changed her life.

By Denise Chávez, Binc Foundation Scholarship Winner

Denise Chavez speaking at the ABA Town Hall at Winter Institute 12.
Denise Chávez speaking at the ABA Town Hall at Winter Institute 12.

I am a bookseller from Casa Camino Real in Las Cruces, New Mexico. I am also the recipient of a Binc scholarship to the American Booksellers Association’s Winter Institute in Minneapolis. As a native Southern New Mexican to whom a 70° day signals a cold spell, it was hard to ponder a trip in the winter. Fear of flying. Fear of cold. Fear of leaving the cats, including my feral cat colony. All these elements made me ponder the monumental decision of leaving home. And yes, the decision was made!

I was so honored to receive the Binc scholarship. [I’m] a fledgling bookseller along with my husband, Daniel Zolinsky; our bookstore, Casa Camino Real, on the border of New Mexico, Texas, and Northern México, serves the corridor between worlds, focusing on Southwestern, regional, Native American, Latino, as well as multicultural books in many languages.

To say this scholarship changed my life is an understatement. I met intelligent, articulate, and committed book activists during the conference. To spend these days in panels, workshops, and sessions with these admirable and strong-hearted souls was a great blessing. Learning the book business is a daily exercise and requires both patience and stamina, as well as a will to advance the great and throbbing human heart of the world that lives and breathes though the great gift of story.

As both a writer and bookseller, it is my don, my gift, to work with books. Don is the word in Spanish for a gift or blessing. As a Mexican-American bookseller, it is my manda, my responsibility and charge, to encourage the diversity and richness of multicultural books, most especially in this time of challenge for us in the U.S. We are surrounded by those who fear books and what they teach us — the loving expansion that allows us to feel one with those from different backgrounds, cultures, ethnicities, and life paths. As readers, we connect with the heart and spirit of the authors we read. We learn from them and grow in empathy and understanding.

It was a great joy to talk to Roger from Maria’s Bookstore in Durango, Colorado, about the books of the Chilean novelist Roberto Bolaño, and to have ABA CEO Oren Teicher visit our historic adobe bookstore on the Camino Real and discuss the work of one of my favorite writers, Thomas Wolfe. As a lover of books, I never have enough opportunities to discuss the writers I love and appreciate.

The random and so important conversations in the many corridors and nooks and even bathrooms of the sprawling, impressive, and sometimes overwhelming Hyatt Regency afforded me the chance to sit with the Binc Family — Director Pamela French and her wonderful staff, Kathy Bartson and Kit Steinaway — and learn of the powerful work Binc does to support booksellers in need. I would not have been able to attend the Winter Institute were it not for the scholarship.

It was an honor to be selected — not only as someone who lives in a remote part of the Southwest, but also as a Mexican-American/Chicana who works hard to connect with the multicultural and Spanish language-speaking community at Casa Camino Real, where a bilingual children’s book is the norm. Our readers are hungry to hear their voices and to see images of their lives reflected in books.

I remember taking author Malin Alegría, author of Estrella’s Quinceañera, to a nearby valley elementary school in Vado, New Mexico, and hearing a young student say to her, “Miss, you’re my color!” No one had ever taken a Latino/Latina writer to their school and to see Malin there was a miracle to the young girl.

As a bookseller, one daily witnesses miracles. When a reader finds a book they have been looking for, it brings joy to both buyer and seller. And in a small way, each book is a miracle of faith and commitment.

Binc, the Book Industry Charitable Foundation, is a purveyor and witness to miracles. Helping booksellers in need with valued resources in times of great challenge, it stands firm with its constituents, bolstering, uplifting, and encouraging them in manifold and monumental ways.

I am a proud BINC-ISTA — someone who knows the don, the gift of a Binc scholarship, and of the organization’s far-reaching and visionary work. My connection to Binc is a precious and valued gift that means more than words can ever say — and I am a writer!

I will always be a BINC-ISTA and will do all I can to encourage my fellow booksellers to promote and support this wonderful, needed, and valuable organization.

¡Muchíssimas gracias, Binc! Thank you for your gift of faith!

Sincerely yours,

Denise Chávez
Casa Camino Real Bookstore
Las Cruces, New Mexico

The Book Industry Charitable Foundation is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to assisting bookstore employees across the country in their time of greatest need. The foundation typically helps brick-and-mortar bookstore employees who have a personal financial need arising from severe hardship and/or emergency circumstances.

Since its inception in 1996, the foundation has given more than $5 million in tax-free financial assistance grants and higher education scholarships.

Learn more at