Introducing ABA’s DEIA Member Relations Manager

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Elisa Thomas, DEIA Member Relations ManagerABA is excited to introduce members to Elisa Thomas, former bookseller and our new DEIA Member Relations Manager.

As the DEIA Member Relations Manager, Elisa is responsible for the outreach to and support of historically and systemically marginalized and excluded members, in addition to serving ABA member bookstores in the western U.S. All ABA Member Relations Managers serve as a point person for a specific region, in addition to other responsibilities. This position was created to support ABA's commitment to anti-white supremacy, antiracism, representation, equity, and dignity for all people.

For the past nine years, she’s worked at Cellar Door Bookstore in Riverside, California, where she coordinated events, assisted with backlist and frontlist buying, helped with social media, and helped to troubleshoot technical difficulties the store ran into. She also served on the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association (SCIBA) board as it transitioned to CALIBA and the Bookseller Advisory Committee (BAC), and participated in the Bookselling Without Borders program.

“Cellar Door was and will always be a second home to me,” Elisa said, noting that she’s always seen bookstores as safe spaces for people to discover new perspectives and escape to other worlds. “One of my favorite memories at the store will always be getting Linda (the store’s owner) to start our Drag Queen Story Hour. I have quite a number of friends in the drag community, so I had the opportunity to bring in all local queens that have built an incredible relationship with customers of all ages at the store.”

In addition to bookselling, Elisa has also been involved in musical theatre. She performed in three professional regional musical productions: Legally Blonde, In the Heights, and Ragtime. She also shared that her reading taste “is and always will be all over the place.”

“A few years ago I made the conscious decision to focus on reading only books from systematically excluded voices if possible, from members of the LGBTQIA2S+ community to BIPOC authors and everyone in between,” she said. “I read anything from fantasy to memoir to literary fiction, and I even still run the Speculative Fiction Book Club at Cellar Door. A handful of my favorites and former go-to books to handsell would be The Broken Earth Trilogy by NK Jemisin, Freshwater (and just about everything else they've written) by Akwaeke Emezi, In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado, The Deep by Rivers Solomon, and Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera.”

Currently, Elisa is working on an ABA project focused on better serving bilingual and Spanish language stores, which includes compiling necessary resources and information. (If you have suggestions or input, contact Elisa!) She also joined ABA’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee (DEIC). She added that while her first few months of onboarding at ABA were overwhelming, she’s enjoyed her work so far.

“I have a great team that has been incredibly helpful and patient with me as I learn,” she said, “and I'm really looking forward to getting to work with the membership on some new DEIA projects.”