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On the Other Side, Ann Liska

Ann Liska's personal book collection becomes a sort of community library for her friends and family as she helps them connect with books during the pandemic. This post is part of 805's “My Home Library” series that features writers and artists enjoying their home libraries.

Everybody teases me about all the books I possess. But now friends are e-mailing me for book recommendations. I drop books off on porches, or in the parking lot of our church. The building has been closed since March and probably will not be open a year later, Supreme Court rulings notwithstanding. To their credit, our church board is following the science.

I hand a bag of books to my sister at arm’s length. I’m not a hugger by nature, but now I wish I were.We sanitize our hands as we stand in the parking lot, where DIY kits for Thanksgiving and Advent are being handed out. The weather is cold. This is probably the last time we can do any sort of event outdoors until Spring. And what will Spring even look like? We did a Zoom Thanksgiving, which was successful but somehow lacking.

I have moved several times. My library shrank considerably when I moved abroad – books are heavy to move. In Abu Dhabi, I started buying books again. Mostly British books, which were available at a local bookstore. My new boss dropped me off there, after taking me to Spinneys, a grocery store which had Western-style products. God bless her – she knew what I needed.

Some things I wanted to read were not available in the United Arab Emirates. The UAE has a policy of not “banning” books. But they have ways to keep certain books out of the country. They didn’t ban your book; it’s simply unavailable.

These are some of the books that survived all my moves and are with me today:

  • The Moviegoer by Walker Percy

  • Heat and Other Stories by Joyce Carol Oates (my copy originated in the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library, Northeast Spruill Oaks branch. The sign-out card pocket is still there, but the card has been removed. I wish I had it.)

  • Anywhere but Here by Mona Simpson – one of the few books I have read more than once.

  • In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez – by chance, this was one of a few books I salvaged from my disastrous year in Pennsylvania. I read it obsessively when I was living in a kind of boardinghouse in Allentown. I was ridiculed for reading books.

But I knew who I was, and I never let go of her, and here I am on the other side.


Ann Liska is a 2020 graduate of the MFA program in creative writing, University of Tampa. She has been writing since age ten and has had work published in several journals.

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Feb 14, 2021

I enjoyed this story

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