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Shells and Shelves, by Freesia McKee and Jade Kastel

This post is part of 805's “My Home Library” series that features writers and artists enjoying their home libraries during the pandemic and beyond.


Mid-pandemic, we moved from Miami to Fort Wayne after Jade landed a job in Indiana. We realized that here we’d be able to rent a place twice as large and significantly cheaper than our tiny South Florida apartment: more room for books.


Our bookshelves grew with our library. First there were 2x4’s balanced on pillars of books, then matching IKEA shelves that hold as many plants as books, and our most recent addition: homemade bookshelves reminiscent of cat trees that we found on the curb during one of our many dog walks.


We’ve been reading a little bit of everything, from cultural criticism by Michael Eric Dyson and Angela Davis, to a healthy dose of the classic comic Dykes to Watch Out For. Because we’re spending our free time at home, we’ve subscribed to periodicals like Fort Wayne’s local newspaper (independently owned since 1863!) and Bitch magazine.


A bookshelf can be filled with nostalgia. The Berenstain Bears, Choose Your Own Adventure, and favorites whose fame came from animated readings by my parents. School book orders, scrawling circles and double circles around hopeful additions to my small collection. Calling our books a “library” is something I’m still getting used to. Maybe it’s because this library expanded so far beyond the scope of my childhood imagination. Maybe I’m waiting for the addition of rolling library ladders.


Life As Activism: June Jordan’s Writings from The Progressive is a compendium of the poet’s political columns from the 1990s. I find myself returning to this book, looking for a beacon, a message from the past during this year of political tumult, Supreme Court changes, social justice uprisings, and the sneering faces of unmasked hatred.

After finishing my MLIS, I’ve actually been enjoying a break from academic reading and synthesizing. I thought I’d return to reading for fun, but the pandemic has steered my leisure toward other areas: dog walking, knitting, star gazing, and dehydrating food.


I do keep a stack of books on the nightstand to read before bed. Anthologies feel pandemic-appropriate, so I’ve dipped backwards into Carolyn Forche’s Poetry of Witness for what a meeting of the minds has to say about cruelty.


Freesia McKee is a poet, essayist, and educator currently specializing in micro-memoir. Find her on Twitter (@freesiamckee) or on her website, FreesiaMcKee.com.


Jade Kastel is a musician and librarian who admits that sometimes bookshelves are best shared with plants.



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