Our Bright Young Collectors series continues today with Sherese Francis, of Queens, NYC, who collects literary material from southeast Queens and makes her collection available to others through the J. Expressions mobile library. Francis recently won an honorable mention for her collection in the Honey & Wax book collecting contest.
Where are you from / where do you live?
I live in Hollis, Queens in New York City.
What did you study at University? What do you do now for an occupation?
I created my own major at Baruch College, which is part of the City University of New York. It was a combined major of music and journalism/creative writing. I believe I called it Words and Music: From Songwriting to Journalism. I originally was interested in music journalism and possibly being a song lyricist.
I am currently a freelance writer, author, blogger, workshop facilitator, and literary curator. I know that a lot! Haha! My blog is Futuristically Ancient, which is an afrofuturism-inspired blog, exploring the arts and cultures of the African Diaspora through that lens. I recently published my first chapbook of poetry called Lucy's Bone Scrolls and I facilitate workshops throughout the city. And of course, I run my J. Expressions popup bookshop/mobile library project.
Please introduce us to your book collection. What areas do you collect in?
My book collection, which is the J. Expressions mobile library, is books and other literary materials from authors and writers who either currently live or use to live in Southeast Queens, NYC area, where I was raised and live now. I have fiction, poetry, non-fiction, zines, letterpress, and handmade books in the collection.
How many books are in your collection?
I have 24 "official" books (which includes zines and a magazine) and about 15 of my own handmade books.
What was the first book you bought for your collection?
I've had some of the books before I officially started the collection. I believe the first book I bought that is in the collection is artist Danny Simmons' book of poetry and art called, "I Dreamed My People Were Calling But I Couldn't Find My Way Home."
How about the most recent book?
The most recent is Cheryl Boyce Taylor's collection of poetry, "Arrival."
And your favorite book in your collection?
I would say my favorites are Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie's two books, "Dear Continuum" and "Karma's Footsteps" because she inspires me as a fellow poet and writer.
Best bargain you've found?
When I found out that my friend and artist Damali Abrams had her own poetry book and zine, and she kindly donated them to me to add to my collection.
How about The One that Got Away?
I had wanted to get a copy of Desiree C. Bailey's chapbook In Dirt or Saltwater, which was published by O'Clock Press, but by the time I got around to being able to purchase it, it was already sold out. That was a bummer.
What would be the Holy Grail for your collection?
The Holy Grail for my collection would be for me to have an official organization and space to house and showcase this collection in my neighborhood, and use it as a launching pad to grow the community here in Southeast Queens. Places like the Schomburg Center inspire me because it's a library and cultural center where you can learn so much about black history through the diaspora and history of the Harlem neighborhood. I want something similar for my community.
Who is your favorite bookseller / bookstore?
Sadly there's not any bookstores in my local community and few in the borough of Queens. There use to be a Barnes and Noble that I would go to in Forest Hills but that closed. So, I travel to various bookstores throughout the city. I would say a couple of my favorites are Bluestockings in the Lower East Side and Sisters Uptown Bookstore in Washington Heights. I like grassroots, community-centered spaces like these and they inspire me to possibly one day create my own.
What would you collect if you didn't collect books?
Since I love music, especially older music styles, like funk music, I would probably start a record album collection. I love the artistry on a lot of the older album covers and as a writer who does ekphrastic writing (writing inspired by visual art and objects), they would be inspiring to have around.Images courtesy of Sherese Francis