mother tongue books has been an Ottawa bookstore institution for 18 years – many young and future feminists passed through its doors. A community hub ever since it opened in 1994, mother tongue books has served as a creative, safe space for people to meet, chat and share life.
They’re not going out quietly, though – they’ve been throwing regular events since they announced the closing, and have a few more events to go before the doors close forever.
We sent owners Evelyn Huer, Laura Rayner and Julie Gagnon a few questions to find out about the bookstore and what they’ll miss most.
Apartment613: Tell us the story of how mother tongue books came about 18 years ago.
All 3 of us who started this shop worked at the Ottawa women’s bookstore – and tried to buy it – so it’s both a long and a short story but we’ll stick to this short version. We wanted to be close to the university.
mother tongue has been a central part of the community. What was important about playing such an active role in the community?
We became part of several communities – it feels good to have a professional life merge with the things that are important to us. Our connection the poetry and writing communities happened quite easily as we opened up a space for readings and writing groups (the store was designed with these activities in mind) We’ve hosted bridging courses for university, political action, feminist, parenting, spirituality groups, Being involved and giving where we can is a bit of a no-brainer for us. It’s not the grand gestures in life that make a difference for the people we _all_ meet or the communities in which we are involved. We are all looking forward to becoming active in our communities in different capacities.
What are one or two memorable moments from the past 18 years that really stand out?
I think of this moment,only because I just saw one of the people involved. I have gotten to know a man who often “lives rough” (housing is a challenge when you suffer from a mental illness). He is a gifted musician and storyteller, but was estranged from his own grown children. His daughter contacted him after she gave birth to her daughter. The store became the safe place for him to meet his granddaughter for the first time.
In what ways have you seen Ottawa change over the years?
The question about how Ottawa has changed is a big one. I think this city is now at the mercy of developers. And sadly, along with our city government, seem to suffer from a complete lack of imagination and vision when it comes to creating sustainable, supportive communities.
Many people in Ottawa will miss mother tongue books – what will you miss most?
What will we miss – people, ideas, talking with people about ideas, talking to people with ideas, talking with people who need ideas….