In the summer of 2015, Marie-Ève Blais was working at a Montreal bookstore when she noticed that Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own had been shelved in the fiction section. Annoyed to discover the groundbreaking essay categorized incorrectly, she wrote a Facebook post complaining about how often women’s literary work is misunderstood, and suggested it was time to open a feminist bookstore. Although Blais offered the idea almost as a joke, the online response was enthusiastic, so she called an open meeting to discuss the idea further.
At the meeting, Blais connected with several people, including Stéphanie Dufresne – who handles communications for the experimental press Possibles Éditions – and the idea for L’Euguélionne, Montreal’s new feminist bookstore, was born. Run as a non-profit by a collective of six people with backgrounds in literature and women’s studies, the shop opened in mid-February, after a soft launch in December, with a week-long festival. It is currently the only store of its kind in the country (the Northern Woman’s Bookstore in Thunder Bay, Ontario, closed its physical space in March 2016).
L’Euguélionne carries a mix of new and used titles (donated and on consignment) representing diverse genres, including kids’ books, graphic novels, fiction, and non-fiction, with special attention given to LGBTQ and racialized authors. There is also an emphasis on local printed art, zines, and small presses. According to Dufresne, there are currently 4,500 titles in stock – the majority being new editions – but the collective is aiming toward increasing that number to 6,000 and expanding its English-language section.
The six members of the collective represent a variety of interests and perspectives on feminism, which Dufresne says is reflected in the broad range of titles that appear in the shop. “As a bookstore, we decided our role is not to determine what is feminism and what is not. We’re trying to create a space where feminism and women authors can be at the forefront,” she says. “There are some books we have that we don’t really agree with, but that’s not the point. We think it’s important that they’re there and people can read them and build their own opinion and have access to those writings.”
Dufresne says another goal of L’Euguélionne is to build relationships with customers. “We do a lot of mediation or explanation of the books,” she says. “But we’re also aiming to be accessible so that someone who doesn’t know anything about feminism and wants to get a first introduction can come in. We want to do what booksellers should do, which is connect people and their needs with the right books.”