Reader Profile: Jessica Johns

For every day of our Indiegogo campaign, we’ll be sharing profiles from readers and supporters of Glass Bookshop both local to the city and from across Canada. Visit our campaign page now to claim cool perks and support us in building a beautiful brick-and-mortar space in downtown Edmonton. And read on to discover why today’s featured reader is excited to one day visit Glass Bookshop!

Jessica Johns is a remarkable source of support, inspiration, and friendship for us at Glass Bookshop. She is a writer of Cree ancestry and a member of Sucker Creek First Nation in Treaty 8 territory in Northern Alberta, and currently lives, works, and learns on the traditional territory of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh peoples. If you’re after her writing, her chapbook How Not to Spill is available through Rahila’s Ghost and you can find more in SAD Mag, Saltern, Glass Buffalo, Bad Nudes, The Rusty Toque, Cosmonauts Avenue, and Red Rising Magazine. She is poetry editor for PRISM International, a Room magazine collective member, and is co-organizer of the Indigenous Brilliance reading series. Finally, you can follow her on Instagram (@jessicastellaa) for thoughtful kombucha theory.

How did books and the act of reading come to be meaningful to you?
Books and reading have always been really important to me. When I was younger, I was quite shy and didn’t have many friends other than my siblings, cousins, and family friends. I read everywhere, all the time. It was a way for me to be a part of something outside of my tight, closed-off bubble.

What is your relationship now to books and reading?
My relationship to books has shifted a lot since then. During my undergrad, I was forced to read critically, to a point where so much of the joy I experienced while reading when I was a kid was sucked out of it. I think it’s important to read and think critically, but there’s a balance that I just wasn’t able to find at the time. I’m only now, years later, getting back to the point of reading for joy. Reading to be critical, to feel awed and moved.

Is there a book that has had significant impact on you?
This Accident of Being Lost by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson has had a huge impact on me, both as a reader and a writer. It was one of the first books I read in the past couple years that brought me back to reading for joy. It was also one of the books where, as a writer, I felt inspired. I want to write in a way that has that same kind of effect on someone else out there in the world, where they feel like they belong, where they feel seen and heard, which is how I felt with This Accident.

How does literature influence your sense of community?
Storytelling in all its various forms directly influences my sense of community. When I was a kid, my parents would make me and my siblings go to bed early when my aunts, uncles, and grandparents came to visit. But we’d sneak out of our rooms and sit on the stairs and listen to our family play crib and poker, eat and drink, tell stories and laugh. I didn’t think about the association between kinship and storytelling at the time, but I think about that a lot now. How sharing stories, even ones you’ve heard a million times before, is an act of love. It builds community, no matter where you are, if it’s across pages, in a bookstore, or someone’s kitchen.

How do you find new books or writers?
The interweb, mostly. I am constantly lurking on what my friends, community members, and people I admire are reading. Recommendations mean more to me when it’s coming from a person I know and respect. I also follow specific publishing houses that I know to have published some of my favourite works/authors in the past.

Can you share a memorable experience you’ve had in a bookstore? What makes it stand out for you?
We hold our quarterly reading series, Indigenous Brilliance, at a bookstore in Vancouver called Massy Books. It’s a space we get to be with community for a night, where we’re surrounded by books and brilliance in so many different forms. For these events, Massy Books shapeshifts. Stacks of books are moved into a secret room, which is normally hidden by a bookshelf door. In all these ways, this place is magic to me. Every time we hold an event there, I feel that energy like I’m feeling it for the first time.

What do you think Glass Bookshop could offer Edmonton’s community of readers and writers?
I think Glass Bookshop could offer Edmonton’s community some of this magic. This space could offer a place for community to come together, either in the form of someone reading a book by themselves and being a part of another world for a minute, or in the form of an event where folks come together to share work and stories. I think there’s such a big and beautiful community of artists in amiskwacîwâskahikan and having a hub for all those folks to come together is such a magical and powerful thing.

Want to help make this reader’s dream for Glass Bookshop a reality? Support Glass Bookshop’s Indiegogo campaign by buying some cool perks today here:

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Matthew Stepanic