When I moved from Marquette Park to Bridgeport, I really missed having a bookstore a mere block away. Bridgeport had the reputation of being the center of city politics, rather than being an incubator of intelligence. So, needless to say, Bridgeport had no bookstores at all! Even their Salvation Army lacked a book section!
One day in the early 1990s, I was shocked when I saw an empty storefront on the 3100 block of South Halsted Street open as Modern Bookstore. For a neighborhood bookstore, it was very big. I was there the very first day it opened. The woman who greeted me let me browse for a while. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this bookstore, especially for one in the heart of Bridgeport. Imagine my surprise when I saw that most of the books were about socialism, communism, and labor unions. The woman asked me if she could help me find something. I asked to see the fiction section, but there was none. Then, even though I was sure that she would say no, I asked if they had a foreign language section. I told her I was interested in buying books in Spanish. Would you believe it? They did have a Spanish section that was actually bigger than most of the others in Chicago bookstores I had visited. And they actually had books by authors and biographies of political figures that I had actually heard of.
I bought a poetry anthology by Nicolás Guillén. Later, when I read the book, I discovered that the book was published in La Habana, Cuba, and probably shipped to the U.S. violating at least one embargo law. But wait, I also bought biographies about Diego Rivera, Benito Juarez, Benardo O’Higgins, and a few others that were written in Spanish. Much later, I realized that the books were written by Russian writers and later translated into Spanish. All these books were published in Moscow, Russia. I wondered if there would be any trouble if our local politicians had actually visited the Modern Bookstore and realized what kind of books the bookstore was selling there. But then I realized that’s why there wasn’t bookstore in Bridgeport in the first place. No one in Bridgeport reads!