An interview with Mika Tuzon of Scrawl Bookstore

What’s your favorite area of your bookstore?

I love our fiction wall at Scrawl– it takes up an entire wall of the store from floor to ceiling and it gets the best natural light!

What’s the coolest book cover that you like to have facing out on the shelves?

I am definitely guilty of judging a book by its cover. They’re more often art pieces in and of themselves (it’s a plus when the content is great, too)! Disorientation by Elaine Hsieh Chou is a recent favorite– the cover is what sold me on grabbing this title and I always make sure it’s out for the customers to see. I’m obsessed with the pink ombre and all the floating objects. I would love to know in general how authors go about deciding on their book covers. It seems like such a vital part of the process– it is the first thing readers see when they’re deciding on their next read, after all!

If you had a staff pick for a recent new release, what would it be? Backlist pick?

Two Brown Dots is a collection of poetry that came out in late April by Danni Quintos. It’s separated into three parts– Girlhood, Motherhood, and Folklore. Danni deep dives into what it means to grow up Filipina American and navigate the world as a woman of color in her poetry with exquisite vulnerability. I’m a little biased as she is my friend and fellow Kentuckian writer– she’s the first person I really saw myself represented in as far as poets go. As far as backlist titles, there are so many! I’ll just list out some favorites: Brown Girls by Daphne Palasi Andreades, The Mismatch by Sara Jafari, World of Wonders by Aimee Nezhukumatathil, The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett, Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid, Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid, and anything by Mary H.K. Choi and Jenny Han!

Do you have a strange customer story?

There was a customer that came in one time that was incredibly rude and seemed eerily familiar, so naturally I looked her up (as one does). I probably can’t go into too much detail about who she is, but let’s just say I had seen her on TV before as she was one of the defense attorneys for a man in Hollywood who had fallen from grace.

What author have you been starstruck to meet, or have you gotten to host a fun virtual event?

We had an event with Monica Hesse a couple of years ago. She’s a columnist for the Washington Post who focuses on topics of gender and she’s written amazing YA historical fiction like The War Outside
and Girl in the Blue Coat. That event was coincidentally attended by mostly teen femmes– it was so lovely to witness their energy and enthusiasm as they asked her a lot of questions regarding writing and journalism. She is also just a really lovely person!

What are some misconceptions people have about working in a bookstore?

People often romanticize working in a bookstore. Booksellers do a lot of heavy lifting– literally! Contrary to popular belief, we spend little to no time reading during our shifts. Sometimes, it’s just one person to a shift, which means one person is receiving shipment, answering the phone, shelving, manning the register, restocking, bringing out curbside pickups, helping customers, the list goes on and on! That being said, I wouldn’t trade this job experience for anything. It’s really special to work at a family-owned independent bookstore. Another big misconception– meet cutes don’t happen here! At least I haven’t witnessed or been part of one.

What is your least favorite bookstore task? Favorite part about working in a bookstore?

Restocking can be a pain– our shelves are more often than not filled to the brim! However, I prefer restocking and shelving to receiving shipments. There’s a lot of little steps required of receiving shipments so it’s easy to mess up. I’ve been here for five years, so I have lots of practice at getting more titles to fit on our shelves. Also, shelving often gives me the opportunity to find books I never would have thought to look at. I often go home with my discoveries– it’s exciting for my TBR pile, not exciting for my wallet! I think the worst part about working at the bookstore is when people are rude about the mask policy. We still require them which I truly appreciate, and most customers are understanding. However, we get the occasional naysayer which can be a little hit to the positivity I try to exude while I’m at the store. My most favorite part though is getting to know our neighborhood regulars. We have quite a few people who come in and/or order from us very frequently. I love when they come in and I remember them by name– people love being remembered! Getting to talk about books everyday is a big win, too.

Can you recommend an underrated read alike book for one of the store’s top titles? (For example: If your store sells a lot of The Song of Achilles, you might recommend Tin Man.)

If you’re a fan of nonfiction books like Crying in Hmart, you’d definitely enjoy Carefree Black Girls: A Celebration of Black Girls in Popular Culture by Zeba Blay. I believe this book deserves more love and is essential reading for all– it was my favorite read of 2021 by far. It’s a collection of essays that ponders
Black women and their contributions to culture in general. Blay’s wit and insight are razor sharp, and it’s great to see women of color celebrated. More of that, please!

Mika Tuzon is a bookseller at Scrawl Books