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From Partnership to Events to a New Store: Bookshop Santa Cruz & UC Santa Cruz

Bookshop Santa Cruz & UC Santa Cruz

Many years ago, nestled in my parents’ things, I found a love letter from my father to my mother when he was courting her across country. His sister was in the inaugural class at UC Santa Cruz and he had just come to Santa Cruz for a visit. He described the city and the new university and said that it would make a perfect place to open to an independent bookstore. It was the start of their dream, one that they eventually created when they married, moved to Santa Cruz, and bought the burgeoning independent bookstore Bookshop Santa Cruz.

Madeleine Albright on a stage holding a microphone, in front of a Bookshop Santa Cruz backdrop.The idea of having a thriving indie bookstore next to a university was always part of their vision because it is the shared value of intellectual curiosity that fuels both university life and books. UC Santa Cruz has been our enduring partner in author events, community engagement, and collaborations around our shared interest in debate, dialogue, and inquiry, which tie the campus to the community and vice versa.

Although our partnership has gone on for decades, some of my favorite collaborations have been in recent years as we worked together on dozens of author events, from Secretary Madeleine Albright to Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus; from UCSC alum Reyna Grande to a panel featuring students from immigrant families to discuss issues after the 2016 election. Hundreds of UCSC professors have graced our shelves and presented their work, showcasing their reach both locally and nationally. In each collaboration, our goal was to grow the cultural and intellectual life of Santa Cruz.

Now I am pleased to take our partnership to another level with the introduction of Slug Shop at Bookshop Santa Cruz. We hope that by dedicating a space to UC Santa Cruz within our store, we will shine a light on the campus from the heart of downtown, introducing locals and tourists alike to our shared commitment to learning (and fun!). We hope you come and check out our banana slug–inspired space!

Casey Coonerty Protti

Owner, Bookshop Santa Cruz

Partnerships That Matter for the Public Good

Universities and independent bookstores share something in common—a passion for books. The growing partnership between various campus units at UC Santa Cruz—such as the Research Center for the Americas (RCA)—and Bookshop Santa Cruz has fostered an important and synergistic collaboration in the interest of the public good for the benefit of our local community.

The logo of the Research Center for the AmericasWords to Act On, an innovative year-long programming effort led by Bookshop that was begun following the 2016 election, was our first collaboration. It centered on values that matter—empathy, education, and action. I helped co-organize a community read on Enrique’s Journey, an award-winning book about the perilous and gripping journey of a 17-year-old from Honduras desperately seeking to reunite with his mother in the United States. This book is read widely at UC Santa Cruz and the partnership gave us an opportunity—a “teaching moment”—to use the lessons from that book to dispel the numerous myths about migration with others in our community. We worked together to help identify local groups serving our immigrant community for the Fund-a-Need campaign to ensure we really put words into action.

The RCA’s tagline is “Dialogues Without Borders.” The borders this refers to are not just along national lines; they include the borders between the university and the local community, between students and other local residents, and between educators and learning communities. RCA’s partnership with Bookshop Santa Cruz has helped us to transgress those multiple borders that keep us divided. We are very grateful for a partnership that gives us the space and capacity to reach new audiences, to read in community, to speak candidly about social justice issues, and to work together to imagine a better world through the power of books.

You can learn more about the Research Center for the Americas at

Sylvanna M. Falcón is the Director of the Research Center for the Americas and an Associate Professor of Latin American and Latino Studies

Asking Questions That Matter

As Dr. Falcón says, universities and independent bookstores share a passion for books. I would add to that we also share a passion for civil discourse and for our society to have an informed and educated public—a cornerstone of any democracy.

At the Humanities Institute at UC Santa Cruz, we believe strongly that the core subjects of the humanities—philosophy, history, language, and literature—should be accessible to everyone. That is why we are committed to engaging with the broadest community possible—from first-generation undergraduate students to local residents to anyone interested in compelling ideas and in making sense of this increasingly complex world.

Like books, humanities are not a luxury; they are a necessity.

Reyna Grande smiling at a table on a stage, holding open a copy of A Dream Called Home.Our partnership with Bookshop Santa Cruz started in 2015 with two events. First was the launch of our Questions That Matter series at Kuumbwa Jazz Center on the topic of cosmos, featuring UC Santa Cruz faculty in physics and history. We worked together to identify books related to the theme and encouraged our community to read them before coming to the event. Second was a talk by Anita Hill at UC Santa Cruz, “Speaking Truth to Power: Gender and Racial Equality 1991–2015,” accompanied by a documentary film screening at the Nickelodeon theater titled Anita. With both of these we saw that there was a space and a desire in our community—both on campus and off—to get together and to think together about questions that matter to all of us. At that point, we decided to join forces officially and now we formally invite high-profile speakers to our community as cohosts.

Some of our recent partnerships include former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, UC Santa Cruz creative writing alumna Reyna Grande (also with RCA), and Booker Prize–winning fiction writer Marlon James. These and dozens of other events throughout the years have enabled us to explore together crucial contemporary social themes of race, gender, sexuality, citizenship, ethics, and possible political future(s).

Through working together, we have been able to expand our understanding of what resonates across Santa Cruz County and reach new audiences in our community. Bookshop’s spirit of community and collaboration shows in everything they do, and it is contagious.

As a citizen of Santa Cruz, I feel privileged to live in a town with a strong, independent bookstore and an incredible public university. I was born in Croatia, one border away from Hungary, where independent bookstores and free universities were the first to go when their democracy started eroding. Let us never take either for granted.

To join us in conversation, please visit us at

Irena Polić is the Managing Director of the Humanities Institute at UC Santa Cruz



My Own Words: The Law and Legacy of RBG

Wednesday, May 22nd, at 7:00

At DNA’s Comedy Lab, 155 S. River Street

Free panel discussion & launch of community read

The Humanities Institute at UC Santa Cruz, Bookshop Santa Cruz, and the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music present My Own Words: The Law and Legacy of RBG. Bettina Aptheker will moderate a panel discussion with members of Women Lawyers of Santa Cruz County about the significant cases and opinions Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has championed over the course of her career and the impact she has had on American civil liberties and equal rights under the law. 

Cosponsored by The Peggy and Jack Baskin Foundation for Feminist Studies and Women Lawyers of Santa Cruz County.

And don’t miss: The Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music presents: NOTORIOUS, featuring the premiere of When There Are Nine, a work celebrating RBG. Friday, August 2nd, at the Civic Auditorium. Tickets: