The Small-Town West Virginia Bookstore That Helped Me Survive My Terrible Childhood

The Books in My Grandparents’ Parkersburg Store Helped Me Escape From My Troubles and Understand Cruelty

Parkersburg, West Virginia, where I grew up, sits on land that was once home to the Shawnee and later belonged to George Washington. After killing Alexander Hamilton during a duel in 1804, Aaron Burr holed up at a mansion a mile away on Blennerhassett Island, embracing a mission to commit high treason or liberate Mexico, depending on how you bake the facts. A century later, Mother Jones was jailed in town. For the first years of my childhood, it seemed like nothing important had happened in the decades since, except …