A Peek at our Holiday Shop!

by Jessica on November 28, 2014

Our Holiday Shop has been up for a few weeks but I wanted to highlight some of the cuteness and festive-ness that we  have been looking at everyday! We have plenty of decoartions, candles that smell so incredible you can’t stop smelling them, plus tons of ornaments!

You should definitely come check it out in person!

And finally…this guy!


Derek Goldberg – Artist on the Stairwell!

by Jessica on November 25, 2014

Introducing Our New Artist on the Stairwell, Derek Goldberg! 

It was a cold winter day in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., back in the mid-1970s, and I was heading to a local Lincoln car dealership in order to shoot my first roll of film. I was just a school kid then, taking my first class in B&W photography. That day as I shot and developed my first roll of 35mm film, little did I realize that I was beginning a long and transformative journey, one which would cement in me an ever-growing interest and appreciation for the power and majesty of the still image.

Since then, and following a BA degree from Dartmouth College and a MFA degree from USC Film School, I have shot somewhere between 70,000 to 100,000 images – black & white, color, negative, reversal, infra-red, traditional and digital. My area of interest has been travel photography, with a particular focus on street, scenic, and architectural subject matter. I am fortunate enough to have traveled from the varied regions of the American continent to places remote and diverse throughout Asia, Africa (where I was born), the Middle East, and Europe.

I can’t see myself telling anybody what he or she should see in my photographs or what they should mean to them. Frankly, I can’t really put it any better than the New York City street photographer Garry Winogrand, who once said, “I don’t have anything to say in any picture. My only interest in photography is to see what something looks like as a photograph.”

To see more visit: www.derekgoldberg.net


December Events!

by Jessica on November 24, 2014

 We’re closing out 2014 with a bang!
Tons of events for the family, for kids, for adults…you can bring your pets too!
Happy Holidays, friends! 

Monday, December 1, 6pm
Twilight Zone UnScripted: Special Holiday Edition
Impro Theatre presents ” Twilight Zone UnScripted: Special Holiday Edition” followed by a Q&A session with the cast. From the darkest corners of reality to the land of the unexplained, “Twilight Zone UnScripted: Special Holiday Edition” is a completely improvised show in the style of classic 60’s sci-fi television shows – with a holiday twist. Enter the dimension of pure imagination as the company starts with audience suggestions, combines them with holiday themes, and creates all-new and completely improvised episodes at every performance.

Delightful! Remarkably adroit wizards of improvisation” – Arts in L.A.
Performances at the Carrie Hamilton Theatre, Pasadena Playhouse December 4-21.

Monday, December 1, 7pm
Panel Discussion on Remembering and Understanding John Muir
In honor of the John Muir Centennial author Elizabeth Pomeroy, Glenn Pascall, Mickey Long, and Thomas Andrews all join this panel discussion. John Muir (1838-1914) was America’s most famous and influential naturalist and conservationist, and founder of the Sierra Club.

Panelist bios:

Elizabeth Pomeroy, historian and author of John Muir: A Naturalist in Southern California
Thomas Andrews, former Executive Director of the Southern California Historical Society and a Muir scholar who has a organized a large Muir exhibit currently on display at Azusa Pacific University.

Mickey Long, for many years the lead Los Angeles County naturalist at Eaton Canyon above Pasadena where John Muir walked most often in Southern California.

Glenn Pascall, Sierra Club Angeles Chapter librarian and author of Southern California Mountain Country: Places John Muir Walked and Places He Would Have Loved to Know, currently being run in 82 segments on the Angeles Chapter website.

Tuesday, December 2, 7pm
Vroman’s presents Tim Shriver discussing and signing
Fully Alive: Discovering What Matters Most

As chairman of Special Olympics, Timothy P. Shriver has dedicated his life to the world’s most forgotten minority–people with intellectual disabilities. And in a time when we are all more rudderless than ever, when we’ve lost our sense of what’s ultimately important, when we hunger for stability but get only uncertainty, he has looked to them for guidance. Fully Alive chronicles Shriver’s discovery of a radically different, and inspiring, way of life. We see straight into the lives of those who seem powerless but who have turned that into a power of their own, and through them learn that we are all totally vulnerable and totally valuable at the same time. In addition, Shriver offers a new look at his family: his parents, Sargent and Eunice Shriver, and his uncles, John, Robert, and Edward Kennedy, all of whom were resolute advocates for those on the margins. Here, for the first time, Shriver explores the tremendous impact his aunt Rosemary, born with intellectual disabilities, had on his entire family and their legacy. (Sarah Crichton Books)

This is a ticketed event. Tickets are $29.00 + tax and include one ticket and one copy of Fully Alive.
Tickets cannot be shipped. We are now accepting paid reservations.
You may purchase your tickets online at vromansbookstore.com or by calling the Will Call department at 626-449-5320.
Tickets and books will be available for pick-up from the store location beginning the date of the book’s release, Tuesday, November 11.
Reserved tickets and books may also be picked up at the Will Call table at the venue the evening of the event.
The venue is All Saints Church, 132 N Euclid Ave, Pasadena, 91101.
Tickets and books may be available for purchase at the venue, while supplies last.

Thursday, December 4, 7pm
Robin LaFevers discusses and signs Mortal Heart
In the powerful conclusion to Robin LaFever’s New York Times bestselling His Fair Assassins trilogy, Annith has watched her gifted sisters at the convent come and go, carrying out their dark dealings in the name of St. Mortain, patiently awaiting her own turn to serve Death. But her worst fears are realized when she discovers she is being groomed by the abbess as a Seeress, to be forever sequestered in the rock and stone womb of the convent. Feeling sorely betrayed, Annith decides to strike out on her own. She has spent her whole life training to be an assassin. Just because the convent has changed its mind, doesn’t mean she has.
(Harcourt Brace & Co)

Friday, December 5, 6pm
Special Holiday Story Time featuring The Grinch!

The Grinch returns to Pasadena! This special story time will be followed by a photo op with the Grinch, so bring your cameras!

Saturday, December 6, 10:30am
Jon Klassen reads from and signs Sam & Dave Dig a Hole

With perfect pacing, the multi-award-winning, New York Times best-selling team of Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen dig down for a deadpan tale full of visual humor. Sam and Dave are on a mission. A mission to find something spectacular. So they dig a hole. And they keep digging. And they find . . . nothing. Yet the day turns out to be pretty spectacular after all. Attentive readers will be rewarded with a rare treasure in this witty story of looking for the extraordinary — and finding it in a manner you’d never expect. (Candlewick Press)

Saturday, December 6, 11am
Vroman’s and the Pasadena Playhouse District Association present Winter Wonderland!

Join us outside on the Vroman’s Paseo for some lively music by St Lucy’s Band, kids treats, crafts and a visit from Santa! Bring your cameras and your lists for this photo op!

The Pasadena Playhouse District will also be hosting Merry Merry Movie at the Laemmle Theater this morning at 10am. They will be screening Arthur Christmas!

Arthur Christmas at last reveals the incredible, never-before seen answer to every child’s question: ‘So how does Santa deliver all those presents in one night?’ The answer: Santa’s exhilarating, ultra-high-tech operation hidden beneath the North Pole. But at the heart of the film is a story with the ingredients of a Christmas classic – a family in a state of comic dysfunction and an unlikely hero, Arthur, with an urgent mission that must be completed before Christmas morning dawns.

For information on how to attend this free showing please visit www.playhousedistrict.org/events/

Sunday, December 7, 11am
Letters to Santa!

If you are not able to come see him in person, please join us for this special Letter to Santa writing activity. Christmas is only 18 days away but it’s not too late to let Santa know what you are wishing for this year. We’ll supply the stationery for your list and when done just put your letter in our special North Pole mail box that will get sent directly to Santa from Vroman’s.

Sunday, December 7, 3pm
Special Holiday Story-Time with a Fairy Tale Princess!

Come enjoy this special Holiday Story Time! The Pasadena Playhouse and Lythgoe Family Productions are inviting a ravishing, royal surprise guest to enchant the young and young-at-heart with a festive Holiday yarn. This special event celebrates SLEEPING BEAUTY AND HER WINTER KNIGHT, a Holiday Panto featuring Olivia Holt as “Aurora” (Disney’s I Didn’t Do It), Lucy Lawless as “Carabosse” (Xena: Warrior Princess), David Engel as “Nanny Tickle” (Broadway’s La Cage aux Folles), Tamyra Gray as “The Good Fairy” (Broadway’s Bombay Dreams) and Ben Giroux as “Silly Billy” (CW’s Hart of Dixie).

SLEEPING BEAUTY AND HER WINTER KNIGHT performs at The Pasadena Playhouse from December 10 – January 4. Use code VROMANS20 to save 20% on select tickets (excludes Row C and Hot Seats). For more information and to purchase tickets, visit PasadenaPlayhouse.org.

Monday, December 8, 7pm
Bob Kato discusses and signs
The Drawing Club: Master the Art of Drawing Characters from Life

Does your cartoon, comic, film, or story need a quirky individual? How about a leading lady? Rogue superhero? By working through the exercises found in this book, acquire the skills and knowledge necessary to draw personality archetypes of any kind – movie heroes, pulp fiction characters, and pop culture stars from every era. Each exercise features a new character type and tackles different aspects of character drawing. (Quarry Books)

Bob Kato will be appearing with the following artists:
John Musker, Disney Feature Animation
Chris Turner, Disney Imagineering
Mike Barry, Disney Imagineering
Will Martinez, Disney Imagineering

Tuesday, December 9, 7pm
Dawn Wells discusses and signs What Would Mary Ann Do

So, what would Mary Ann do? As the sweet, polite, and thoughtful Mary Ann Summers from Kansas in the hit series Gilligan’s Island, Dawn Wells created an unforgettable and beloved character that still connects with people fifty years from the show s debut in 1964. As the good girl among the group of castaways on a tiny island, she was often positioned against the glamorous and exotic Ginger Grant, played by Tina Louise, prompting many to ask: Are you a Ginger or a Mary Ann? This book not only helps readers answer that question for themselves but also sends the inspirational and heartwarming message that yes, good girls do finish first. (Taylor Trade Publishing)

Wednesday, December 10, 6pm
Romina Russell discusses and signs Zodiac

At the dawn of time, there were 13 Houses in the Zodiac Galaxy. Now only 12 remain….
Rhoma Grace is a 16-year-old student from House Cancer with an unusual way of reading the stars. While her classmates use measurements to make accurate astrological predictions, Rho can’t solve for ‘x’ to save her life–so instead, she looks up at the night sky and makes up stories. When a violent blast strikes the moons of Cancer, sending its ocean planet off-kilter and killing thousands of citizens–including its beloved Guardian–Rho is more surprised than anyone when she is named the House’s new leader. But, a true Cancrian who loves her home fiercely and will protect her people no matter what, Rho accepts. Then, when more Houses fall victim to freak weather catastrophes, Rho starts seeing a pattern in the stars. She suspects Ophiuchus–the exiled 13th Guardian of Zodiac legend–has returned to exact his revenge across the Galaxy. Now Rho–along with Hysan Dax, a young envoy from House Libra, and Mathias, her guide and a member of her Royal Guard–must travel through the Zodiac to warn the other Guardians. But who will believe anything this young novice says? Whom can Rho trust in a universe defined by differences? And how can she convince twelve worlds to unite as one Zodiac? Embark on a dazzling journey with ZODIAC, the first novel in an epic sci-fi-meets-high-fantasy series set in a galaxy inspired by the astrological signs. (Razorbill)

Friday, December 12, 7pm
Marla Frazee discusses and signs The Farmer & the Clown

Whimsical and touching images tell the story of an unexpected friendship and the revelations it inspires in this moving, wordless picture book from two-time Caldecott Honor medalist Marla Frazee.
A baby clown is separated from his family when he accidentally bounces off their circus train and lands in a lonely farmer’s vast, empty field. The farmer reluctantly rescues the little clown, and over the course of one day together, the two of them make some surprising discoveries about themselves–and about life! Sweet, funny, and moving, this wordless picture book from a master of the form and the creator of The Boss Baby speaks volumes and will delight story lovers of all ages. (Beach Lane Books)

Saturday, December 13, 11am
Santa’s Workshop Craft Fun

Join us for a fun time of holiday crafts. There will be a variety of crafts to choose from. Little gifts that can be taken home to give to your mom, dad or siblings!

Saturday, December 13, 5pm
Nicole Maggi discusses and signs Winter Falls

Alessia Jacobs is a typical sixteen-year-old, dying to get out of her small Maine town. Things look up when a new family comes to town. But as she begins to fall for the hot, mysterious son, Jonah, her life turns upside down. Weird visions of transforming into an otherworldly falcon are just the beginning. Soon she learns she’s part of the Benandanti, an ancient cult of warriors with the unique power to separate their souls from their bodies and take on the forms of magnificent animals. Alessia never would’ve suspected it, but her boring town is the site of an epic struggle between the Benandanti and the Malandanti to control powerful magic in the surrounding forest. As Alessia is drawn into the Benandanti’s mission, her relationship with Jonah intensifies. Suddenly forced to weigh choices a sixteen-year-old should never have to make, Alessia witnesses two worlds colliding with devastating consequences. (Medallion Press)

Sunday, December 14, 11am
9th Annual Gingerbread House Decorating Party

$25.00 + tax
It’s our annual Gingerbread House Decorating Party! Join us and decorate your very own house that you will get to take home with you! Houses and candy are provided but you are welcome to bring extra candy or anything that might add to the décor of your house. This event is fun for the whole family or a group of friends and sells out every year so don’t wait too long to sign up! To participate please call us at (626) 449-5320 by 12/5/14.

Join us for story time with  every Wednesday & Saturday at 11:30am at
Vroman’s Hastings Ranch!

Thursday, December 4, 6pm
Vroman’s Hastings Ranch Literary Trivia Night!

Brush up on your literary knowledge and join us for some fierce competition! Free to play, all ages welcome. Refreshments will be served and there are prizes, too!

Saturday, December 6, 11:30am
Special Holiday Storytime featuring the Grinch!

The Grinch makes his way to Vroman’s Hastings Ranch for this special storytime, complete with a photo opportunity. Don’t forget your cameras!

Saturday December 6th, 2-6pm
Vroman’s Hastings Ranch Holiday Extravaganza!!
Come one, come all!! Join us for an afternoon of music, cookie decorating, ornament crafting, refreshments & good ol’ Holiday Cheer. There will be eggnog….’tis the season!


Author Walk of Fame Dedication and Reception!

by Jessica on November 18, 2014

November 8
The Beginning of the Author of Fame
Honoring Lisa See

This was such an amazing day! Being there and witnessing the very first set of hand prints to be cemented in the Author Walk of Fame was something else. It was such a cool thing to be a part of. Standing there taking pictures and seeing it happen really made you feel like you were a part of something bigger. So many people will walk past Lisa See’s hand prints as well as the authors to come and know that great things happened there.

What would this post be without pictures on pictures on pictures!

Promotional Director, Jen Ramos, says a few words to kick off the morning.

Lisa See says a few words before pressing her hands into the wet cement!

Here. We. Go!

Signing her name!

Some of the Vroman’s Gang with Lisa See and the finished product!

Party Time! Connie makes some 1950s style punch for everyone!

The gorgeous cake done by Takes the Cake in Pasadena! (Delicious too!)

The Radio Publica played an acoustic set to entertain the guests!

Check out Takes the Cake here.

Check out the Radio Publica on Facebook. On Twitter. On Instagram.


Group Author Event!

by Jessica on November 17, 2014

November 7
Group Author Event
Featuring Denise Hamilton, Jervey Tervalon, Luis Rodriguez, Mark Salzman & Naomi Hirahara
Reading an original story.

I’ve heard this event described as “magical“.

I’ve heard people say, “There was nothing like it and it felt so special to be at an event like this.

This was the kind of event that was talked about days after and will be talked about for years to come. It was truly something special.

I’ve posted a few of the authors stories on the blog.
To read them, click on the authors name. Naomi Hirahara. Michelle Huneven. Denise Hamilton. Jervey Tervalon.

Luis Rodriguez talks about the changes in Pasadena over the years.

Jervey Tervalon reads from his story, The Bookstore and the Writer.

Denise Hamilton reads from her story, The Not-So-Big Sleep.

Naomi Hirahara reads from her story, The Tale of Tomodachi.

Mark Salzman closed the night by serenading everyone with his chello!


An Original Story by Jervey Tervalon!

by Jessica on November 17, 2014

The Bookstore and the Writer
Jervey Tervalon

Soon as I realized books could be bought, I wanted to buy every book, and when the book club order sheet came around in elementary school I was broken hearted not to be able to afford every damn book. I never really changed. When I finally had my own home office my friend noticed that I had turned it into a kind of elementary scho9ol library display of Andrea Norton science fiction works. I loved her covers. Books, books, books. I read in the shower, I read while eating spaghetti sauce… people loaned me books at their own peril. When I sold my first novel it was like being reborn as a new creature that resided on the shelves of bookstores. Some crazy multinational corporation gave me money to do what I’d do for free, but it was all so abstract and heady – the concrete reality didn’t hit me until that day came for my first public reading at Vroman’s and I saw dozens of my first novel, Understand This. I felt for the first time, and probably the last time truly like a real author. People came to see me read, lots of them! Sure, they probably knew that afterward there would be gumbo and other treats if they got an invite to the book party at the house.

For many of who love and live the life of the mad scribbler, Vroman’s is the real bookstore of note in the region. Our careers might go up and down but when we see our titles on Vroman’s shelves it’s reassurance that we exist in the literary world, and unlike some libraries the bathrooms are usually clean.

Some of the most fun I’ve ever had teaching was through the courses Vroman’s offered. Once in a memoir course I had a former airline stewardess a woman in her 70’s, and still very much gorgeous, write the best opening line of a memoir I’ve read in 30 years of teaching,: “I was born in 1938 in Germany to my father’s great happiness, but not because of my gender but because my father would not have to attend Adolf Hitler’s birthday party.” And hers wasn’t the most memorable of the memoir. Another woman wrote about having a Red Cross passport because her dad was a WW II GI and mom, Korean, and somehow she ended up in the American/English Concession in Shanghai raised by nuns. Sadly she gave up on her memoir, stopped because she was worried her children in the US would be embarrassed to learn of her disreputable roots. Once when I was reading from my noel, Dead Above Ground, set in new Orleans about a murder in my family and the Creole community, someone heard two people in the audience discussing my Creoleness. Seemingly I didn’t pass their brown bag test. In their opinion, I belonged to another ethnic group: yep, the tribe of writers.


An Original Story by Naomi Hirahara!

by Jessica on November 14, 2014

A Tale of Tomodachi

By Naomi Hirahara

Even before the bombing of Pearl Harbor, people of Japanese ancestry on the West Coast were feeling pretty abandoned. Unions weren’t that thrilled with them. Even though the Northern California chapter felt differently, the national ACLU thought that the government had a case for creating these “military zones” to remove people who might threaten national security, however that was determined.

An exception to these groups were the Quakers, or the Religious Society of Friends. Friends. Tomodachi in Japanese.

When non-Quakers think of Quakers, Quaker Oats often comes to mind. At least it did for me for the longest time. The long wavy white hair. The black wide-brimmed hat and silky white scarf tied at the neck. Guess what? The Quaker brand was actually trademarked by businessmen who read an encyclopedia article on Quakers. The brand is now owned by PepsiCo, so there you go. American enterprise at work from beginning to end.

The real Friends, with a capital “F,” however, were damn serious. Back in 1917, during World War I, they created American Friends Service Committee to help conscientious objectors. Their goal later became to help race relations. These dudes (and I include women in that) weren’t playing around. They put their money where there mouths were.

So why am I talking about these Friends, these Tomodachi, here in the celebration of Vroman’s 120th anniversary? Because the bookstore’s founder Adam Clark Vroman’s wife, Esther Griest of Pennsylvania was a Quaker. I first heard this from Joel Sheldon, Vroman’s chair, on the phone yesterday, and he was indeed correct. She died two years after the couple moved to Pasadena from Illinois before Vroman’s, the bookstore, was established.

Adam Clark Vroman’s connection to Quakers did not end there. His best friend was devoted Friend, George F. Howell, according to Sheldon and the book, Historic Pasadena: An Illustrated History.

George Howell had worked for American Indians, specifically the Pawnee Agency, in Nebraska and Oklahoma before moving to Pasadena in 1902. After Vroman died in 1916, Howell became the new president elect. He remained in that position for four years.

Again, so what? What’s with all this Quaker talk, Naomi?

This goes back to the Facebook comment posted around 9 a.m. Thursday on my profile page. It was in response to a post about this very event. The comment was from Maria Kwong, the store manager at the Japanese American National Museum: “Grace Nakamura once told me that Vroman’s used to drive a book truck out to Manzanar during the war so people in camp could buy books. Ask about that. I think that would be a great story for something.” Liked by me and Elaine Yamaguchi.

The hair on my neck was standing on end when I read that. My hometown bookstore, the bookstore five blocks away from our house, aided Japanese Americans incarcerated in Manzanar? And sure enough, on the Vroman’s website, it states, “During World War II, Vroman’s donated and delivered books to Japanese Americans interned at nearby camps, returning on several occasions despite being fired upon by camp guards.”

Now, like I said, I had less than 36 hours to confirm this story. And to tell you the truth, I could not locate any historic documents or newspaper clippings reporting this in this limited time. But we do have testimony. Testimony from Grace Shinoda Nakamura, who has been living in Whittier for decades.

I spoke to Grace on the phone yesterday and her oral history transcript is on record with Densho in Seattle. Grace, who was reluctant to give me her exact birthdate because of fears of identity theft – smart lady – is in her late eighties.

In 1942, Grace was 15, ready to enter tenth grade. Her widowed mother and brother were living in Northeast Los Angeles – the front yard was in Los Angeles, the backyard, South Pasadena – and she attended Luther Burbank Junior High in Highland Park. And then, along with 110,000 people of Japanese ancestry, she was forcibly removed from her home and incarcerated in a camp in the nation’s interior. In Grace’s case, it was in Inyo County near Death Valley at Manzanar.

According to the oral history interview that was conducted by Sharon Yamato in 2011, “And then we did have textbooks, more than most of the other camps. Because Vroman’s bookstore in Pasadena was also the California State depository for state textbooks. And so Vroman’s made sure that all the kids in Manzanar got the state textbooks . . . Other camp schools were not so fortunate.”

In my telephone interview with her, Grace confirmed this. And she provided more details. According to Grace, it was actually a Quaker missionary, Herbert Nicholson, who drove a rickety old truck to deliver the books. Nicholson lived on 1554 Las Lunas Street in Pasadena, not far for where we are. I know this because of declassified war department correspondence, which stated that the American Friends Committee was being investigated by the FBI because “its interracial and international connections” left it “liable to manipulation by anti-American elements.”

According to a couple of books in Pasadena Public Library Centennial Room, Nicholson drove a truck that he had retrieved for a former Terminal Island grocery store owner, Tom Yamamoto. Yamamoto insisted that Nicholson use the truck to make deliveries to various camps, which he did. Not only Manzanar, but Poston, Gila, Topaz, Minidoka, Heart Mountain and Amache. Nichelson quickly put 25,000 miles on the truck. He delivered inmates’ property that had been in storage, took pets to hospitals outside of camp, transported ashes of a dead son and even attempted to dig up a buried treasure for an inmate – turns out he dug on the wrong side of the house.

Nothing was mentioned in these books about Vroman’s and its textbook delivery, but Grace insists that literally hundreds of textbooks came from Vroman’s to Manzanar on Nicholson’s truck.

Her mind is razor sharp, so I don’t doubt what she says.

From camp, Grace’s family took advantage of the opportunity to move – she actually characterizes it as escaped – into the nation’s interior, and resided in Grand Junction, Colorado.

From there, she was able to get a scholarship and partial funding from again the Quakers to the University of Redlands.

She was one of the first Nisei to become a credentialed teacher.

She first taught at a “segregated school” here in Pasadena, an adult school that served Latinos, Fremont School, and later worked at the Eugene Field School in Hastings Ranch.

She staunchly believes that she and her high school classmates would not have California textbooks if it weren’t for Vroman’s. “A whole generation of us would not have gone to college.”

Frankly, there needs to be more digging to verify all the facts. And I’m not sure about the camp guards firing at the Vroman’s deliverymen. Some of the answers may lie in the 31 boxes of Howell family papers – you know, George Howell, Vroman’s best friend and former Vroman’s president – archived at the Huntington Library. George Howell’s grandson, a conscientious objector, was sent to work in Gila River War Relocation Center in Arizona, where many Pasadena-based Japanese Americans were incarcerated. There may be something there.

So, however those textbooks got there, I pretty convinced that they were facilitated by this place, Vroman’s. So, from one tomodachi to another, thank you.


An Original Story by Michelle Huneven!

by Jessica on November 13, 2014

Michelle Huneven

Note: I very much regret not being with everyone tonight, and I send a special thank you to Jen Ramos for inviting me and reading this story.

I wrote this story about something that happened to me one day at Vromans. Happy Birthday to the bookstore of my life!

I stepped out of the bright afternoon into the dim, climate-controlled hush of Vroman’s bookstore. My eyes were still adjusting as I headed toward the far wall of fiction when, not halfway there, I saw my mother in the religion section.
Surely, it was she: five foot five, her same slim frame, the same cant of her shoulders—the left a little higher— and her own cap of coffee-brown hair that, even now, deep into her eighties, showed only a few glistening threads of white. After almost thirty years apart, she was entirely familiar to me. How glorious to see her again! My mother, restored. But I couldn’t yet run to her. I’d suddenly become shy, shy to the point of terror.

I knew, though, to take a good long look. My father was gone, but I’d want to report this accurately to my sister. Mom wore a navy blue rain coat and was paging through a book on the table–I couldn’t see which one. She had the start of a dowager’s hump, not too bad. Her skirt or dress came below her knees, and she had on anklet socks with thick-heeled lace ups, old lady shoes her own grandmother might have worn back in the nineteen forties. My mother, whose closet floor was once a deep jumble of high-heeled pumps, was now in orthopedic clunkers?

She had been gone from us for so long, there was no telling what habits and customs she’d taken up.
Had she been in Pasadena all this time? Had she come often to Vromans, the bookstore she’d taken me to throughout my childhood? Had she spotted any of my novels–Round Rock, Jamesland, Blame and Off Course? The employees had made a display of each new book, and sometimes they’d hung a foam-backed poster of one or another title upstairs where the readings are held, in the very place where my mother and I used to take our purchases to be gift-wrapped.
Had she ever bought one? Had she ever rearranged the shelf where my books were so that my covers faced outward, thus eclipsing nearby titles by Nick Hornby, Josephine Humphries, and Laird Hunt? Or had she, in passing, accorded her stern nod of acknowledgement?

As I watched, my mother leaned closer to the book she perused, perhaps to read a caption or fine print. I yearned to approach her, to break into her day. I could already hear her voice raised with embarrassment and false cheer: Oh for heavens sake. What are you doing here?

Around her rose a rustle and a murmur; I saw then that she was with four or five other women, all of them like her, elderly, hale and mobile. She had friends! Of course she had friends, she’d always had friends when she lived among us. In that rustle and murmur, a signal had gone out, and the women moved on like a small flock of birds or an order of nuns, dispersing some yards away in the psychology aisle.

I remained where I’d been blinking and trembling. I had thought my mother was dead, but in fact, she’d been here, here in Pasadena, all along—shopping, reading, making friends, living a life of her own devising, on her own terms, free from us.


An Original Story by Denise Hamilton!

by Jessica on November 12, 2014

On Friday, November 7th we had a group reading with 5 fabulous authors! They all read an original story. Over the next few days I’ll be posting some of those stories for those of you that couldn’t make the event or just wanted another read of the wonderful stories!

The Not-So-Big Sleep

By Denise Hamilton

The year that I turned 11, my father lost his job and the two of us moved across the county to Pasadena because his old high school friend Rob was fixing up something called a California bungalow and said we could live there rent free if we didn’t mind the smell of damp plaster and sawdust.

Rob bleached his hair white blond and got up every morning at 4 am to go surfing. Soon my Dad began to accompany him. New words crept into his vocabulary, such as “tubular” and “dakine.” And ‘‘brewski,’ as in “My body’s still on East Coast time, bro, and the sun’s already set in NYC, so let’s crack those brewskis.”

When I pointed out that it was November, when the sun set by 3:45 pm in New York, which meant it was barely past noon here, Dad took a thirsty swallow and shook his head.

“D’ya hear that, Rob?” he said. “God save you from ever having a smart-alecky kid.”

I looked at Rob, who had a brewski in one hand and a box of Clairol “Nice n Easy Born Blonde” in the other. He smiled bemusedly, then brought the edge of the Clairol box to his belly and began to scratch the exposed flesh, making a rasping noise.

“I’m not planning on breeding anytime soon, dude,” Rob said.

“Well that’s good,” I said. “But even if you do, you won’t have to worry about the ‘smart’ part.”

“See what I mean,” Dad bellowed, pretending to swat me as I scampered away.

Bored, I wandered to the garage, snapped on my blades and took off to explore my new hometown. You could really cover the miles on roller-blades. I’d taken $5 from Dad’s wallet and after awhile, I found a taco stand with a long line – always a good sign – where I wolfed down two dripping, greasy and satisfying cochinita pibil tacos and then spent five minutes scrubbing the red grease from my fingers.

Soon I found myself on Colorado Boulevard, cruising past shops and restaurants that gave off mouthwatering aromas, like they had a giant fan just inside the door, strategically set up to blow the good smells onto the street and entice people to come in and spend a lot of money.

You might not think an 11 year old would know words like entice, but since I’m on my own so much, I read alot. I think I read every book in my old school library, including some ancient ones with frayed cloth covers that probably weren’t meant for children due to all the heaving naked bosom descriptions.

But anyway, that’s why the sign caught my eye. Vroman’s Books, it read.

I scoped out a place to stash my blades behind some bushes in the parking lot, slipped on the flip-flops I always keep in my backpack and strolled in to investigate.

Hours later, I was still there, wandering around in a fevered trance that all book people can relate to and non-book people think is just weird. There were two floors, and plenty of nooks and crannies where you could sit and read. There was even a cafe downstairs where I ordered juice and sat awhile, listening to the music and watching it get dark outside. Then I went back upstairs.

Yes, indeed, this was some bookstore! And the YA section? It was like being in a gourmet candy store. I mean, there were all these books I’d never even heard of neatly arranged by category. It was tons better than Barnes & Noble.

When I told the clerk I liked future dystopia books, she recommended a bunch I’d never even heard off and showed me where to find them. She really seemed to know a lot about the authors and I got the feeling she might have even read some of them. It turned out that she was a fan of Philip Reeves’ Mortal Engine series too. How cool was that?

So when she recommended The Maze Runner by James Dashner, I pulled it off the shelf and began reading. After awhile, my legs got sore from standing after all that skating so I sat on the floor behind a chair, leaning against it, and got more comfortable.

Hours must have passed, because suddenly I startled awake, the book sprawled open on my chest. I was slumped against the stacks, my limbs cramped, my legs numb. It was ghostly dark, with only a dim fluorescent light flickering somewhere nearby. And most of all, it was eerily quiet.

I struggled to my feet, wiping off the crusted drool with the palm of one hand. and felt a rising sense of panic.

I was all alone in the bookstore, at night. Somehow, no one had noticed me curled up behind the chair, fast asleep, when closing time came. I’d been locked in.

What time was it? How long had I been here? I pulled out my phone, but it was out of charge. I’d been bugging Dad for weeks to replace the battery because it drained so fast.

Would I really be trapped here all night?. I felt like the girl in The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, except I hadn’t planned to away from home and I didn’t have a brother to keep me company. All of a sudden, I wanted to be home so badly, even though home was a bungalow filled with planks of wood, power tools with long trailing cords and my Dad and Rob singing “Gotta Keep Em Separated” at the top of their lungs.

“Hello?” I called. “Is anybody there?”

There was no reply.

For what seemed like a long time, I stood there, listening for footfalls and weird noises. Then I listened to the silence. For the first time ever, it felt ominous, like it was alive, just waiting to pounce on me.

When my big toe nudged something. I almost screamed. Then I realized it was just the book I’d been reading. The Maze Runner. I was stuck in a maze too. A maze of tall bookshelves in the dark. What would the kids in the Maze Runner do? Why, they’d explore different routes out of the maze.

I knew I had to get downstairs. There were windows there that looked out onto the street. I’m not sure why I grabbed the book. It was like a talisman. Yeah, I know that word too. Actually, it’s used a lot in fantasy books. So I took it and crept downstairs.

At the cash registers downstairs, I stopped. The ghostly light illuminated the counter displays. Man, was I hungry all of a sudden. It had been hours since I ate. And those Free Trade chocolate bars looked awfully tempting. Before I knew it, I’d ripped off the paper and gobbled down two. It wasn’t stealing, really. I could do some painting for Rob on the weekends and he’d pay me and then I could pay Vroman’s back. But now I needed a mint to cleanse my palate. Ooh, so many to choose from. Cinnamon Altoids? Don’t mind if I do.

I found a box of stationary and a pretty pen, tore them out of their display casings and wrote an IOU out to Vroman’s. Then I spied a clip-on light, one of those cool little gadgets you attach to the book when you want to read in bed when the other person is asleep. I grabbed that too.

I went behind the counter to try the phones, but couldn’t get a dial tone. I tried pressing different buttons, and combinations of buttons, to no avail. Then I tried just calling 911, but that didn’t go through either. In frustration, I threw the phone back into its receiver.

Then I made my way to the glass doors. Locked! Sticking my nose against the cold glass, I saw a courtyard. It was empty. I pounded and hollered and yelled help, but no one came.

But this was the back of the building. I’d go around to the front, the way I’d come in on Colorado Boulevard. There would be people walking around. I wanted to run, but, afraid I’d trip in the dark, I made myself walk carefully. Then I had a brainstorm. The nightlight. I turned it on, and it cast a decent light for several feet in front of me.

On I marched. But oh no! I couldn’t get to the front windows. The cafe stood in my way, and it was closed up tight for the night. Slowly, I explored the entire perimeter of the store. There was a set of windows on the southeast corner, but when I peered out, I didn’t see anyone on the streets. It must be very late. It sure felt late. I stood there, my breath misting up the cold glass, looking out, for a very long time. Two cars drove past, but they couldn’t see me, jumping up and down, pounding madly on the glass and waving.

Should I try to break the glass and get out? I ransacked the shelves, found the heaviest book I could and flung it against the glass. It thudded dully and bounced back.

By now, I was defeated and tired. With my reading light, I wandered around the shelves and displays in despair, looking for anything that would help me escape. I found a box of lovely Scottish shortbread cookies and ate half of those, then ripped open a packet of English breakfast tea and grabbed a ceramic mug that said “I Read Banned Books” and took my loot upstairs. In Dad’s old office, there was an employee breakroom with a kitchen. Vroman’s had lots of employees. They probably had somewhere to sit and eat. There might be a sink and a microwave.

Upstairs, past a door that said “Employees Only,” I found the staff room. I filled my mug with water, and microwaved it, then dunked in a teabag. After letting it steep for five minutes, just like Dad did with his, I drank my tea and ate the remaining shortbread Scotty dogs.

The food and drink warmed and calmed me immensely. One more trip downstairs to find a shawl to wrap myself in as it was getting chilly. And there was a lovely plush stuffed doggie that looked very comforting. I took him too. Then I curled up on the couch with The Maze Runner and my clip light and, nibbling on the last of those luscious biscuits, I finished the book. Then I lowered it to the ground, making sure to close the book properly so the spine wouldn’t break, snuggled up to my doggie and closed my eyes.

Denise Hamilton writes crime fiction and comes to Vroman’s each time she has a new book out.. Visit her at www.denisehamilton.com


Vroman’s History Talk!

by Jessica on November 11, 2014

First of all, from the bottom of our hearts, we THANK YOU!
All of you! Those close by and those far away.
We wouldn’t be here without all of you and we sure won’t make it another 120 years without the support you all give us.
To everyone that has been wishing us well on social media we love the sentiments!

I wanted to take some time to recap the wonderful events we had last week.
For the people that couldn’t make it and for the people that just want to see it all again.

Pasadena Weekly did a great piece on the Anniversary Events! You can check it out here.

Our first event was a week ago today!

November 4
Vroman’s History Talk 

This was our Anniversary Kick-off Event! Chair, Joel Sheldon & President, Allison Hill
gave the most interesting History Talk!
We had a great crowd of customers, friends and staff turn out to help us start what would become an incredible week!

Joel Sheldon & Allison Hill after their wonderful presentation!

A few of the Vroman’s ladies at the History Talk! (L to R: Dolores, Connie, Alie and BJ)