The empty Eastwind Books on University Avenue, once filled to the brim with Asian American literature, was packed instead with its fans and supporters on Thursday to celebrate its long and storied history before closing after 41 years.
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It was a week of celebrations for Harvey and Beatrice Dong, who opened the bookstore in 1996 to create a home for Asian American writing. Before Berkeleyside’s “Beyond the Story: A Tribute to Eastwind Books,” the Dongs were honored at UC Berkeley’s Latinx Research Center.
“We’re really surprised by the response. We thought it would be like — OK, you guys are closing, we’ll go online,” Harvey said at Eastwind Books.
Berkeleyside reporter Iris Kwok led a conversation with Harvey (featuring inspiring footnotes from Beatrice) as they touched on the store’s founding, their first years together, and its mission of radical education and activism.
The people who squeezed into the tight space were longtime supporters of the store, new fans who lamented not peeking inside sooner, activists, neighbors and lovers of literature.
What began as a conversation between Kwok and Dong transformed into a warm evening of shared reminiscing. Some in attendance had known the Dongs well before the Berkeley bookstore opened when Harvey was running Everybody’s Bookstore in the basement of the International Hotel in San Francisco’s Manilatown.
Audience members asked Harvey and Beatrice how to continue their legacy, even when treasured cultural spaces are closing around them, and thanked them for creating a space that allowed young writers, artists and activists to see themselves in history and build on multiracial solidarity.
NPR’s Ailsa Chang attended Berkeleyside’s Beyond the Story event and talked with Harvey Dong about the closing of Eastwind, and the decades he and Beatrice spent promoting Asian American authors.
Harvey said there will always be a desire and necessity to learn about race, legacies of activism and resistance — for people of all cultural backgrounds — and he hopes Eastwind Books was a starting point to that journey for many.
“We hope that people use what they learned from the bookstore to go onto bigger and better things,” Harvey said. “You can’t exactly duplicate what we were trying to do … because we were trying to follow a pattern ourselves … but there are things you can continue, and continue and continue.”