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Hometown lit at The Nearsighted Narwhal

Think globally, read locally

The Nearsighted Narwhal's shelves creak with novels by South Sound literary giants. Photo credit: Christian Carvajal

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Ours is a region of readers, well-served by a plethora of literary outlets. As crass as the question may seem, then, it's fair to ask: do we truly need another bookstore? We do if it's the Nearsighted Narwhal, and here's why: it's all about local talent. The store's walls are plastered with high-quality art from gifted South Sound painters and pencilers. A singer-songwriter strolls in, says hi to longtime friends from down the block, and tunes his guitar for a casual concert near the back of the store. Another Gritty City artist sets up a workshop on how to make buttons. Most importantly, the Nearsighted Narwhal's shelves creak with novels by homegrown literary giants, including the Volcano's own Alec Clayton (The Backside of Nowhere) and Joshua Swainston (The Tacoma Pill Junkies).

"I'm self-published," explains Christina Armstrong (aka Wheeler), co-owner with Ossain Avila Cardenas. "I've been making zines for the past five years. I created this (shop) because it's what I wanted Tacoma to have. I got tired of pushing for a place like this and so I just did it. ... We're a store that carries mainly self-published and small-press materials, zines, books, comics, music, art, handmade goods. ... We have musical performances, and we have tablers (presenters) outside. We have live art demonstrations. ... It's all from people around the area."

"I got in a really bad car accident a few years ago," Armstrong recalls. "My fiancé died in front of me, and my oldest son has a traumatic brain injury. ... My daughter was two. I found out I was pregnant at the time, and that's my youngest son." In a piece for The F-Bomb, Armstrong writes of "character-defining moments in our lives that shape us. ... We must all thrash around until we find our own paths. Such is life."

So how did Armstrong move forward? "I got a big settlement," she continues, "and decided I wanted something good to come out of that tragedy. So I started The F-Bomb, which is a collaborative zine where a lot of people write in and contribute art and words and stuff like that, and I distributed it around Tacoma. I think to this date I've given out seven thousand copies. That's how I started self-publishing. It's a great outlet for people to get their words out there."

At the Nearsighted Narwhal, such voices blend into a powerful, South-Sound flavored fugue. It isn't just another bookstore. It's us.

THE NEARSIGHTED NARWHAL, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, 2610A Sixth Ave., Tacoma, 253.301.4098

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