Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Page 69: The Coffeehouse Resistance

Disclaimer: The Page 69 Test is not mine. It has been around since 2007, asking authors to compare page 69 against the meat of the actual story it is a part of. I loved the whole idea of it and so I'm stealing it specifically to showcase small press titles - novels, novellas, short story collections, the works! So until the founder of The Page 69 Test calls a cease and desist, let's do this thing....

In this installment of Page 69, 

Set up page 69 for us.

Page 69 falls just as we’ve moved to New York City from Addis Ababa. Though we loved our life in Ethiopia, we’ve come to America seeking our version of the American Dream. We’ve recently arrived in the Northern Manhattan neighborhood where much of the story then unfolds. Our business is in the still-an-idea stage, and we’ve just decided on a name for it that feels right. It’s a time of great possibility and risk, and my husband, Elias, and I along with our toddler daughter are adjusting to our new home.  

 What The Coffeehouse Resistance: Brewing Hope in Desperate Times is about:

This is a book about love, coffee and the American Dream. It’s a memoir – so it’s about me, and my family – it’s about the places we left behind, the reasons we came to America and the work we must do to make this the country live up to its promise. It’s also about coffee and reclaiming the history of coffeehouses throughout history, as a place where people come together, and our coffeehouses become hubs for local organizing and action. Ultimately this is a book about hope, building community, and fighting for our (American) dreams.

Do you think this page gives our readers an accurate sense of what the collection is about? Does it align itself the collection’s theme?

It’s striking how the page does hit on some major themes of the book. When I read page 69 by itself, I realize that from the very beginning, in its conception starting a business was also about making a statement, about claiming and fully owning an identity. Also, dislocation and alienation, of being in a new place where so much is unfamiliar. A reader might sense the contrast with our old life (which is not described on this page) from the description of our surroundings in our New York neighborhood.  And, I think the page hints at the central place family and community will take in the story.


We, on the other hand, are black and brown, and like the coffee, have grown and been nurtured on African and Asian soil. Naming our company Buunni is a counterpoint to the prevailing coffee culture that we observe. We decide on our company’s name and smile at our inside joke.

We begin to adjust to our new life in New York, which is at times in jarring contrast to the life we left in Addis Ababa. The sidewalks in our part of Manhattan smell like dog piss in the steaming muggy summer heat, and the smell only sharpens in the crisp fall and dry winter air. But we live near a gorgeous park—a hidden gem near the very top of Manhattan. Our walks in Fort Tryon Park are a physical relief from our cramped quarters, and the river views, the garden of all seasons, and the open expanses are a respite from the view from our own apartment windows— they look into other people’s homes, and a brick wall. We get to know many of our neighbors during our strolls in the Fort Tryon Park and the hours Juni spends in the two neighborhood playgrounds closest to us. These spaces offer an informal gathering place to meet other people in the community, parents, childcare providers, grandparents, and visiting relatives.


SARINA PRABASI has lived the life of a global nomad and is a new American. She was born in the Netherlands to Nepali parents, and was raised in India, China and Nepal, after which she spent formative years in the United States and in Ethiopia. Sarina is a seasoned leader in international development—working on global health, education, water and sanitation for over 25 years. In 2011, she moved from Addis Ababa to New York City and started Buunni Coffee with her husband. Their small business has become a hub for community conversation and action. Sarina is the proud mama of two daughters, who keep her learning and laughing every day. 

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