Full Circle Bookstore: A Palace of Minds

May 28, 2020
A row of books
Photo by James L.W / Unsplash

In January, Full Circle Bookstore was named one of five finalists for Publishers Weekly’s Bookstore of the Year. Palestinian photographer Yousef Khanfar offers the following tribute.

As a photographer, I have visited more than forty countries and many of their bookstores, but I always come back to the most charming one of all, Oklahoma City’s Full Circle Bookstore. I must admit that, despite my fidelity to photography, I am still madly in love with these musical words that dance with no shoes and caress the voluptuous curves of my heart. And when I need to imbibe from the fountain of knowledge, I dash to the arms of Full Circle.

When I need to imbibe from the fountain of knowledge, I dash to the arms of Full Circle.

At Full Circle, one can journey into the Alpine valleys of classical literature, through forests of the arts, cross swamps of contemporary writing, trek deserts of politics, ascend to the summit of philosophy, and rest in the most scented rose gardens of poetry.

In this Palace of Minds, I come Out of Africa, I voyage into the Heart of Darkness, I witness Crime and Punishment, I heal inside a House Made of Dawn, I wonder how To Kill a Mockingbird, I celebrate with The Great Gatsby, I love in Love Story, I dance with Zorba, I slice my ear with Lust for Life, I uphold freedom in Beloved, I fantasize with Fantasia, I see in Blindness, I paint with The Color Purple, I fish in A River Runs Through It, I endure in Waiting for Godot, I navigate Labyrinths, I travel through A Passage to India, I become visible in Invisible Man, I shiver In Cold Blood, I suffer through Lifetimes under Apartheid, I swim on The Last Wave, and so many more books that keep me awake A Thousand and One Nights.

I have been happy to fall into the orbit of Jim Tolbert, the owner of this jewel, a leader and an honorable man in every regard. When my book Invisible Eve, a gathering of women’s voices from behind prison walls, was published, and since the United States incarcerates the highest number of women per capita in the world, Jim called for action. He invited me not only to do a book signing and lecture but to hold a large event with a full panel discussion to inform the public. He covered all the expenses and more. By educating the public, enough votes were gathered and legislation passed to improve the conditions of women in prison.

Moreover, the staff perform acts like no one else. They listen attentively, share their knowledge, and go the extra mile for customers. They help you swiftly, like a mermaid splashing out of water. They swing on trapezes from one end of the store to the other to find your desired book. Sometimes you hear voices like an opera of satisfied customers filling the store. In the kitchen, the chefs, with their tender hands, fashion such delicious gourmet cuisine that it makes the big-city chefs blush. And every once in a while, you see them performing a marriage ceremony, like a priest in a church, between two souls who met and fell in love in the bookstore. It is so beautiful; it brings happy tears to my eyes.

While photography belongs to daytime and to the sun, books belong to night and to dreams. Images and messages can inspire, outrage, enlighten, and heal us. Books are an enchanted land, where one journeys into a ream of tranquility, where one can live different magical lives, lift one’s thoughts to the horizon, and unveil humanity to itself.

Come, then. Come tiptoeing, come sashaying, come marching, but just come to this Palace of Minds and experience its dazzling wonder. Because Full Circle bookstore is not about books, but about life.

Edmond, Oklahoma

An award-winning Palestinian author, Yousef Khanfar has published three books, is featured globally in many publications, and is listed as one of the world’s top photographers. He has received appreciation from the White House, US Supreme Court, the UK’s House of Lords, and beyond. The Fulbright Center for Peace in Washington, DC, selected his book to help celebrate the Global Symposium of Peaceful Nations. He was selected as Artist of the Year to promote literacy with UNICEF, and the Palestine mission to the United Nations honored him for “appreciation of his extraordinary service to promoting peace and justice in Palestine through art.”