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Activism and Rare Books with Eddie Fukui

Activism and Rare Books with Eddie Fukui

If you frequent the Bookstore Cafe then you will certainly recognize Eddie Fukui, a longstanding staff member and resident rare book expert. We caught up with Eddie to learn about how his background in activism led him to Housing Works. Read below for more:

Housing Works: What brought you to Housing Works?
Eddie Fukui: I originally came to the bookstore while on vacation from Los Angeles. Around 1998 there was an event on ‘pranks’ that sounded interesting and it was actually quite fun. It was then that I learned of Housing Works mission which struck me as amazing since I was an old ACT UP/LA and Queer Nation activist. I’m part of that generation who literally saw most of my friends die and as we say living with Post Traumatic Plague Syndrome. Eventually, I had burned out between my bookstore job, activism, and putting on free shows and benefits in odd or unusual spaces (i.e. I raised $5000 dollars with a 10 hour marathon art auction, music, and performance benefit in a sex club with only $200 in expenses from my own pocket). Housing Works Bookstore rejuvenated my ability to dive right back into activism and obtain a job without burning out. Charles King gladly let me participate in advocacy and get arrested. and again. and again. and…

HW: What makes a book valuable?
EF: There are multiple factors that create value to a particular book. Each one in it’s own right is a bit subjective according to whom is looking at it and the value they think they can get for it.
Rarity: How common is it in the marketplace? Is it the first edition? Is this edition hard to find?
Importance: Is this book one of the most popular works of the author? If it is a less popular/known/regarded work (or an unknown/unpopular author), it may not be valuable. Just because a book is old does not mean it is valuable.
Condition: Everything starts “As New” from the publisher/store and is considered in “Fine” condition if in that state. Here at the bookstore we do not consider any book “As New” as we do not order books from a dealer. We start at “fine” and the quality goes down with missing elements including the dust jacket (if issued) , flaws, dirt, cut price point, folds, notes, highlights, etc. etc. Basically everything that does not make it as close to new as possible.
Provenance: The story of who owned the book before, and from where it came. An interesting or unique provenance can often increase a book’s value. For example: this book was previously owned by a famous person.
Desirability: Does someone out there want your book? Do a lot of people want it? *Note – Stated value doesn’t necessarily mean that is what you are going to get for it but it’s good for insurance purposes (think Antiques Roadshow).

HW: How do you find rare books that come into the store?
EF: Basically, people sorting and other staff keep an eye out for first editions, signed books, unique bindings, or any other element that makes a book different, unusual, or unique.

HW: What’s the most interesting book you’ve ever found?
EF: Hmmmm, that’s really a question I don’t have an answer for because I’ve been surprised on many of the books that have been donated to us. Some have value others do not. I loved when we received a bilingual edition of Francois Villion’s poetry but that is because he is one of the few poets I will buy (it was only a $50 book). On the other hand we sold a paper specimen book for $200 from Canson & Montgolfier (France) from 1925 and it had the most beautiful samples.

HW: What’s your favorite rare book in the store right now?
EF: Actually, it’s something I need to do more research on because I do not read Japanese. It appears to be a sampling of printed paper samplesthat look handmade and hand painted but I think that’s just my fluid imagination going overboard. All the same it’s gorgeous and very unique and I hope to find out more information about it.

HW: Why buy your books at Housing Works Bookstore Cafe?
EF: The two main reasons to buy from Housing Works are the great deals you will get on high quality books and the knowledge of helping our clients in a multitude of ways and with our mission of ending the dual crises of homelessness and AIDS. Of course, there are benefits of coming to a wonderful space with the best vibe in the city and enjoying a latte or sandwich or seeing great authors, concerts, comedy, and more!

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