Albany’s Urban Aftermath used book shop a continued legacy

The Urban Aftermath Bookshop in Albany may be tiny, but you can get lost for a long time exploring its intricate arrangement of treasures, a muse to its artist owner.

The books are stacked neatly, horizontally and vertically. Interspersed throughout the store there’s vinyl and an eclectic assortment of vintage toys and antiques, like a rack of wooden canes and a basket of baseball mitts. And there’s original art on the walls, including drawings by the owner.

Owner Hassan Elminyawi wasn’t there when I swung by, but we chatted on the phone about his shop, books, reuse, downtowns and art. And it’s no wonder he said he likes reading about MC Escher. The bookstore’s arrangement has the feel of an Escher design, all interlocking and aesthetically pleasing. The first room is mostly antiquarian books and the other room is $5 books, where I found a new copy of “The Unbearable Lightness of Being.” My old one fell apart in my hands when I started rereading. I figured I’d check out a used bookstore to replace it.

“I mean, obviously you saw that we love books but we also deal in art. I like to make art and sell my art at the shop,” Elminyawi said. “I like to kind of go through people’s attics and basements and garages. … I’ll find something that really means nothing to someone or means nothing in general. it’s like essentially trash. But when I put it in my shop, it becomes gold in my eyes.” Toys that have popped up on the shop’s Instagram feed include Gumby, an old Barbie bike and Ninja Turtles.

Elminyawi started the business almost 13 years ago because he’s anti-waste and book selling runs in the family.

“So just to put it in perspective, my dad sold books, I sell books and my younger three brothers sell books. Yeah, so we’re a family of book dealers.”

He began selling books online in grad school while at the University of Albany. He then opened the shop on Hamilton Street in Albany’s Center Square neighborhood about seven years ago. Even though Elminyawi has since landed a day job at the state, he continues to operate the bookstore on Saturday to spark his creativity and support the arts.

“I just love being a part of city life and I’ve met so many good people and had so many good conversations at my bookshop,” said Elminyawi, who is a trained urban planner.

“I think bookshops are the building blocks of cities. I actually really believe that if you want a healthy neighborhood put a bookshop there and see what happens.”


In other book-related things to do, the Adirondacks look like the place to be for bibliophiles and aspiring authors next weekend.

Kudos to this event for the best book festival name ever. New York State Author Ayad Akhtar and New York State Poet Willie Perdomo will open the Adirondack Center for Writing’s 2022 Kickass Writers Festival by reading from their works at 7 pm Friday, Aug. 19, at the Pendragon Theater in Saranac Lake. It’s free and a collaboration between the Adirondack Center for Writing and the NYS Writers Institute. Registration is required.

And then there’s the Adirondack Family Book Festival on Saturday, Aug. 20, at John Brown Farm State Historic Site in Lake Placid.

The festival features its own kickass line-up of young adult and children’s book authors, including:

  • Two-time National Book Award finalist Laura Ruby, author of “Bone Gap” and “Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All.”
  • 2002 Newbery Medal winner Linda Sue Park, author of “A Single Shard,” “A Long Walk to Water” and “The One Thing You’d Save.”
  • Kekla Magoon, author of “The Season of Styx Malone,” “How It Went Down” (a Coretta Scott King Honor book), and “Revolution in Our Time: The Black Panther Party’s Promise to the People,” a National Book Award finalist .

Find the whole schedule here:

As for what I’m reading these last days of summer, well, “The Unbearable Lightness of Being,” just to see if it holds up; Jami Attenberg’s “I Came All This Way to Meet You” (I’m also a big fan of her #1000wordsofsummer, which encourages writing productivity in a communal way); and “The Man Who Could Move Clouds” by Ingrid Rojas Contreras, an astonishing memoir with a touch of magic.

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