Interviewed by Leslie Criss | Photographed by Joe Worthem
Jilleen Moore, a native of Pearl, has lived in Oxford since 2000. She shares her home with her spouse and pups, Freya and Fry. She admits to three preoccupations by age 16: music, books and fishing. She credits her passion for books with landing her in the place she’s called home for nearly 20 years.
Q: Do you recall your very first visit to Square Books?
A: When I was a student at Pearl High School, my Southern literature class took a field trip to visit Rowan Oak. Later in the day, my classmates and I headed for Square Books. I vividly remember walking through the doors and instantly having my eyes drawn up to the walls upon which hung author portraits, then down to the rows of bookcases and the stacks closest to the front counter. I saw books by Eudora Welty, Elizabeth Spencer, Barry Hannah, Richard Ford and, of course, a healthy selection of Faulkner. I remember turning on the Square Books staircase and thinking to myself, “if I could just work here for the rest of my life, I would surely be happy.”
Q: Tell us about working at Square Books.
A: June marks my 19th year with Square Books. For most of the past 15 years I have been the buyer for Square Books Jr. I’ve run book clubs, did work on the website, read and played guitar at storytime, served on the Lafayette County Literacy Council, did school and public events and spoke at one or two literary conferences about my love for books and people and the magical mix of these that happens inside independent bookstores.
Q: What’s the best part about your job?
A: My favorite thing in the world to do is to talk about books with others, kids and adults. For many, I am sure, the reason bookstores still exist is the palpable connection between one reader and another. That connection I have with so many children, their parents, grandparents, relatives and friends, it’s something that persists. I know in my heart the owner, manager and all the book buyers and booksellers before me understand that connection and how important it is for the success of the store and the community.
Q: What are some of your favorite books?
A: My favorite books are “Charlotte’s Web,” “Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH,” “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry,” “Alabama Moon,” “Ninth Ward,” “Knife of Never Letting Go,” “House of the Scorpion,” “Ship Breaker,” “We Were Liars,” “Speak” and “City of Beasts.” My favorites across the street at “Big” Square Books are “Shantaram,” “Light in August,” “Son,” “Goldfinch,” “Orchestra of Minorities,” “The Feather Thief,” “The Quinn Colson” series, “Orphan Master’s Son,” “The Golden Apples,” “Fire in the Morning,” “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “The Lottery” and anything by Toni Morrison, Alice Walker and Jacqueline Woodson.