Category: Alumni Stories, Georgetown Magazine, Spring 2022

Title:Alumna opens bookstore in the town of Columbus, Mississippi

Author: Bhriana Smith
Date Published: April 26, 2022
Photo courtesy of Emily Liner

Originally thinking she would change the world through politics, Emily Liner (C’08), a small-town bookstore owner, “soon realized that I could change the world in my own backyard.” Opened in the challenging environment of the COVID-19 pandemic, Friendly City Books, the only independent bookstore in Columbus, Mississippi, is now thriving.

Liner’s motivation to open a bookstore derived from her strong drive to help transform lives coupled with her pas- sion for reading. A first-generation college student, Liner reflected on her admiration for books. “Growing up, I was an only child, so books were essentially my first friends. I also didn’t have a lot of opportunities to travel, but I could always travel in a book.”

She also was motivated by the desire to make a difference in the world. “In our family we have a saying: don’t complain unless you want to be part of the solution. And I thought ‘well, I can’t complain about not having a bookstore if that’s something I can actually do.’”

After receiving her MBA from the University of North Carolina and working in the political sector, Liner decided to make a difference in her hometown. “I figured that I could have just as much of an impact by going back to the place where I was from and working with people on a more direct and grassroots level. I just knew a bookstore would be the perfect place to provoke conversations with people about the world that we want to live in.” Following through on her goal, Liner opened Friendly City Books in November 2020.

Georgetown has had a profound impact on Liner’s personal and professional development. Out of countless memories, there were a few names that transformed her way of think- ing. “I’ll never forget this one class. It was called Map of the Modern World, taught by Charles Pirtle. He had the class perfectly designed.”

She also recalled her time with J. Leon Hooper, S.J., and Dan Porterfield (C’83), a few of the many members of the Georgetown family who mentored her.

Friendly City Books shines a special light on Mississippi writers. She dedicates a large portion of the store to works by Mississippians like Tennessee Williams, who was born in Columbus. The bookstore also features authors with ties to Georgetown, like John Thompson Jr.’s autobiography I Came as a Shadow, Professor Marcia Chatelain’s Pulitzer-Prize-winning book Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black America, and Trillion Dollar Triage by fellow alumnus Nick Timiraos (C’06).

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