As the new owners of Bay Books in Bay St. Louis, Kristen Tusa and Jeremy Burke are off on a new adventure. Both grew up in this Hancock County town and wanted the book store to continue when the former owner announced she was moving to Italy.
Although she says she may be late discovering it, Tusa recently read fellow Mississippian Neil White’s memoir In the Sanctuary of Outcasts. “I recommend it as good reading and a reminder to all of us of what matters most in life,” she said. “We all have ideals and goals for ourselves, as Neil White did, but once we look at others and what they’re going through, it changes our outlook.”
Now available in soft cover, the book relates the 18 months White spent in a federal prison in Carville, La., a facility that is also the country’s last leprosarium. As the former newspaper editor, magazine publisher and advertising executive, learned from the leprosy patients, who are isolated from their families and society, his life goals changed. White now lives in Oxford where he operates a small publishing company.
“From reading the book, I gathered that White was upset and embarrassed by things he had done,” Tusa said. “I think he learned from his experience in Carville. That’s a good lesson for all of us.”
Tusa and Burke took over Bay Books on April 1 and have been encouraged by the reception from the community. “In the short time we’ve been here, many people have come in and thanked us for buying the book store,” Tusa said. “The community needs it, and we will have a lot of community involvement.”
Burke and Tusa have plans to start a used book section and to enhance and enlarge the children’s area. They also hope to have more in-store events and will continue hosting book signings. Dean Faulkner Wells will be there April 19. As a dormitory counselor at St. Stanislaus, a college preparatory boarding school for boys, Tusa is interested in partnering with local schools.
“People treasure having a local book store because it’s a service and they like the personal contact,” she added. “It’s not just about buying books.”