Interviews

Semicolon is Chicago’s Newest Bookstore

Semicolon's proprietress DL Mullen on creating an "overwhelming sense of home"

Last month, DL Mullen opened Semicolon, Chicago’s newest bookstore. Located at 515 North Halsted Street, Semicolon is a bookstore-gallery hybrid, a place for visitors to enjoy books and visual art. It is also the only bookstore in the city owned by a black woman. Mullen holds a PhD in literary theory and has experience writing exhibition copy for art museums, including LACMA.

The Chicago Review of Books asked Mullen what inspired her to open a bookstore-gallery, and what she hopes book lovers will take away from visiting the place.

CHIRB

Tell me about how Semicolon came about. Have you always dreamed of opening a bookstore?

DL Mullen

My dream has always swayed between owning a bookstore or a library — basically just having the ability to make a living while being surrounded by hundreds of books all day! When I began curating for museums I was like, “Wait, maybe I should surround myself with books AND art!” That’s how Semicolon came about.

CHIRB

Do you see a relation between the written word and visual art?

DL Mullen

I feel like words are a form of art in themselves, so it only made sense that I bring the relation to light with customers. Just as words do, visual art also creates a feeling that can’t be replicated or explained. I enjoy being able to play on the psychology of it all.

CHIRB

Why the name “Semicolon?”

DL Mullen

I love the idea of a sentence’s ability to continue forward whenever the author so chooses. It’s so applicable to other aspects of life, which is what I thought made it perfect for the space I was creating.

CHIRB

What do you hope visitors take away from the experience of visiting Semicolon (other than a book or two)?

DL Mullen

I hope that visitors leave Semicolon having experienced an overwhelming sense of home. I’ve curated the space to be comfortable and inviting, from the smells to the choice of seemingly random art. Beyond books, I love the idea of people walking out of the store saying “That was nice.”

CHIRB

What’s your favorite book, and why?

DL Mullen

My favorite book is Less by Andrew Sean Greer. It has so much depth hidden behind wittiness and also gives me allll the feels! A super-close second fave is Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff. I’ve noticed that it’s one of those books that people either adore or abhor — I happen to enjoy being one of the former.

Shelf view from Semicolon’s seating
Picture by Danielle Mullen

1 comment on “Semicolon is Chicago’s Newest Bookstore

  1. Katie A. Schneider

    Looks wonderful– can’t wait to visit!

    Like

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