People’s Books & Culture is a thoughtful, community-driven bookstore. We have been independently owned since our inception in 1962. Twice in our history—once in 1998 and once again in 2018—our store appeared destined for closure. Twice now, the people helped bring PBC back to life through letters, petitions, protests, and collaboration. The bookstore was formerly named the Penn Book Center. In 2020, we renamed the store People’s Books and Culture to reflect its history and gesture toward its future. You can read more about PBC’s history in this Twitter thread compiled from former store manager Keith Helmuth’s book Working in the Commonwealth of Books, as well as from archival photography of West Philadelphia.
Diana is a scholar of 18th and 19th century British literature, mother of two, and co-director of a small social justice nonprofit. She grew up in McLean, Virginia, and completed her PhD in English at Vanderbilt University after receiving her B.A. from Dartmouth College. Her parents fell in love in West Philly while her father was studying fine art at the Penn School of Design. Diana is hard at work on two manuscripts: a literary history of toxic masculinity and a study of Victorian magic-portrait fiction. Her favorite books to read are genre-bending memoirs, feminist theories, cultural histories, crime novels, and historical romances.
A graduate of Haverford College, Matt returned to Philly with his wife, Diana Bellonby, their two kids, and their dog Elsie in the summer of 2019. Matt had just received tenure in the English department at the University of North Alabama, and he was ready for a change. He always dreamed of opening up a bookstore. Enter PBC. Matt has co-edited a book and written articles and book reviews on early American and Native American literature. He enjoys reading science fiction, history, and political science. He typically bikes to work, and if you ask him nicely, he’ll deliver a book on his bike to your stoop.