Our newest retailer feature is on Skunk Cabbage Books in Chicago! This independent bookstore and community workshop space aims to remind us of human’s own place in our ecosystems, stocking local artists and hosting teach-ins and skill-share events. What is a skunk cabbage, you might be asking? Well, let Skunk Cabbage’s owner Ren tell you all about it in our interview included below:

Owner Ren standing in front of the door to Skunk Cabbage Books.

(Skunk Cabbage/A Klass)

Interview conducted over e-mail.

Hi there! Can you introduce yourself?
Hello! I’m Ren (they/them) and I’m the owner of Skunk Cabbage Books. I like slithering around in the woods, reading sad fiction and weird comics, and making art badly. I live with my spouse, a dog, and a lizard on Chicago’s northwest side.

Tell us a bit about your shop!
We’re a neighborhood bookstore selling new books, zines, and work from local artists. We also host workshops led by folks from our community. We’re specifically interested in books, projects, and programming that focus on ecology, the environment, and the natural world with the hopes of shrinking the gap between humans and the more-than-human. Skunk cabbages are a cool native plant that come up early in the spring – they generate their own heat to melt the snow and soften the frozen ground and make way for new spring growth, so that’s the metaphor we’re leaning into.

What’s your personal origin story with indie comics?
I’ve been really into non-fiction comics for as long as I can remember and I was always really jealous of people who could translate their ideas and experiences into little boxes and perfectly stylized images. I started digging deeper into indie comics after I got interested in making my own zines and diary comics in my 20s as a way to deal with big ideas and feelings around mental illness.

Stacks and shelves of comics centered in front of other shelves of books at Skunk Cabbage.

What makes your shop unique/special/interesting?
We’re a scrappy little operation and we do our best to be a spot where you can come and browse the shelves and walk away with something you’ve never heard of but are psyched to discover. We host a lot of events out of our space, mostly programs or workshops that are dreamt up and led by community members. We’ve hosted everything from zine making nights to quilting workshops to bird-themed trivia nights.

How has your community been responding to Silver Sprocket’s comics?
We’re glad that we attract the kind of nerds that love queer comics, so Silver Sprocket is a bit hit around here. We have a hell of a time keeping The Chromatic Fantasy on the shelves right now and Fruiting Bodies is a perennial favorite.

6 book stack centered on an plush couch, including Boys Weekend, The Hard Tomorrow, Under Kingdom, H is for Hawk, How to Do Nothing, and The Forest Brims Over.

Any (non-Silver Sprocket) comics you’d recommend that our fans should check out?
One of my favorite books of 2023 was Mattie Lubchansky’s Boys Weekend. It ticks all my boxes – end-game-capitalist post-apocalypse horror that managed to make me cry. I’m also a big fan of Walter Scott’s Wendy comics, Lee Lai’s Stone Fruit, and anything illustrated by Marie Enger.

Skunk Cabbage Books is open 10-6 on Saturdays, 10-4 on Sundays, and 11-6 Tuesday-Friday at 2826 N. Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60618. As a community space, they also require all visitors to mask up along with providing ventilation for the space, which we always love to see. You can follow Skunk Cabbage on Instagram along with skunkcabbagebooks.com, thanks for chatting with us Skunk Cabbage crew!