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In Memoriam - Carla F. Cohen (1936-2010)

Carla CohenIt is with deep sorrow that we wish to inform our friends and neighbors that our beloved store co-owner and founder Carla Cohen died at 8 a.m. on Monday, October 11, 2010. For all of us here at Politics & Prose, it is difficult to believe that someone larger than life is gone, and I will deeply miss my friend and partner.

A funeral was held at Tifereth Israel on Wednesday, October 13. Her family has requested that, if you feel so moved, contributions may be made to Jews United for Justice, the Washington Literacy Council or Community Hospices.

This has been a sad time, and we thank our many friends, customers, and colleagues in the book industry for their thoughtful tributes and condolences written below. Reading through the anecdotes, I am continually reminded how many aspects there were to Carla and about the abundance and variety of her talents. Some of you have asked to see the eulogies presented at the funeral, so we have provided them here through these links:

In Memory of Carla Cohen - Comments by her brother, Mark Furstenberg
In Memory of Carla Cohen - Comments by Rabbi Gerry Serrota
In Memory of Carla Cohen - Comments by her son, Aaron Cohen

In Memory of Carla Cohen - Comments by Rabbi Ethan Seidel
In Memory of Carla Cohen - Comments by Betsy Levin 

Please read the obituary from the Washington Post here.

We also welcome and encourage your condolences, tributes, and memories here.

We will hold a memorial tribute in the store on Sunday, November 21 at 1 p.m. 


Carla F. Cohen


            Born in Baltimore April 11, 1936, Carla was the first of the six children of Frank and Edith Furstenberg.

            Her family, liberal activists, vigorous advocates of civil rights and civil liberties, leaders in social work and social democracy, invested her with values and passion that formed the bedrock of her life.

            She was educated in the public schools of Baltimore and was graduated by Antioch College in 1958.  She married David Cohen of Philadelphia that year (They had met in the student branch of Americans for Democratic Action) and they settled briefly in Philadelphia where she studied for her Masters Degree in City Planning at the University of Pennsylvania.

            Naturally attracted to the planning views of Cushing Dolbeare and Elizabeth Montgomery who became her mentors, Cohen joined a wave of democratic planning that was a reaction to the prevailing orientation -- centralized, paternalistic planning whose strongest and best-known advocate was the New York’s Robert Moses.

            Cohen worked for the Philadelphia Housing Association, a citizen organization devoted to planning from the bottom up through neighborhood building.  That experienced her co-founding Planners for Equal Opportunity.

            In 1963 she and her husband moved to Washington. He became the legislative representative of ADA, she to the Washington Planning and Housing Association. 

            In 1977, Cohen, then working for Cong. Henry Reuss’ Subcommittee on the City, organized an inquiry into how cities can grow old gracefully.  She then became a special assistant to Robert Embry, Jr., a Baltimorean like her, a pioneer in the uses of local resources to build neighborhoods, who was Assistant Secretary for Housing in the Carter Administration. 

            Among her proudest achievements of that period was the grant to Miami Beach that she orchestrated; it seeded the revival of South Beach’s Art Deco hotels which at that time were dilapidated rooming houses and her work in advancing the needs of those forced to relocate by urban renewal.

            Settled in an imposing grey stone house in the Shepherd Park neighborhood of Washington, Cohen and her husband who was by then the president of Common Cause became counter-fashionable hosts of an “intellectual salon.”  Friends like Mark and Ann Shields, Seymour and Elizabeth Hersh, Father Robert Drinan and many others came to dinner parties and Jewish holiday celebrations to enjoy Cohen’s robust cooking and the household’s conversation about current affairs.

            Her governmental career, however, came to an end in 1981 with the election of Ronald Reagan.  Politically in the wilderness, Cohen knew she had to reinvent herself.  She founded “Work-seekers,” an informal group of refugees from Democratic administrations that met regularly at her home to discuss their temporarily stalled careers.

            Cohen’s own choice for a new career came organically from her lifelong passion for reading.  It made sense.

            As a child, she had been able to escape the inevitable chaos of a robustly noisy Jewish family by burying herself in books.  As a child she sat in her family’s living room never hearing the quarrelsome shouts of her siblings.  (“Car, Car,” they would say, trying to attract her attention, nearly always failing.)

            As an adolescent, she read.  As a student, she read.  Books were a constant in her life.  Even while at HUD, she escaped the office at lunch hour to browse in a L’Enfant Plaza bookstore.

            Entrepreneurship, however, was not in her background.  Her maternal grandfather, Sidney Hollander, had fled his pharmaceutical company as early as possible to become social activist and Jewish philanthropist.  Her paternal grandfather, Marcus Furstenberg, a Swedish refugee, a watchmaker in Indianapolis, was a socialist scornful of business. 

            Nearly everyone in her family was in social service.  “Social work is the family business,” they used to say.

            Indeed, Cohen’s entire background was anti-business so it was amusing to her family and all who knew her that Cohen decided to start a bookstore.  It was, however, just like the contrarian character she had inherited that she chose a part of retail then being nationalized.  It was a time at which small, independent bookstores were beginning to perish in large numbers.

            Politics & Prose opened in 1984, a small storefront on Connecticut Avenue.  It was entirely an invention of Cohen’s passions.  It specialized in current affairs, gave a platform to Washington writers, featured well-known and unknown novelists, and devoted itself to customer service.  It was almost immediately a great success.

            In 1989, P&P moved across the street to larger quarters.  During the subsequent 21 years, it expanded bit by bit, taking over the basement of its space, then expanding to the store next door, then doing it again. 

            Cohen and Barbara Meade, who joined her as the store manager at the start, and a partner in 1985 worked imaginatively to make books and authors known. The partnership was a resounding success: each reinforced the other’s strength to bring about a high quality of shared leadership. The store attracted a devoted staff of book-lovers who came and stayed not because the store paid well (it didn’t, though better than the rest of the industry), but because working in the store, they could express with creative activity their own passion for books and readers.

            And so P&P created a membership program to emphasize its community.  It started book lectures that over the years expanded and expanded until during many times of the year, there are two or three a day.  Book groups, lectures, a newsletter, then a email newsletter, discussion groups, blogs -- every avenue explored to create excitement about books.

            Although always open to books and ideas, Cohen’s passion for writers and writing was hardly indiscriminate.  Fully empowered by a family sense of righteousness, Cohen sometimes responded to customers in a less-then-politic way:  “Why would you want to read that; it’s dumb,” she would say to a customer asking for a book of which she disapproved.  “You would enjoy this a lot more -- and it’s a far better book.”

            (The irony of being a businesswoman was never lost on her.)

            Cohen took a special pleasure in discovery -- of books certainly, but of writers as well.  Among the beneficiaries of her taste and intellect was Wallace Stegner who gave her credit for having helped elevate him from regional novelist of the western U.S. to a writer of great national importance.  And when he visited P&P for a book-signing in April 1989, the line to his table went through the bookstore, out the door, and down the sidewalk of Connecticut Avenue.  That sort of thing happened frequently.

            Politics & Prose became a must-stop on the book tours of prominent authors.  And then it became a stop to be sought -- and then one badly needed.  And as it became so important to Washington, it became a model in other cities particularly as it flourished when other bookstores closed and e-books entered the market and book readership changed.

            Cohen’s colleagues recognize her accomplishments.  She and Meade, her partner, were named booksellers of the year by Publisher’s Weekly in 1999.  In 2010, they were given the Legacy Award of the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association. They also got an award from Roundhouse Theater of Washington, D.C, for their outstanding contributions to regional literary and creative communities.

            Cohen and her husband are recipients of the Jewish United Justice Fund’s Abraham Joshua Heschel Social Justice Award on October 24, 2010.

            The New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association created the Carla Cohen Free Speech Award, which goes to a children’s book that best exemplifies the ideals of the First Amendment. 

Cohen was diagnosed late last year with cholangiocarcinoma, a rare and particularly loathsome form of cancer, that she fought with the support of her family and the guidance of Johns Hopkins cancer care team and Community Hospices. 

            She is survived by David Cohen, her husband of 52 years, her son, Aaron Cohen (and Nina Del Rio) of New York, her daughter, Eve Cohen (and Richard Stanley) of San Francisco, her grandchildren, Ry and Georgia, her 100 year-old mother, Edith Furstenberg of Baltimore, and her five siblings, Mark Furstenberg of Washington, Frank Furstenberg of Philadelphia, Michael Furstenberg of Boston, Anne Furstenberg of Philadelphia, and Ellen Furstenberg of Philadelphia.


We welcome and encourage your condolences, tributes, and memories here.


CarlaCohen.pdf15.15 KB

"You know I would do anything for you"

Carla Cohen was not only important in exponentially increasing the fabric of literary and enlightened culture in the Washington, DC area, but she also contributed in immeasurable ways to so many individuals on a one to one basis that had an uncanny way of affecting the community. She seemed to intuitively and continuously tap into a universal archetype.

My relationship with Carla started in 1989 when I moved from Canada and started working for the 30th anniversary celebration of the Peace Corps. I walked into P&P, and Carla greeted me with her face lit up as if I were a long lost friend (I had never met her before). I spontaneously asked Carla if P&P would like to set up a table on the Mall under tents and be the bookstore for RPCVs (returned Peace Corps volunteers). You would think I had moved mountains from the appreciation Carla gave me – from then on. She continued to arduously support Peace Corps authors.

A few years later, I brought my children to Ireland to live on the Dingle Peninsula for a semester. Carla and David were going to Ireland, and they stopped to visit. We drove around the spectacular Peninsula with awe followed by a delightful lunch in a quintessentially Irish pub discussing Irish writers and the landscape. How Carla appreciated Irish writers and wrote up her visit in the P&P newsletter.

Each year I asked Carla if she would donate to SOME’s auction (So Others May Eat). Not only did she always donate a basket of books but also told me, Just name the books. Of course Carla’s picks were always the best. Then she would pull out a book that she thought I would like and say, This is for you; you’d like it.” and put it in my hand. Rosemary O'Neill, who coordinated the auction, was also so appreciative of Carla’s continuing, unfaltering generosity.

My daughter Hiliary worked part time at P&P in high school ending up majoring in English Literature.

When the book Ptown (Manso) was first published, I asked Carla if she would like to have a reading (my brother was in it and coming to DC). Even with her time constraints, she not only answered immediately but was so apologetic that there was not enough time in the next month. She said, You know I would like to, but the schedule is full. Geri, you know I’d do anything for you.” That remark warmly stayed with me over the years. Carla was talking about her relationship to every person in her life and every person who came into P&P:
You know I would do anything for you – and she did ……… always!

Carla, You’ve made this world a warm and better place. Your contagious spirit and love will always be here.

With appreciation and admiration, Geri Critchley

My friend and mentor

It has taken me a long time to write something here as there is so much to say. I had the priviledge of working for Carla and Barbara at Politics & Prose from 1994-2000. When Carla found out that I wanted to not just work in a bookstore, but be a career bookseller, she took me under her wing and taught me exactly what being an independent bookseller is all about. She was generous with her time. Her standards and expectations of me were high, and I did my best to live up to them. There are too many stories and examples of Carla's heart and guidance to mention here, but I can definitively say that I would not be where I am today without her. I will always remember what she taught me. I will always try to be the kind of bookseller she was. I hope that her legacy can live on in the work that I do and that I can make her proud. I miss Carla dearly.

Lanora Hurley
Owner, Next Chapter Bookshop
Mequon, WI

Thank you for memories of choosing books with our grandchildren!

When we come to visit our family, we often stop and enjoy your wonderful bookstore.
All year I have been getting beautifully wrapped books specially chosen by you
and sent by our son and daughter-in-law. I have loved them. My latest memory is
Jim sitting on the floor with Jonah choosing just the BEST dinosaur book ever
and Olivia and I choosing from a big pile of books we made that she could
hardly wait to read (in fact started reading in the car). How much joy Carla's
passion has passed on to families like ours. Thank you. Martha
James and Martha Roark, Atlanta, Ga
Michael Roark and Nancy Zuckerbrod,
Olivia(7) Jonah (5) Eli (1)
Washington DC

Our wonderful friend

I was among the group Carla shepherded through Eastern Europe the year the Soviet Union imploded. It was more than twenty years ago. I learned to love Carla's indefatigable enthusiasm, sparkling intelligence, and great big heart. Having her in our lives and our neighborhood was a blessing. My gratitude to Carla for being Carla and sympathy to all who loved her.

Carla's encouragement

During spells of book writing I'd need a break. Invariably, the walk led me to Politics & Prose. I'd be fretting about the book I was working on as I waltzed into the store, wondering if I was on the mark, if it would hold up, if anyone would care. And Carla, in that big humanistic voice of hers, would tell me the store was waiting on the book, that they were excited about it, that they couldn't wait, but they would wait, and to keep writing. I left energized, enlivened. Her encouragement seemed to make all the difference in the world.
- Wil Haygood

Carla's passing

I moved to the DC area 13 years ago from the bayous of Louisiana. I was so thrilled to meet authors I had read for years; they came into the store like family and were greeted by Barbara and Carla. I never knew either personally, but what a wonderful thing to walk into a store and see the same faces, especially Carla's smiling. She was always bustling around, giving someone advice or just her opinion. I came to feel as though I knew her and I felt like Politics and Prose was a very special place, for someone like me who knew few people when I first came here. Her passing is very sad, but know that she touched people she didn't even know, with her great bookstore and actions. I will miss seeing you, Carla.

her spirit

I went to the funeral service on Wednesday and thought it was so moving and inspirational. Carla was an amazing woman and I know she will be dearly missed. But I think she's sufficiently infused her spirit into many, many people here and beyond, and it will help ensure that her legacy lives on for a long time to come.

- Lance Kramer

Everyone I know . . .

Everyone I know is sad about Carla. She was a presence in all our lives through the books we read and the moments we spent at Politics and Prose. She was generous with her time and energy. I experienced this a few years ago when were planning a driving trip in Mexico. Carla took time to share her knowledge and enthusiasm for Mexico which she loved with us. She will be missed.

Warm regards,

Sandra Berler

Thank you

I respect Carla Cohen greatly. I don't know how to adequately express my
gratitude for contribution to the intellectual and political community in DC.

I know many in DC will mourn
her passing, as I do

Wendy Weiss, Ph.D.,  MBA


To Barbara and the staff,
Please accept my deepest sympathy on the loss of
your partner, colleague, and friend. Even though I never knew Carla personally,
I loved coming into P& P when she was there and listen to her talking with
staff or with another customer. You could not miss her enthusiasm and energy. 
She was unlike any other in the way she listened when I asked her a question.
She got it...right away and made me feel understood.  That is really quite rare

Carla's enthusiasm and joy in her work I is what I wish for all of
us.  Thank you Carla....

Barbara, especially now in these moments of such
loss, I hope you can be comforted by the love and support of this

Thoughts and prayers with you all,

Kate Davis



 I’ve been searching for the
right words for days to say how sad to hear of Carla’s passing. Please know
prayers, and thoughts are being said. She will be deeply missed, and I will
always remember the very first meeting with you and Carla, it was one for the




Love and Memories


I was away in California when Carla died. Just got back and both
Seema and I are very sad to hear of this loss for the Politics & Prose
family and you in particular.

She leaves behind a monument of love and
affection in the bookstore and the many people who consider it their second
home. Our prayers are with you and the Politics and Prose team.


From former staff

Hi Barbara,

I'm sure
you're overwhelmed with messages and cards about Carla, but I just wanted to say
that I'm sorry to hear about Carla's passing and I hope you are doing as well as
can be expected. I'll remember Carla for her enthusiasm for fiction and her
belief in us as readers and booksellers. She made us all want to read as much as
she read and to find books we could love as much as she loved what she read. You
two created something that resonates through the culture, not only in the
newspapers, but for those of us who spent time searching the shelves.

my sympathy,



Warm Memories

Dear Barbara,

For Elena and me, two events at Politics & Prose stand out as typical
"Carla Cohen creations:"

When John Hope Franklin spoke (he was a good friend and big supporter of
the Duke University Press when I was there as Director in the l980s) and
the event was broadcast by BBC.-- we were sitting in the front row and the next
day friends who were watching in Europe called in amazement and said, "We saw
you, in Romania, at Politics & Prose, last night!" An example of the "global
reach" of P&P due to Carla's flare for the original.

During the first Clinton Campaign, Carla arranged a community gathering at
the bookstore so we could all sit around together and watch the debate -- the
one when President Bush looked at his watch and Clinton virtually burst from the
screen with his brilliantly erudite responses to the interviewer's questions.
Carla gave an equally impressive display of her typical ebullience in reaction,
which was worth the evening, by itself.

We loved her, we love you, Barbara, for carrying on and we love Politics
& Prose!

Dick and Elena Rowson

Sad News

We are indeed sad to learn of the death of dear Carla Cohen.  She was so dear to
all of us and we looked forward to catching a glimpse of her in the store when
she was there.  We adore Politics and Prose and salute you and the excellent
staff for being such a great place for so many wonderful books, events and all.
Please extend our sincere condolences to each.  With fondness, Byron and Nancy

Sad News

This news greeted me just now when I returned from a trip and it is too hard to
absorb it-I really can't bear it.  I extend my sympathy to all of you, it must
be so hard for you. Gone, she is still so real...Elizabeth Pennington

Carla Cohen

Carla's presence always brightened my visits to P&P. I was amazed at her knowledge of books, and eagerly awaited my monthly newsletter to see which authors she and Barbara had comming in. I met my significant other at the store in 2001, and together we've attended many of those author events. It was wonderful to see the crowd at Lisner to hear Jonathan Franzen read from Freedom. All of us who love and cherish books will miss Carla, and I extend my deepest sympathies to her family, Barbara and the P&P staff. I hope to attend the memorial at the store.

Dear David,

Dear David,

I am so sorry to hear about this sad news and extend my deepest condolences. Truly Carla was blessed to have you as her partner for 52 years as were you - so dedicated and caring.

Politics and Prose will remain in my mind as I heard Pico Iyer and Rohiton Mistry read their pieces in the mid nineties; I also followed the conversations and readings on TV (Cspan) when I was in New York tow years ago.

May her soul rest in peace and may you have the strength to bear with this untimely loss. Our thoughts are with you and your family in this moment of utter grief. If there is anything I can do please let me know.

In solidarity and peace, Suneeta 

Memories of Carla

I was so saddened to learn of Carla's death. . .I have many, many memories of Carla, and of Politics and Prose - my husband and I won't forget the day the bookstore "moved across the street" - We do remember it was on our wedding anniversary and it was a hot July day. . .we had one of the two pick-up trucks used to load up books and make a u-turn to park in front of the new location.

We have so many terrific memories - and when we left Washington, DC to spend winters in Florida, I told Carla and Barbara my big loss was their store. I would come up to DC and load up on books because I could count of finding so many books I'd love to read just by reading the little comments employees had written. Friends in Florida continue to marvel when I tell them what authors I have heard at P&P.

I joined the first P&P book club and worked hard to keep up w/ the monthly fiction assignment. Carla introduced me to so many authors - but also through the years, she helped me move from an unhappy reader always buying fiction at the airport. . .and feeling unsatisfied. . .to one who knows the names of many, many fiction writers whose books will satisfy, challenge, and make me want to read more.

I feel mighty lucky to have been around for the first 25 years of P&P - and to have known Carla and talked with her frequently during that time. Do others of you remember the fabulous spreads she set out when the store was small - book reviews meant "amazing food" to all of us in those first years.

My husband, Marty Ellman, and I send our condolences to Carla's family, to Barbara, and to all of you
on the staff. Susanne McCoy

One Spirited Bookseller

During BookExpo America in 2000, we invited Carla and Barbara to join our class of prospective booksellers to share their wealth of wisdom about the business of independent bookselling. Both arrived before our set-up time, taken their seats at the front of the room, and began chatting about bookselling with the trainees that had arrived early. Carla and Barbara were so eager to find out who was there, what kinds of bookstores were part of their plans, and how they could help others enter the book community. The store had just won the Publishers Weekly Bookseller of the Year Award in 1999, so reflecting on the business and its rewards came easy. Carla loved addressing the newcomers to the business and you could see her enthusiasm in her eyes. With enthusiasm and a dose of reality, she freely shared her thoughts about her career in bookselling. Like her, others were transitioning from other careers, curious about how things work in the book business, a little scared about taking the leap from other fields, yet encouraged when they could hear ... and see ... that bookselling attracts a special kind of person. Carla was certainly spirited and special. This is the lasting memory I'll hold of her.
To Barbara, the devoted Politics & Prose staff, and Carla's family and many friends, our thoughts are with you at this time of such loss. Godspeed.
Donna Paz Kaufman

Carla's Passing

My wife and I extend our profound sympathy to Carla’s family and Barbara and to the whole Politics and Prose family for this huge loss.
Personally, I'm everlastingly grateful to Carla for her passion about writers and their work and for what she has done to help local writers in particular, including this one, find a platform and audience for their work. She, along with Barbara and their terrific staff, was supportive in every possible way.
Carla saw writers as heroic and writers,especially those from these parts,will forever regard her the same way. She will be sorely missed.
Submitted by Paul Dickson


Last night Dan and I raised our glass and toasted Carla for her dedication to knowledge, her love of politics and prose, her commitment to progressive Jewish ideas, and her love of neighborhood. I knew Carla since college political days and after the fights of the fifties, I was happy to be reunited with her in friendship in our wonderful Shepherd Park neighborhood. She created a political and social center here that, like our neighborhood, is a community of learning. Our best love to David, Eve and Aaron and family and to Barbara and the staff. I will miss seeing her at her desk in the center of the store. Ruth Jordan

Always in Memory

The magnificent life force, the unforgettable personality of Carla Cohen - her immediate smile nuancing her imperative eyes with the skilled intelligence of a great maestro. Carla, today it's raining, but Segovia will play for you, with love and admiration.

A Friend to All...A Life with an Immense Dash

Carla Cohen was a friend to all. It is difficult to write about someone who had such a profound impact on my life and writing. A few years ago, I was working on a final draft of a book, and I approached Carla about it even though we didn't really know each other. She was swamped with work at the store, but she stopped what she was doing and listened as I told her about the book I was writing. Carla said to get her a copy of the manuscript and to make an extra copy for her husband, David. Some weeks later, she made time to speak with me on the phone, and then we arranged to meet with David in her office at the store. Their ideas and suggestions were remarkable! I was incredibly grateful and encouraged -- my spirit renewed. Their ideas made the book much stronger. When it was published a year ago, it was Carla and David who were there for me again. Carla said that she wanted to be at the store to introduce me at my book event even though she and David were supposed to be leaving on a trip that Sunday morning. So she and David postponed their trip by many hours to be present. Waiting for the event to begin, the three of us sat in her office on that Sunday (October 18th, 2009) and chatted about family, friends in common and of course politics. I was so grateful to them, and especially grateful to Carla for believing, for giving me a chance, even gently pushing me to reach higher.

Carla was so full of life, such joie de vivre. Her life was a blessing. I will never forget her, her many kindnesses and our friendship.

In life, we all know our birthdays. And we know death will come though we do not know when. But each of us has a dash between our birth and death that represents our lives with all its ups and downs, hopes, love and laughter. Though her life was cut far too short, Carla made the most of her dash, and she will be sorely missed.

-- Allison Silberberg

What a hole in the universe

My heart goes out to all of you, David, Aaron, Eve, Barbara, and the whole P&P family. Carla has always been one of my heroes in the book business. She was so passionate, so fiercely committed to books, to reading and to readers, to authors, to free speech. And she was never afraid to stand up for her beliefs. I saw her mostly at Book Expo author dinners, seminars, round-table discussions, and I was always happy to find her in attendence, since I knew with Carla there it wouldn't get boring. The sweetest visit with her was at BEA this past spring, when we sat in the Norton booth and talked. She was still so feisty, so passionate, so generous, so down-to-earth. I'll miss her wonderful spirit.

Carole Horne


When I first heard of P&P I was still assigned in Moscow where as a German who does not speak Russian missed book stores and lectures so much. When I learned my next assignment would be Washington D.C. I did a research for book-stores in D.C. and immediately P&P popped up. I sent emails and got prompt replies back from Carla and Barbara and was all excited to soon visit that wonderful book-store. When I first came there and attended a wonderful and interesting lecture which was led by Carla my enthusiasm was immense! Carla presented that young author so warmly and welcoming I was deeply impressed.
Then I came back more often to the store and each time Carla was around or sitting in her office greeting and smiling warmly and friendly!
I was very impressed with her biografy and her nice personality and it was always a joy to see her.

I feel very sorry for her family, friends and the wonderful P&P staff and send my warmest condoleances!



As a first time writer I greeted Carla and Barbara with the news that my book would soon be finished. They were enthusiastic and urged me to notify them of the publishing date. They would help launch my book with an author's presentation. From then on I have felt an even closer relationship to Politics and Prose, to Carla and to Barbara. Carla brought us happiness, a sense of belonging to this wonderful institution loved by both children and adults.

Dorothy Fall

Carla Cohen

When I was a law student at Georgetown Law (1990-1993), I used to go to P&P to buy novels and feel sorry for myself that I had given up fiction writing. When my first novel came out 12 years after I left lawyering, I was fortunate enough to have Carla Cohen support my work and more importantly, to meet her. Somehow, it felt right to be able to tell Carla how I had skulked around her amazing bookstore wondering if I had it in me to be a writer, and of course, she who had known everyone and read everything, listened to me—a beginning writer— and encouraged me to keep writing more books. She introduced me at my hardcover reading, and she was so profoundly kind that I burst into tears. Carla Cohen was beautiful, smart and generous. I feel blessed to know her and to have been in her presence. I send the Cohen family my deepest sympathies. You are in my prayers.
-Min JIn Lee

Owner of Influential D.C. Bookstore Remembered

Lynn Neary of NPR News and All Things Considered stopped by the store yesterday and created this short segment. "Funeral services were held Thursday for Carla Cohen, the co-founder of Washington's influential bookstore Politics and Prose. Cohen and her partner built a carefully curated store that not only survived but thrived in the era of the big box store." Listen to the two minute report here.

A memory from the 80s

Like a number of contributors here I worked for Carla and Barbara in the 80s. Living in Barbara's downstairs apartment, shoveling snow in front of the old store before it moved--those were great times. As others have noted, I'm surprised that the old propane heater didn't level the place (though I remember it as kerosene). My most striking memory about Carla is one fall day when she came in, impatient--she threw her coat on the old chair that used to sit next to the coffeepot and climbed a creaky old ladder. Soon books were flying from the upper shelves. "All these books are ancient! We need to send them back to the publishers and get new ones." But Carla and Barbara always kept a copy of Chaucer on the shelves--though it never sold.

A Vibrant Intellectual Space

My daughter Emily, now a professor of history at Lafayette College, sent me this note when I e-mailed her the Washington Post article about Carla. We never know how much what we do reaches others we never even know. I love Emily’s phrase about Carla creating “a vibrant intellectual space…” A lovely tribute to Carla – an interesting and important life for a woman of her time…

Bob Musil,
Council for a Liveable World

That was a great article.  Makes me appreciate my time in Politics and Prose even more (I wrote a good chunk of my dissertation there!)  What an inspirational story about creating the corner of the world the way you want it.  P & P is such a vibrant intellectual space, I hope the new owners honor that.

- Emily Musil Church

A true book lover...

I was saddened to hear the news on NPR tonight about Carla's passing, as I was driving home. She had a passion for knowledge and a passion for books. I was once in the Cohen's house and was absolutely amazed at how many books they had throughout their home. What was more amazing was that Carla had read all of them and could tell you about any of them.

My deepest sympathies go out to David and the rest of the Cohen family.

D.C. has lost a hero; a champion for the printed word. Carla understood the value and benefit of having a physical book, years before the Internet, Kindle or iPads would threaten them...

In an age where universities are moving to e-books and getting rid of physical books, Politics and Prose is a beacon of hope.

As a friend of mine and a confidant of Carla always says...

"Travel well, go well."

We'll miss you Carla.

Rest in Peace.

A special person, a special place

Carla created what came to be such a special place in our community. For years, it’s been a place I’ve gone to for inspiration and even solace. It’s a place I send visiting friends to as another one of Washington’s great attractions. It’s hard, in fact, to imagine the absence of this wonderful bookstore or its remarkable founder.

A great loss to publishers and authors

I first met Carla in a Greek sandwich shop in New York City shortly after she opened P&P. She came to meet with publishers large and small; to learn as much as possible about what we thought we were doing, and to tell us what she planned to do. So much enthusiasm, and energy! So many good ideas in one little lunch booth! I quickly realized here was an extraordinary woman with great passion for authors and books. Thank you, Carla, for building, nurturing, and sustaining wonderful opportunities for so many publishers and authors over the years!

A wonderful life

I was sitting in the DC Superior Court waiting to be called to be a jury. On my lap were several books from Politics and Prose and the newspaper. When I read the obituary, tears started to fall down my cheek. Carla Cohen was a wonderful woman - full of cheer, a welcoming spirit, and a very high intelligence. I was introduced to Politics and Prose some 15 years ago - and it is all I can do to keep myself from visiting it every weekend. My apartment is groaning with books - all very well read and enjoyed. I cannot tell you enough times how this bookstore has enhanced my life - introducing me to literature and music from all over the world.

Politics and Prose is really a monument to two women - Carla and Barbara - and a lesson to all of us not to abandon our dreams.

Do please convey my deepest sympathy to Carla Cohen's family and to Barbara Meade. And do please hold a commemorative event at Politics and Prose to celebrate the joy and wonder Carla gave to all of us.

Barbara Murek

I’ve been trying to

I’ve been trying to understand my reactions when I got your news. Why this wash of sadness for the death of a woman I’d known at best through her connections with others and of whom, in fact, I was always a little afraid? I think it is like the sadness we feel when reaching the last page of a really good book, one that has carried us fully into its world and made us feel more alive. “Oh no! It is over, over. There will be no more.” I am sad for all of us and send my love to Barbara and condolences to all who were close to Carla.

Jean Nordhaus

I'm so sorry to hear of

I'm so sorry to hear of Carla's passing. She was a force to be reckoned with - kind, caring, outspoken, effusive, opinionated, brilliant, and, most of all, dedicated to her work and to bringing quality literature to the community. I am so proud to have worked at Politics & Prose back in the late '90s, and it is always (and will continue to be) one of my first stops when I am back in the DC area. I know her legacy lives on in her wonderful staff and family, and at every turn you take in the bookstore of which she was such an integral part. Condolences to her family, given and chosen, and to the whole P&P community.

Deepest Sympathies



I just wanted to let you know that we heard of the passing of
Ms. Cohen.  We did know she was ill.  We send along our deepest sympathies,
thoughts and prayers to all of you at Politics & Prose. 


Thinking of you all,


Julie G. Scoville
and the staff of the Round House Theatre


Hello. First my
condolences on the death of Ms. Cohen. I am very sorry for this loss to all
connected to Politics and Prose and thewider community. May
your memories bring you joy and comfort.

 -AB Day

Deep Sympathies

May I express my deepest sympathies on the death of Mrs Cohen, she sounds an
incredible woman and I’m sure she will be sadly missed by all her family, staff
and customers.  I have only just discovered the shop and have found it a true

-Julia Rabbits


I read about Carla Cohen's death today. I'm sure you are all devastated.  I recognized her from her photo as the person who once, on learning that I'm from Kingsport, recommended a book about  AIDS in Johnson City, which I brought back for our library.  I was shocked she had ever heard of Kingsport, much less known it is near Johnson City.
Anyhow, I followed the suggestion in the death notice and sent a contribution  to Jews United for Justice, an organization I never heard of but was sure it's OK considering the source of the suggestion.

I'm sure I'm not the only person outside of DC who joins all of you in remembering her.

-Myra Silver

My condolences

I am a long term admirer of both of you and the wonderful store and space you
have created--a testimony to both of you. My condolences to you and to Carla's
family--she is much missed but her legacy is great and will outlive all of us i
trust. Marge Koblinsky, a neighbor and friend and member of P & P.


I'm so sorry.  Carla made a huge contribution to our community.  Thank you!

-Daniel Seligman 

Sad News

After learning yesterday that Carla died, I visited Politics & Prose. Her death is a great loss and I kept seeing her big presence everywhere in the store in my mind's eye. The last time I saw her was when we were both getting our hair cut at the same beauty salon. Her store and wonderful, famous guests filled a void in my life and provided a fantastic mental stimulation since 1985.

Shirley Johnson


To our friends at Politics and Prose—

I was so saddened to learn yesterday of Carla’s passing. Of all the dedicated booksellers I’ve known over the years (on several continents), Carla and Barbara stand out for their sheer love of books, writers, and readers. The store is our home away from home, the short walk up the avenue always full of anticipation. Do I ever walk past the store without at least gazing in the window? Well, no. Of course not.

Carla had the most fabulous smile—spontaneous, generous, and alert. Her introductions for writers unfailingly made clear that she had really read the work in question, as well as previous books by the author. (Elsewhere this sadly is not the norm.)

We were last in the store on Saturday, when—thanks to the generosity of Carla and Barbara—a significant portion of our purchases went to “Soccer Without Borders.” P & P is not only an anchor of our neighborhood, but a kind of “Books Without Borders,” whose reach extends in all directions.

How lovingly, how gratefully Carla will be missed. She infused our neighborhood with a vibrant literary life, a legacy we will never cease to nurture.

Our best thoughts go out to each one of you at Politics and Prose. May you be comforted in your sorrow, may your grief be leavened with our affection.

Marguerite Feitlowitz


I was lucky enough to work at Politics and Prose 20 years ago. (I still have a "Why did the bookstore cross the road" shirt.) I feel like the store will always be a part of me. After leaving the store, I truly came to appreciate what amazing women Carla and Barbara were to have created and maintained such a wonderful place and still recommend it to everyone I know who is heading to DC. My sincere condolences to the Cohen family, to Barbara and to the entire P&P family. I hope Carla is currently arranging a reading with Wallace Stegner.

Nadine Bennett

What a loss, but what an

What a loss, but what an incredible contribution Carla, along with Barbara, made to Washington: a welcoming haven of words! I wanted to share a link to another mention and tribute to Carla on Amy Young's blog. Amy is the poet laureate of Alexandria and also my sister. She did leave a note here, but I thought you might like to see the full mention: My heart goes out to Carla's family and to Barbara and the whole Politics and Prose community!

-Rachel Young

thanks for the opportunity to know Carla

I had the pleasure of meeting Carla around 25 years ago as the junior Penguin rep working with a newly opened independent store in the District. It seems that everything was there from the beginning- for the store and for Carla. The ambition, the pride of community, the eye for excellence, and the impatience with silliness. Carla was a force of nature, and the store remains one. She, Barbara, and the staff expected great things to happen and then made it so. It was great fun to be even a little part of that.

Bookselling is better for having had Carla in its ranks. Her joy and enthusiasm served as a model for booksellers, reps, and publishers- reminding us all of why we were doing this work.

Carla will be greatly missed, and never be forgotten.
Paul Von Drasek

Carla became a neighborhood Icon

Carla was larger than life and I first met her when she opened the doors of Politics and Prose across the street from its present location. In those early days,book lovers would crowd in the back room, some sitting on the floor to hear an author or discuss a book. I have watched the bookstore grow under the devotion and love of its owners Carla and Barbara.

Politics and Prose became for me a neighborhood gathering place where I often met friends. It was also a place of refuge and comfort from the busyness of life. Carla when she was there, greeted and chatted with customers. This place for me is truly a neighborhood spot. I will miss her.

I send sincerest condolences to Carla's family, Barbara and the Politics and Prose staff.

Jessica Hodge

where are you?

We want you to come tomorrow. Dad was so moved as I just read this to him.

Please visit us during Shiva.