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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


I had the honor of getting to know Carla when I was a sales representative for Penguin books from '89-92. The former sales rep, Clinton Froscher, took me to her and Barbara's store during my "training" week, and said that Carla and Barbara were two of the best booksellers and people that he'd ever met, and he was so right. As an expat New Yorker, new to DC, she took me under her wing. I was blessed to know her as a friend, mentor, and spiritual soul mate in literature and life. After I moved back to New York, I would always try to seek out Carla at the various BEA conventions in whatever city they'd take place. We'd catch up on books, people, DC and the crazy world in which we live. This past fall, I was in DC with my colleague, Michael Jacobs, and we had a wonderful visit at the store with Babara, and I gave Carla a call at home. It was great to catch up with her. I will miss Carla dearly. She was a great friend and a passionate inspiration. My thoughts and prayers are with her immediate and P&P family, sBarbara, and all who had the pleasure of knowing this spectacular woman.

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

When Gunilla and I moved to

When Gunilla and I moved to Washington DC we found this lovely bookstore just a short walk from our Jocelyn Street-home. We have followed the development of the store since - the move across the street, the expansion - with great admiration for the entrepreneurial spirit of Carla and Barbara. We were sad to hear of the passing away of Carla. We will be with you on the web today.
Gunilla and Janerik

Carla and roots

As we affectionately and reverently remember Carla, it is important also to know wherefrom she came: a loving, caring, boisterous, outgoing, embracing, laughing and vigorously intelligent and progressive family. Love you all you Furstenbergs!


As their architect, it was a truly remarkable time working with Carla, Barbara and the Politics & Prose team. About 8 years ago, there was a big campaign to expand and improve Politics and Prose. Carla wanted an elevator for folks and baby strollers to more easily get down to stacks and cafe. Carla and Barbara worked so well together as partners and their community spirit is heart warming. Carla's and Barbara's energy infused us all - they really anchor that part of Connecticut Avenue! With a fine sense of diplomacy, they finessed moving the liquor store to make more reading room. Carla's leadership and good natured attitude made a complicated series of tasks more fun to maneuver through. I think Carla was a wonderful influence on everybody.
My fondest memory of Carla is when she told me about "Red Diaper Babies" and that she thought of herself as one. Very cute and very political. Carla was all about the community and creativity!

Great Bookseller

Our company, Daedalus Books, has long enjoyed a relationship with Politics and Prose. We have sold P&P remainders for many, many years, and many of us, including myself, consider P&P our neighborhood bookstore. Carla's dedication to supporting writers, both known and unknown, was inspiring. She will be missed by many of us in the book business.—Helaine Harris, Vice President, Daedalus Books

The Best First Boss

I was a high school freshman when I first met Carla. She let me start working at Politics and Prose as the youngest person there, trusting me in a way that someone in a comparable position of power might not have done. I worked in Children's, very far from her upstairs office, but she came down often, and recognized all of us in Children's by name. She was one of the most widely knowledgeable and uncompromisingly powerful people in my young life, and that's the way I'll remember her- scouring the shelves of new fiction, remarking on which books she'd read and knew would be good. She was always right.

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 Cohen

There must be a special place in Heaven for booksellers.

Carla' passing...

I feel as though I've been living under a rock! I happened upon P&P tonight...(for the first time ever) after reading an of my brides wrote on Denaw Mengetstu. Denaw mentioned you guys...and being inquisitive...I came to check out you.

And what struck me most...was the passing of Carla. While I love books and was intrigued by your store...what really resonated with me was that fact that this woman, named Carla...was so influential to so many and for such a long time. You know it reminds me of that saying we're all used to hearing now-a-days...something to the effect of...there are many people who cross your path in life...yet there are few who leave tracks...such as Carla did...

I burst out laughing after I read the comment from you " But as she would wish, the business of the store and our event schedule continues as usual. We are pleased to welcome both Edwidge Danticat here tonight and V.S. Naipaul at Sixth & I; local talents who have become nationally celebrated authors"

Bravo to you and yours for the show must go on!!! I think I'm going to hop on down to our local book store, Bank Square Books, here in beautiful Mystic, CT in honor of Carla! :) Looks like I just might meet some very wonderful peeps!

Peace & :)

Marie Tyler Wiley

ps. I'm sure Carla's up there pleased as punch that she meant so soooo many! :)

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 Cohen

Although I did not know her personally, I feel sadness at losing someone who so much contributed to my own sense of home at the bookstore. I have only scratched the surface of the many experiences possible at P&P and am grateful to her for enlarging my life. With my sincere sympathy to Carla's family and friends, Ellen Casse

In Memory of Carla Cohen

During a recent visit to Politics and Prose I made a short video in memory of Carla:

Sad loss

My family and I have been coming to the bookstore for over 20 years. We will miss Carla's warm and exuberant personality, and her helpful suggestions on books for my son at every stage of his development over the years. Our deepest condolences to Carla's family, and to Barbara and all the staff at Politics and Prose. Julie, Lenny and David Taboh.

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.

We'll miss Carla

Carla always greeted me and my cart of video equipment with a friendly smile and a bit of conversation. She always told me about the good Politics and Prose events I missed (and Book TV missed). At the conclusion of an interesting and successful event she frequently said, "I'm so glad you were here tonight." I've always felt very welcome and comfortable in the store thanks to Barbara and Carla and the entire staff. I sometimes joke with colleagues that it is my home away from home. I also appreciated Carla's fierce honesty (especially in retrospect). She didn't hesitate to critique a C-SPAN or Book TV program or decision and I prefer that to polite humdrum. When I poked my head in the office there was always a smile and a pleasant greeting...and knowing she is gone will make my next visit to Politics and Prose a profoundly different experience. But Carla's spirit will live on in the simple forum for ideas that flow out from the same old wooden podium, to the dozens of brains in the store, and then to the car radios, computers, ipods, kitchens and living rooms across the United States. -Richard Hall

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


Barbara and staff,

Carla will live on in all our wonderful memories. One of my most vivid is when I came to the bookstore to get my summer reading before traveling. Carla saw me with an armful of books and said she could recommend better ones. And she did, including Out Stealing Horses.

We then talked about War and Peace which we both were re-reading. It was a long conversation as the book deserves and one full of opinions!

She made a mark, created a village and leaves an emptiness.

With deepest sympathy

Bonnie Cohen



I was saddened to read of Carla's passing in the NYT last week. But it made me think back to the hours I spent with you and Carla surrounded by stacks and stacks of books in in the early 80's, shortly after you opened the first bookstore. We shared a love of books and a passion for bookstores. My thoughts are with you.
Barbara Krasne
New York City

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

In Memory of Carla Cohen

My visits to Politics and Prose will now be bitter sweet because I know I won't catch that broad smile and brief hug from Carla. She and I go back to the early 70's when my family relocated here from California. We lived for a short while on North Portal St. prior to moving off Military RD. My three kids and I were Connecticut Ave. hang outers and what a delight to see Carla so excited about the growth of the book store she co-owned with Meade, this was truly her passion. The last time I spoke with her she had been galvantly struggling with the disease that robbed us of her infectious presence. I walked with her to the car that was awaiting her and stuck my head in the window to wish her well. Even though I know she was very ill, I was not prepared for this goodbye. I'm comforted in knowing though, that she is at peace and that the concept of Politics and Prose is a fitting legacy and tribute to a life well lived.
Roscoe Dellums and the Dellums Children

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

It Seems Like Yesterday

We had just arrived in DC. It was September 1977 and we went to Tifereth Israel with my cousins Diana and Milton Engel. They insisted that we go "downstairs" and join the congregation for kiddush. It was their friend's the Naftalins' child's Bar Mitzvah and the entire congregation was invited for lunch. Coming from a very formal synagogue in Montreal, this was unthinkable! As I walked into the room, there she was Carla Cohen, in the food service line, welcoming everyone to the event, making sure to remember my name, and sought me out later on encouraging me to join this synagogue.
My next favorite memory is when Carla was going to open Politics and Prose and asked lots of us to help by "pre-buying" our books. What fun we had. I had two accounts - one with my colleague, Diane Choate, and one with my husband, Michael Usher. We spent so many happy hours in the book store and in Carla and David's home. Carla we will miss you and you will be missed by so many people who enjoyed your sense of humor, your generous spirit, and your sharp wit. David, may the memories you cherish of Carla by of help to you in your time of sorrow. With our deepest sympathy, Marion and Michael Usher

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

Salute to Carla!!

What an incredible loss to us personally and to the entire neighborhood which Carla and Barbara turned into a real community oasis. As I told Carla many, many times over these 25 years--you changed by life by bringing P & P to my neighborhood and all these years would not have been the same without your presence. Carla has always been welcoming both at TI many years ago when we joined as brand new parents and at P & P. She always took an interest in our family and our kids (and even knew them by name) over all these years. She was very warm whenever we entered the store and she would flash her wonderful smile. I actually remember way at the beginning of P & P when I wanted to give money to help it get going but you all had enough by that time. I will miss her exuberance and enthusiasm towards us who came by and her sharing ideas and suggestions for good books to read. In fact, my kids told me that the gift cards we got them to P & P for their birthdays were one of the best gifts they ever got from us. Thank you, thank you, Carla and Barbara, for creating such a warm community of book-lovers, intellectual stimulation, and legacy for generations of us.
Thanks to you, David, and your family for sharing her with us!!
Lynda Mulhauser


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

A Treasure

Feisty Carla and magical Politics and Prose will always be part of Washington. As a neighbour of 20 years, I can vouch that Carla and P&P were evening entertainment, a great way to learn, expose one's brain, expand one's awareness - and to meet personal rock stars - authors! (Half of P&P clients' lives, I suspect, are lived at a subterranean level (with books), and Carla and her staff ensured our idiocyncracies were appeased and nurtured with quality. Highly opinionated, she queried what literary tastes her clients held, and then matched them. As others have noted, she occasionally chastised her clients for their taste... No equal opportunity for literary mediocrity there!

It is to Carla that we owe much that is spirit and soul and awareness building. Her absence will be mourned, but her values are ubuquitous - in the books she believed in, the salon she created, her commitment to the freedom to choose and lead and argue and build...She lived all of her values out loud, and will forever be an example to us all.

Carla's innovations

Among the many bright ideas of Carla was starting Works Seekers in the early '80s, a loose group of Washingtonians either looking for work or to change careers. The group encouraged Carla to follow her dream and start a full-service book store and me to start a health policy magazine. I am grateful for both. Carla's innovative spirit will be missed. Jane Stein

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.

Carla Cohen

I was VERY sorry to hear about Carla's passing. This is a great loss to our neighborhood and to the world of books. I have been a customer at Politics and Prose for over 20 years and also served for a while as a photographer at their speaker events, and I was always impressed with Carla's good judgement in picking books and speakers and in running the store. She was a great lady, we will miss her very much. My deepest sympathies to her family, to Barbara, and to Carla's colleagues at the store.

E. David Luria

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

What a Class Act!

While I was unacquainted with Ms.Cohen personally, only a class act could have created and sustained such a unique bookstore -- D.C.'s premier literary salon and likely the finest bookstore I've had the privilege of enjoying -- just upon walking in one feels comfortable and ennobled and intellectually provoked.

Grieving for a unique force

Losing Carla feels like a force has left the neighborhood and the universe: a force for goodness and intelligence and innovation. I am blessed to have
moved to the neighborhood about the same time P&P opened its doors. Although she transcended it, Carla is synonymous with an idea that became a
phenomenon. I proudly identify my home's location as the Politics and Prose neighborhood. It is is an identify way beyond a geographic location, locally and globally. Beyond Politics, it is personal: Carla always had a smile and a thought to share, and shared them so generously to make our space a better place. Our entire family grieves, along with Barbara, the staff, Carla's family, and our community.


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 (and Barbara) taught

Carla (and Barbara) taught me how to be a book lover, and then gave me the chance to become one as a P&P staff member for several years, as a caring and nurturing employer, introducing me to a whole community, with a diverse membership, who shared that commitment. As members of that community that she brought together, she gave us much to be thankful for that we, and her family, will carry with us.