Back Home Books

GERRY – While the Scandinavian Folk Festival invites area residents to celebrate being “Nordic for a weekend,” Christina Saarinen celebrates it every day.

Saarinen, a Buffalo native, married a Finn and lived in Finland for several years, steeping herself in Scandinavian languages and cultures. When she, her husband and newborn son returned to Western New York in 2011, she wanted Finnish language and culture to continue being a part of her family’s daily life. Saarinen found it difficult to find Finnish language books for her child and wanted to expose him to Finnish classics such as the popular Moomin series of children’s books by Finnish author Tove Jansson.

“I have a son and I wanted him to be able to learn and maintain Finnish, so I looked around and there was no place to find books,” she said. “The shipping can be really prohibitive.”

That’s why she started Back Home Books, a business that sells books imported from Scandinavia. Saarinen will be bringing her books as a first-time vendor at the 13th annual Scandinavian Folk Festival from Friday to Sunday at the Gerry Rodeo Grounds in Gerry.

Gwen Axelson, a festival organizer in charge of coordinating vendors, said Back Home Books is the first vendor to sell exclusively books.

“We thought it’d be a nice addition to have a bookseller and something different for people attending the festival,” Axelson said. “It’s always nice to have new vendors because you don’t want people to come to expect the same thing all the time.”

Saarinen originally started Back Home Books to sell books from Finland, but is beginning to expand to other Scandinavian books. Swedish is the second national language in Finland, spoken natively by a small part of the population, and taught to everyone in school. Finland has had many prominent authors who wrote in Swedish, and Swedish literature is available in Finland.

“While I was in Finland, I studied Swedish and learned about Swedish literature,” she said. “It’s a natural step to also include Swedish books in my business especially considering the Swedish population in Jamestown.”

Among the folk dancing, food vendors and kubb games, Saarinen will have a booth set up selling a variety of books from Finland and Sweden for adults and children: Moomin picture books and novels for children by Tove Jansson, Pippi Longstocking books by Swedish author Astrid Lindgren, dictionaries, how to learn Swedish and Finnish textbooks, cookbooks, travel books, comic books and crime fiction.

“I’m interested in meeting more Scandinavian people from Western New York,” she said. “Also, I’m on a mission to share Finnish literature. Because Finland is a small country with an unusual language, its authors and books aren’t widely known. So I’m hoping to expose readers to something new and different that they haven’t heard of before.”

Some of these, plus additional titles, are available on Saarinen’s website backhomebooks.net. She can also do custom orders for specific titles. In between bites of a korv burger, stop by Back Home Books’ booth to celebrate Finnish and Swedish literature.