Washington Post: Bookstores by and for people of color are finding their industry niche

By Marissa J. Lang (Washington Post)

May 1, 2018

Inside a bookstore inside an arts center in one of the city’s most underserved neighborhoods sit stacks of books for what Angela Spring calls “the other D.C.”

It’s the D.C. that sits apart from gilded towers of governance. The D.C. not readily found in children’s history books. The D.C. that is black, brown, immigrant, other.

Spring, owner of Duende District, a pop-up bookstore that exclusively carries books written by and about people of color, gestures to titles such as “An African American and Latinx History of the United States,” a look at the shared experience and struggle of black and Latino people over more than 200 years, and “The Poet X,” a novel written in verse by District poet Elizabeth Acevedo.

On this day, Spring was working out of MahoganyBooks, which in November became the first new bookstore to open east of the Anacostia River in more than 20 years.

In their efforts to reclaim literature for people of color and underserved communities, these small, independent bookstores have managed to find their place in an industry dominated by Amazon.com. Finding a niche, bookstore industry experts said, is the path forward and has spurred an increase in independent bookstores throughout the District and nationwide.

“We’re a town full of people of color, full of people from all over, and I think a lot about how we can best serve these communities,” Spring said. “There are very few spaces that are not just for white people, and as a person of color, you’re taught that that’s just the way it is. So with Duende District, I want people of color to come into a space like this — a gorgeous, welcoming, sensory space — and feel like, yes, this is all for you.”

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Angela Maria Spring