Maybe you clicked on this link for a new list of independent bookstores, maybe you’re looking to contribute as an ally (or co-conspirator), or maybe you’re seeking better representation in a white-dominated book industry. Small businesses suffer in economic downturns, but the pandemic has disproportionately affected the Black community, including Black-owned businesses.
Though nonfiction books by Black authors and about racial inequity have been flying off the shelves since the Black Lives Matter movement of the summer of 2020 protesting police brutality, the world of books remains overwhelmingly white. Instead of opting for the path of Amazon instant gratification and stuffing the already-full pockets of the one percent, you can explore and order from independent bookstores. Furthermore, your choice can support the Black community, preferably your local Black community. Check out these Black-owned independent bookstores if you happen to be in California. If you identify as white, keep in mind that allyship goes beyond economic support. Keep working to educate yourself and others so we can manifest positive change.
Ashay by the Bay – Vallejo
Owner Deborah Day opened the bookstore in 2000. Ashay by the Bay focuses on selling African American and multicultural children’s books. Young readers sorely lack diversity in their literature, and Day’s business provides them with great representation. They aim to empower children through education. If you aren’t local to Vallejo, they ship through the United States, Canada and other countries.
Carol’s Books – Sacramento
Check out the wealth of photos on Carol’s Books’ website and social media. If you’re local, then make sure to scroll through their upcoming events. They’re super into connecting with customers and authors. Outreach is the name of the game for independent bookstores, and their booksellers make appearances in various states.
D3 Comic Book Spot – Richmond
The only place to shop for kid-friendly comic books and graphic novels, D3 Comic Book Spot caters to all ages and interests. They welcome nerds of any kind, whether you’re a collector, a Marvel geek or animé lover. For fan apparel, dive into their T-shirt selection.
Eso Won Bookstore – Los Angeles
James Fugate has owned Eso Won Bookstore since 1990, and an impressive stream of Black authors pass through his doors, such as former President Barack Obama, the legendary Toni Morrison and national correspondent for “The Atlantic,” Ta-Nehisi Coates. One of the biggest Black-owned bookstores, not only in California but in the US, Eso Won experienced an enormous surge in business in 2020. Help keep the surge going.
Malik Books – Los Angeles
12 million titles are now available at Malik Books. They want to provide readers with as much diversity as possible and give voices to those whose voices are often silenced. Head to the website and purchase from their inventory or contribute to their GoFundMe.
Marcus Books – Oakland
Bookstore founders Drs. Julian and Raye met in college and named their business after writer and political activist Marcus Garvey. Marcus Books has a more academic and political atmosphere than some of its counterparts. Like its counterparts, on the other hand, it has also hosted famous Black authors. Go hang out in Oakland for the day and stop by this incredible book mecca.
Reparations Club – Los Angeles
The audiobooks section of Reparations Club will satiate any audio/bibliophile. Create a free account and sign up for a monthly membership if you’re an avid listener. They even have playlists curated by passionate booksellers, such as Best-Sellers Curated by Blackness. As for their physical books selection, you’ll want for nothing. Queer literature? Art? Adapted for Film/TV? They’ve likely got it.
Shades of Afrika – Long Beach
Skin and hair care, home aroma oils – and books? Sign up all of Long Beach for a visit to Shades of Afrika. Their mission is to educate about the Afrikan diaspora. The combination of hair products geared toward Black womxn and diverse children’s books makes Shades of Afrika a unique shopping experience for those who enjoy reading and self care.
Underground Books – Sacramento
The self-proclaimed lit hub of Oak Park opened in 2003. Since the closing of Oak Park’s one and only library in the 70s, members of the community had a mission to improve educational accessibility for the neighborhood. Thus, Underground Books was born. Manager Georgia “Mother Rose” West acts as the glue of the bookstore and ensures that the community has everything it needs.
Old Capitol Books – Monterey
Head to Old Capitol Books for new and used reads, philosophy, ethnic studies, LGBT+ books, science fiction and more. They have it all. Like many of the other bookstores on this list, they also root themselves in community and art. The space for Old Capitol is a historic building with high ceilings and beautiful architecture. What better place for browsing?
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