In celebration of Black History Month, we asked contributors to Bigger Than Bravery: Black Resilience and Reclamation in a Time of Pandemic to recommend their favorite Black-owned bookstores. Shopping at an indie store means investing in intentional programming, including readings and discussion groups, and fostering community spaces. Read on to learn how you can support the missions of these stores, as well as the larger literary ecosystem. And don’t forget to show them some love by plucking your copy of Bigger Than Bravery—and our contributors’ books—from their shelves!
Rofhiwa Book Café
recommended by Alexis Pauline Gumbs and Jasmin Pittman Morell
Open just shy of two years, Rofhiwa Book Café in Durham is a thoughtfully designed space, combining stellar, locally sourced coffee with a carefully curated selection of books by Black writers. Rofhiwa’s founder, Boitumelo Makhubele, and curator, Naledi Yaziyo, say that they “value books as repositories for collective knowledge.”
But their gorgeous indoor space houses more than books and coffee; it’s a gathering place for community, from book launches to readings to art exhibits. Rofhiwa’s impact on its community can’t be overstated. In a commentary for Cardinal & Pine, Yaziyo wrote, “In the year that Rofhiwa Book Café has been in operation in East Durham, it has been my singular mission to expose Black children to books about Black children in other places and other parts of the world.”
Bonus! For a limited time, Lookout is partnering with Rofhiwa to offer readers a free “Black Resilience, Black Reclamation” enamel pin when you purchase Bigger Than Bravery from them—while supplies last.
Recommended by Jason Reynolds and Deesha Philyaw
Washington, DC, and Silver Spring, MD
With locations in DC and Maryland, Loyalty is a Black- and queer-owned bookstore that’s deeply committed to its community and to BIPOC and LGBTQ+ representation. Owner Hannah Oliver Depp is passionate about diversity and accessibility, with aspirations to create a bookmobile that will broaden the store’s reach.
“I decided to open this bookstore because I wanted to have an influence not only on my community but also in publishing,” Depp said during an interview with Good Morning America. “I wanted to provide jobs for people of color who love to sell books and talk about books. [I also wanted to] represent my neighborhood so they see themselves on the shelves when they come in.”
Bonus! For a limited time, Lookout Books is partnering with Loyalty too; pick up your copy of Bigger Than Bravery there, and receive a free “Black Resilience, Black Reclamation” enamel pin—while supplies last!
Recommended by Josina Guess
Resilience is palpable at Harriett’s Bookshop in Philadelphia. Since opening in Fishtown in February 2020, Harriett’s has had to pivot in every way possible yet never faltered in its mission to celebrate women activists, especially Black women including the store’s namesake, Harriett Tubman. Even when the store closed due to the pandemic, owner Jeannine Cook found new ways to show up for her community, from an online book campaign (that sold out of inventory within an hour) to free books.
In an interview with Arianna Rebolini for Oprah Daily, Cook said that she stepped into her role as a “community historian,” adding, “There are people who have already laid the foundation . . . but if we’re not connecting the dots through stories, we’ll keep feeling like we have to start from scratch.”
Turning Page Bookshop
recommended by Latria Graham
Goose Creek, SC
South Carolina’s only brick-and-mortal bookstore owned by a Black woman is in Goose Creek, a city about fifteen miles inland from Charleston. The store was established in June 2019 by VaLinda Miller as not just a bookstore but a community hub offering readings, book signings, and programs providing resources to children, immigrants, veterans, and the elderly.
Miller says that her store—and independent bookstores in general—have a crucial role in preserving literature and history while offering support to the local community.
“It’s our job to continue to encourage reading of all types of books working with library reading programs and other organizations and put more books in the hands of kids,” she says. “We can’t just give the kid a book; we must also give an apple, banana, or grapes in order to feed the mind and the stomach.”
recommended by Destiny O. Birdsong
It’s hard not to immediately associate Kindred Stories in Houston with family. Family radiates through the store in every sense of the word: owner Terri Hamm’s love of reading was inherited from her mother, and it’s something she’s passed down to her own two children. The space is vibrant and warm, where children and adults feel welcome to explore “the wide-open world of literary content and creative works fashioned by Black and Brown hands.”
With a wide range of both children’s and adult literature written by diverse authors, Terri is focused on improving access to literature for her community, saying, “We are a bookstore committed to amplifying Black voices and bringing diverse stories from throughout the African diaspora to our local community in Houston.”
recommended by Ida Harris
A long-standing touchstone in Atlanta, Georgia, Medu Bookstore has been serving its community for more than thirty years as one of the city’s largest Black-owned bookstores. Its patrons are drawn to the store for its finger on the “heartbeat of cultural awareness” and for its community space filled with those gathered for readings, signings, lectures, and storytelling events.
Medu’s name means “power of the word”—an idea that becomes palpable when roaming the store’s shelves. Owned by Nia Damali, Medu “specializes in culturally significant and often hard-to-find books written, published, and distributed for the enhanced awareness and enjoyment of its readership.”
We’ve loved seeing Bigger Than Bravery on tabletop displays, among stores’ monthly book club picks, and of course in readers’ hands. As you shop for books, please remember your community!
Check out these other great independent shops that carry Bigger Than Bravery, as well as many of our contributors’ books.
Charis Books: Decatur, GA (a favorite of beloved editor Valerie Boyd)
Avid Bookshop: Athens, GA (another Valerie favorite)
Black Dot Cultural Center: Lithonia, GA
Left Bank Books: St. Louis, MO
MahoganyBooks: Washington, DC
Moon Palace: Minneapolis, MN
Reparations Club: Los Angeles, CA
Sankofa: Washington, DC
For Keeps Books: Atlanta, GA
Pomegranate Books: Wilmington, NC