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NYC's Black-owned bookstores give us their top recommendations

Black bookstore owners tell us what to read

By
Shaye Weaver
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As the nation mourns and protests the death of George Floyd and fights for systematic change, people are searching for resources to challenge themselves.

Bookstores across the city are curating antiracism book lists to promote titles and POC voices with words of wisdom, knowledge and strength that challenge the status quo. 

Noëlle Santos’s South Bronx bookstore, the Lit. Bar, had a "Dear White People" section—a curated reading list for white people before it had to close temporarily. Santos has kept the resource available on an e-commerce section of the shop’s website since then.

Now, as protests take place across the country, Santos’s shop and other Black-owned bookstores in New York, have experienced a surge in demand. They’ve never seen sales this high before, they told us.

This being said, we've gathered recommended book titles from the Lit. Bar and other New York City Black-owned bookstores so you can educate yourself on topics of racism, inequality, injustice, the Black experience, how to break out of prejudicial thinking and talk to others about these issues.

Wordeee

Marva Allen, the CEO of Wordeee—a book publisher and former co-owner of the Hue-Man bookstore in Harlem—focused her picks on contemporary literature.

  • The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
  • The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
    Allen: "This will give people who to know more a total understanding what it was like."
  • Destruction of Black Civilization by Chancellor Williams
    Allen: "It will talk to you about how all these things came about and when and why. When did Blackness become Blackness?"

Cafe con Libros 

Owner Kalima DeSuze's first recommendation is "about our own definition of love. I think as an organizer, you can take those same premises and apply it to community."

  • For a discussion on community and accountability: All About Love: New Visions by Gloria Jean Watkins (aka bell hooks)
  • For organizing: The Next American Revolution by Grace Lee Boggs and Scott Kurashige
  • Colonize This edited by Daisy Hernandez and Bushra Rehman

The Lit. Bar
131 Alexander Avenue, Bronx

Owner Noelle Santos says her first recommendation "is not just for white people. It gives POCs the language to deal with white people.”

  • White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
  • How to Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi 
  • Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools by Monique W. Morris
  • How to Kill a City: Gentrification, Inequality, and the Fight for the Neighborhood by P.E. Mosokowitz 

Sister's Uptown Bookstore
1942 Amsterdam Ave., Harlem

Sister's Uptown's "consciousness reading" list includes:

  • Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement by Angela Y. Davis
  • Blood at the Root: A Racial Cleansing in America by Patrick Phillips
  • Stamped: Racism Antiracism and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi
  • Faces at the Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism by Derrick Bell
  • The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
  • The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
  • In the Wake: On Blackness and Being by Christina Sharpe
  • Prejudential: Black America and the Presidents by Margaret Kimberley

Bao Ong contributed reporting to this story.

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