Viniyanka Prasad, executive director at The Word. (Courtesy Photo)
By Megan Sayles, AFRO Business Writer
Report for America Corps Member
For the first time ever, October is being recognized as Margins Bookstores Month. The Word, a Denver-based nonprofit that promotes equity through literary arts, has joined forces with Bookshop.org to celebrate bookstores across the country owned by members of the BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, disabled and neurodiverse community.
“The entire literary space really struggles with a long-standing, historic homogeneity, and there’s no reason that creativity should be valued from one sector of our society,” said Viniyanka Prasad, executive director at The Word.
According to the American Booksellers Association, there are only 173 bookstores in the country that serve marginalized communities in their local area. Systemic barriers have bred a scarcity of diverse booksellers, which has made them overpressed in serving the population.
Margins Bookstores Month is a way to acknowledge their hard work and impact. Throughout October, Margins Bookstores have hosted and will continue to host discussions with diverse authors and booksellers.
The Word has also partnered with Chronicle Books to create “The Margins Bookstores Journal,” which was illustrated by Kah Yangni and highlights the 47 bookstores that are a part of the Margins Bookstores collective.
In the journal, readers can discover new stores and learn more about the ones they already frequent. Additionally, a portion of the proceeds directly funds the participating bookstores.
“Hopefully, it really builds something lasting with the individuals who are reading through this database and finding bookstores that may really speak to them in a way that they haven’t necessarily had that community in their own space,” said Prasad.
The Margins Bookstores collective has also nominated and selected three authors to win awards. One of those being the Activating Read Award, which was given to Black activist and author Mariame Kaba for her book “We Do This ‘Til We Free Us: Abolitionist Organizing and Transforming Justice.”
According to Prasad, one of the ways to tackle marginalization is accessing books from different perspectives. Everyone comes from different backgrounds and by seeking out diverse points of view they can increase their understanding and awareness of those different from them.
It’s also important for members of diverse communities to have access to books written about them because it builds community connection, according to Prasad.
The plan is to continue Margins Bookstores Month annually, and Prasad hopes that this year’s celebration will provide a financial boost to marginalized bookstores and foster enduring relationships between readers and booksellers. Ultimately, she said the month is about joy.
“This moment is more about celebrating the work they do every single day, but also really just giving them a chance to shine and for all of us to party together,” said Prasad.
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