October is the launch of the first official Margins Bookstores Month, which celebrates BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, Disabled, and Neurodiverse owned/managed bookstores! Through the website and their social channels, participants can find and learn more about participating bookstores, find events to attend, read the Margins Bookstores Choice Award Winners & Nominees, and more.
To help kick it off, we spoke to the Margins Bookstore Month creators: The Word | A Storytelling Sanctuary.
Tell us about The Word: What do you do, and what was the inspiration?
The Word | A Storytelling Sanctuary is a nonprofit organization that fights for equity and inclusivity in publishing and literature. Viniyanka Prasad, the current executive director, founded the Word in 2016 after several years as a public defender, providing legal defense to indigent individuals in the criminal penal system. There are few places where the dehumanizing effects of cross-cultural inequities are more apparent. Yet, the work within that system at best results in the vindication of basic human rights; it is through the arts that an incomparable human connection can take root, the true road to equity. Books are the avenue to justice: they make us see ourselves and one another. Thus, our mission is to promote voices from underserved communities and diverse backgrounds, to honor the stories of those who have faced adversity and injustice, and to provide a sanctuary space where these groups will see themselves in literature.
“Books are the avenue to justice: they make us see ourselves and one another.”
We host community programming and generally try to demystify the ins and outs of publishing, which is overall an opaque industry that tends towards insularity. We love books and reading and the folks who dedicate their lives to the written word, and we believe that access to books and knowledge about careers in publishing (and publishing as a whole) are important.
What is Margins Bookstore Month?
#MarginsBookstores Month is a celebration of bookstores owned and managed by and for BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, Disabled, and Neurodiverse communities. This is a community collaboration coordinated by The Word.
It’s a month of spreading joy and awareness of these wonderful stores and a way of thanking them for doing the important work they do. There’s more to being a community bookstore than just selling books, and these stores exemplify the extraordinary efforts of the owners and management actively trying to improve the lives of those in their communities.
“There’s more to being a community bookstore than just selling books, and these stores exemplify the extraordinary efforts of the owners and management actively trying to improve the lives of those in their communities. “
What made you decide to launch Margins Bookstore Month? How do bookstores fit into your mission?
Inequity is clearly visible in our industry, from the books being published to the demographics of employees in publishing itself. We recognize that books and bookstores are more than just sales and retail, and we see the power of indie bookstores. Diversely-owned bookstores are especially important to marginalized communities, and also to publishing at large. They can provide a third space, and they are also often a safe space for inquiring minds. Bookstores are trusted by their readers; readers look to their bookstores for reading recommendations and answers to problems, both personal and societal. Bookstores that center marginalized communities are providing both shelter and needed education.
“Diversely-owned bookstores are especially important to marginalized communities, and also to publishing at large. They can provide a third space, and they are also often a safe space for inquiring minds.”
Booksellers are the frontline of the industry. They know what books their community members need and are looking for. Indie bookstore sales matter to their community, and to publishing as a whole. Indies have recommendations that are relevant to their area and specific customers. Those recommendations from booksellers can have massive impact, especially for authors that aren’t the established names. Passionate booksellers and bookstores change lives for their customers and for the authors that fill their shelves.
There are not enough spaces where we celebrate this work and take time to learn from it. Margins Bookstores Month is a chance to shine that spotlight and to give our cohort of bookstores a chance to do what each does best, while also getting to kick it together and party.
What are some highlights of the month?
We’ll have virtual events, including bookseller and author talks. We have an online interactive map where you’ll find not only your new favorite bookstores, but get to know them too—their secrets, their passions, their inner wildcat. Readers can pick up the Margins Bookstores Journal or t-shirts, tote bags, and other gear—the proceeds will all go toward supporting the cohort of #MarginsBookstores. Shop at the bookstores during the month and you’ll have chances to win prizes, including free audiobooks from Libro.fm (thanks, friends)!
We’ll also be celebrating our #MarginsBookstores Choice Award winners. These books were nominated and selected by the participating bookstores. You can find the list of all the nominees, plus order the #MarginsBookstore Month journal here. We’ll also have special appearances from our wonderful BIPOC Bookseller Award winners!
Playlist: Margins Bookstores Month Choice AwardsView the playlist
Something we are especially looking forward to is our Book Ball in downtown Denver on October 14. We’ll get dressed up (and masked-up!) for this outdoor event in collaboration with our local Shop at MATTER! (Did you know MATTER co-owner Rick Griffith is a DJ? Maybe our Book Ball DJ?) We can’t wait to see everyone in their favorite lit character costumes celebrating great books!
Find the map, event details, and goodies all on our website!
What can people do to support BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, Disabled, and Neurodiverse owned/managed bookstores beyond Margins Bookstore Month?
Support your community indie bookstore every month. Learn who they are. Spend some time with them, and see how happy they’ll be to fill your shelves with books you’d never find on your own, and to fill your disconnected day with neighbors, bookstore cats, and local art.
Quoting from someone else who beautifully summed it up this way: some unnamed-giant-company won’t miss your business if you leave them, but small businesses will always feel your support if you’re buying from them. And they’ll be grateful.
“Some unnamed-giant-company won’t miss your business if you leave them, but small businesses will always feel your support if you’re buying from them.”
There are multiple ways to support these stores. Most have online stores, either through their own website or on Bookshop.org. If you’re an audiobook listener, you can support your local indie by choosing them as your supported store on Libro.fm.
We love bookstore stops on every roadtrip we take! We love open mic nights at our local store. We love stopping in for a coffee even if our TBR piles are too big and we swore we wouldn’t buy another book today.
Want to learn more?
Join in to Margins Bookstores Month!
psssst!: You can find Libro.fm’s directories of diversely-owned bookstores here.