Afrodiasporan Teen Literature independent bookstores

Book Shopping in Covid19 Quarantine

I absolutely love books. – Ms. Antona

One of the things I’ve missed most about six weeks (or, really, who’s counting) of being at home is spending a leisurely weekend perusing the shelves of an independent bookstore. The artwork, the varying kinds of paper, the feel of it in my hands, I’ve loved books every since my father gave me my library card when I was a little girl. Well, since it is Monday morning, my daughter has graduated, and my middle one is in school for another two weeks, I thought I’d go on and think about the bookstores I’ve visited. This is a long read, so pull up some coffee or cocoa or tea or lemonade. H&H readers for the summer, there is a list at the bottom. What are you reading and will read for next year? Let us know.

Perhaps it is the imagination and the wonder or the gift of the writer, or simply, that it took me far away from the hospitals and sickbed of my asthmatic youth. Books invite one to dream and define what life could be. Or it invites one to ponder and prepare. Books are a welcome gift I give to each of my children at almost every birthday and special occasion. Or journals so they can write their own stories.

Here we are. My daughter and my son graduated May 9th, albeit not the ceremonies we imagined. She may yet have one on June 20 or July 11. He is finished with his second Master’s and wondering about his summer now that he is furloughed until June 30th.

Of course, I turned them both to books.

Now my eighteen year old daughter and veteran reader with the literary circle, only has to walk into her room, or her sister’s room, or the hallway, or downstairs to any of twelves shelves and pick up an adventure. That had me thinking about this summer and the power of independent booksellers to still invite us into the journey of stories. Writers are still writing and these booksellers are still selling, albeit from a distance. Some are social distancing through curbside pickup, others are shipping orders.

The literary circle starts June 2nd. There is time to shop with any independent bookseller and get stocked up. What is on your shelf? Where do you like to find a treasure?

There are and will always be more books than I will have time to read. I keep buying them. My TBR pile is also a testament of what I was thinking at the time.

The 2020 Pulitzer Prize announcements have added more to my life, maybe not for the literary circle, but definitely for my literary criticisms. I want to add 56 more years to my life (my birthday was May 6th) just so I can have time to read 672 books if I only read one-a-month.

I may not make it to live to be 112 years old, but for whatever time I have left, I want to be found reading.

Here are some bookstores that will be great resources for building a YA library. It almost doesn’t matter what kind of book. you like, one of the greatest treasures of an independent bookseller is their ability to suggest the perfect read. Now, if you are in a place without one or without the ability to get one to you, is still a resource. One thing I will give Amazon is that they do provide a platform for independent publishing and new authors to promote their work. There is a place for everything.

Where can we shop?

Try any of these:

Left Bank Books in the Central West End in Saint Louis. I love this fifty-year old bookstore for the vast selection of literary arts, poetry, and biographies. They have hosted the literary circle in the past.

In the Delmar Loop, I would visit Subterranean Books for much the same reasons I love Left Bank Books. They are smaller, though, and tend to have more of the literary works the Washington University students would need for class.

Also in University City on Olive is the region’s only children’s and teens bookstore, Eyeseeme Bookstore. It was born of the vision of a mother who was homeschooling her children and couldn’t find literature reflective of her Guyanese and her husband’s African American roots.

If one went out to St. Charles, MO. Main Street Books has a huge collection that belies the view from the street. It has an upstairs with a couple reading nooks and teen selections that would invite even the most reluctant reader.

When I was in DC a few years ago, I stayed near Dupont Circle. Visit Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe. When the stay-at-home is lifted, they have some late night reads and for now, they deliver.

Also in DC, Eastside, near where my cousin lives, is an independent woman-owned bookstore with a community focus. Near the Eastern Market is East City Bookshop. They also have curbside pickup and deliver.

I am looking forward to going to Washington DC to visit Mahogany Books in Anacostia Arts Center. It is an African American bookstore owned by a sorority sister. My DC Trip was cancelled due to Covid-19. They ship and have great selections for middle grade and high school readers.

When I was in New York City this past Fall, I couldn’t leave without at least a moment in Strand’s, the real big onWhen I am in Harlem, the place to find me was Sister’s Uptown Bookstore and Cultural Center, Inc., an independent Black-owned bookshop with a warm atmosphere perfect for browsing and supporting Black writers.

In Newton, a suburb of Boston, visit Newtownville Books. They had great journals.

This is almost like a criss-cross around the country, but in Boston, I loved our walk through of Harvard and then spending some time at the indie bookstore on Mass Ave. Harvard Book Store was a great visit, they ship and make suggestions.

I lived in the Kansas City area for a number of years, in Lee’s Summit, actually. There is a quaint little shop in downtown. K D’s Book Shop has great children’s books. Call them at 816-525-1366. Locally owned.

My other bookstore when I lived in KC was Rainy Day Books. They are a long-standing independent bookstore in the metro area. Their address says KS, but since they are on 53rd street, most people just assume KCMO. They give reading recommendations based on age and interest, helpful for the upcoming summer months.

In Columbia MO, try Skyark, downtown for new books and Yellow Dog for used (once this quarantine is over and it is safe to emerge from our homes).

When I was in Denver, I would plan to spend hours in Tattered Cover Book Store.

Fairhope, Alabama visit a little bookstore on the cobblestone streets called Page & Palette.

I have traveled a lot and one of the things I always do is fine a bookstore. If there isn’t an independent bookstore, I may find myself in one of the big ones like Barnes & Noble or Half Price Books. When I was in New York two years ago, I couldn’t help myself and went to the brick & mortar version of Amazon Books. It was an impressive display. We had been walking all over Manhattan and found ourselves at The Shops at Coumbus Circle. Well, they are closed, but is always open if nothing is near you.

University Bookstores are more and more operated by big boxes, but each ones tends to have a bit of local flare. When the semester opens, they may also be a resource for books to be shipped. They will always have a literary area. The most recent one I visited before Covid19 was in New York at Columbia University.

What are your favorite bookstores?

Where would you go for an afternoon of book talk with friends if the stay-at-home orders never existed?

What is the place you miss the most for finding a great book?

One day, we will open our doors again. Until then, we can read and help independent bookstores remain a haven for our literary souls.

Hurston and Hughes Literary Circle readers, you can pre-order some of the books we are reading and have them ready. Check out our post of tentative schedule and list.

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston – we will read excerpts. She is one of our namesakes.

I’ve Known Rivers by Langston Hughes – he is one of our namesakes and we will cover his poetry on June 23rd during our poetry week. Speaking of that, we will also do some reading of the 2020 Pulitzer Prize Winner, Jericho Brown. The Tradition is his latest collection, also covered on June 23rd.

Slay by Brittney Morris

Not So Pure and Simple by Lamar Giles – high school only, middle school will read a Nic Stone book, Clean Getaway

Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson – anything she writes is awesome

Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler – high school only due to subject matter, middle school will read Clone Codes by the McKissacks

How Long Til Black Future Month by N.K. Jemisin

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

Come and read with us!

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