Race and Economy

Bookstores see surge in sales of works about race

Erika Beras Jun 3, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace
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One black bookstore owner said most of her new clients are white, and a lot of them are buying books for their kids. Alex Grimm/Getty Images
Race and Economy

Bookstores see surge in sales of works about race

Erika Beras Jun 3, 2020
One black bookstore owner said most of her new clients are white, and a lot of them are buying books for their kids. Alex Grimm/Getty Images
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COPY

Among Amazon’s top 20 nonfiction bestsellers of the past week are books about race, like “White Fragility,” “How To Be an Antiracist,” “So You Want To Talk About Race,” and “Me and White Supremacy.” Children’s books about race are selling as well — specifically those about how to be an ally to Black people. And it isn’t just Amazon — those are also the works bookshops are seeing move off the shelves.   

Online sales had been steady through the pandemic for Mahogany Books in Washington, D.C. It’s a Black-owned bookstore with mostly Black customers. Then came the killing of George Floyd and the protests. Owner Ramunda Young said she’s heard from a lot of new customers in the past week who are telling her, “Hey, I never realized this thing was this deep, or I was very unaware. I’m feeling, like, hopeless but also in a space of where I want to learn and be educated.”

Young said most of her new clients are white. And lots of them are buying books for their kids. At Wild Rumpus, a children’s bookstore in Minneapolis, Katie McGinley, a manager, said 95% of recent book sales were about race and social justice. And people are buying 10, 12 at a time. 

“The volume is something we’ve never seen before,” she said.

Katie Bordner, a white woman in Pittsburgh, recently ordered some books for her 2 1/2-year-old son. 

“Having him exposed to it early and then as things happen in our world, we’re going to be revisiting these books and putting what happens in the world in the context of understanding these books,” she said.

This swell of interest in books about race is something that Dhonielle Clayton of the nonprofit We Need Diverse Books has seen before.

“This always happens,” she said. “This is like, literally, every single time there is any sort of flare up or event, we get a whole bunch of ‘Oh, my gosh, outrage,’ and then it gets quiet again.”

But this time, she said, like the protests, it feels bigger. 

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