Americans have been called upon to educate themselves about racism, their own racial biases, and the history of Black Americans in this country. The call to educate was made—and apparently, the people have listened. Across the country, black booksellers are being flooded with orders for anti-racist books.
Whereas booksellers were worried about coronavirus shutdowns hurting their business, now it’s becoming impossible to keep up with the demand. It did not help that a slew of reading lists recommended by news outlets, libraries, and on social media often featured the same titles, which have rocketed to the top of best-seller lists.
Some of the suddenly popular books, including Between the World And Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo, and So You Want to Talk about Race by Ijeoma Oluo, have been around for a while. Oluo called the recent attention and increased sales a “gut punch” in an interview with Glamour, saying she was shocked that it took such a brutal act for the public to pay attention to systemic racism.
The lists, as well as grassroots efforts to encourage shoppers to support local Black businesses, are overwhelming independent booksellers like Frugal Bookshop in Boston. The Black-owned store, run by couple Leonard and Clarissa Egerton, received more than 10,000 orders between May 30 and June 1. Since then, they have received more than 10,000 additional orders, according to an email they sent out to customers on June 22. Most of the new orders are for the same titles addressing race or racism.
Other Black-owned stores, like Marcus Books in Oakland, CA, Eso Won Books in Los Angeles, and Eyeseeme African American Children’s Bookstore in University City, MI, have also reported big increases in online sales. The coronavirus lockdown is complicated shipping matters so not everyone is getting their books on time, but nonetheless, the fact that so many Americans are actively attempting to educate themselves about racial injustice offers a glimmer of hope as we build a more inclusive community.