A bookstore in Michigan is providing Black authors the recognition they’ve long deserved but have frequently failed to find.
The Socialight Society bookstore is a micro shop, or a store within a larger store, in this case, Soul Nutrition, where book curator Nyshell Lawrence has made it a mission to provide Black authors, particularly women, a better chance at being recognized. The business sits in Lansing’s lively downtown district, where shoppers, diners, entertainers, and now book lovers congregate.
Despite the diverse crowds flocking to the downtown area, Lawrence said she saw something was missing four years ago: a place where Black authors were acknowledged rather than relegated to a shelf or two among a sea of non-Black authors’ publications.
“We walk in so many areas where we are the minority,” she told WLNS.com. “I just think it’s incredibly essential for us to be able to go somewhere and say, here is somewhere where I belong.” “I see women who resemble me.”
Lawrence has long been attracted by the works of Black authors and those who seamlessly incorporate culturally varied characters into their novels. Her fascination in stories about herself and the Black community stretches back to her teens when she became engrossed in Alex Haley’s 700-page classic “Roots.”
Lawrence told the Lansing State Journal in early November, “I know in second grade I couldn’t understand all the sophisticated things that transpired in the novel, but just the concept that I had this large book written about Black people was major for me.” Lawrence, who is now the mother of four daughters, believes that representation is even more important now, not just for Black women, but also for young girls.
“Socialight Society is very focused on ensuring that women, particularly Black women, feel noticed and appreciated,” she explained. “I’m the mother of four daughters,” she says. So I know for a fact that when kids open a book and see a little girl who looks like them or a boy who symbolizes someone in their class, it means a lot to them.
Children’s literature, poetry, classics by Alice Walker and Audre Lorde, anti-racist and modern works are also available at the bookstore. What began as a tiny online book club has now expanded to include pop-up shops and a physical bookshop.
“If you needed a book, you’d probably have to go to Amazon or somewhere else. “Having a venue in the community where you can read and discuss books with others is empowering,” said Kim Milton-Mackey, founder of Dreams and Visions Manifested and a Socialight Society nonprofit sponsor.
“Sometimes there may just be a lack of awareness that these [titles] exist,” she added. “Perhaps we are unaware that there is a Black author who has written on this subject.” “Everyone can see that in this space.”