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‘So Impactful’: Michigan Woman Opens Bookstore Celebrating Black Authors

A Michigan bookstore is giving Black authors the spotlight they have long deserved but often struggled to find.

Socialight Society bookstore is a microshop, a store located inside another store, in this case Soul Nutrition, where book curator Nyshell Lawrence has made it a priority to give Black authors, especially those who are female, a greater chance at being discovered. The shop is located in the bustling downtown district of Lansing where retail, food, entertainment and now book lovers all convene. 

Nyshell Lawrence. (Photo: Nick King/Lansing State Journal)

Despite the diverse crowd flocking to the downtown area, Lawrence said she noticed there was something missing about four years ago: a place where Black authors were celebrated and not just given a shelf or two among a sea of books by non-Black authors.

“We walk in so many spaces that we are the minority and I just think it’s really important for us to be able to have a place where we can go and say, this is somewhere where I belong,” she told WLNS.com. “I see women that look like me.”

Reading the works of Black authors, and others who naturally weave culturally diverse characters into their stories, has long captivated Lawrence. Her love for stories in which she could see herself and the heritage of the Black community in dates back to adolescence when she became enveloped in Alex Haley’s 700-page novel “Roots.”

“I know in second grade I could not understand all the complex things that happened in the story, but just the idea that I had this huge book written about Black people was major for me,” Lawrence explained to the Lansing State Journal in early November. Now, the mother to four daughters, Lawrence says representation is even more paramount not just for Black women, but also little girls.

“Socialight Society is really big on making sure that women — specifically Black women — feel seen and feel celebrated,” she said. “I’m a mother of four daughters. So I know for a fact when they pick up a book and they see a little girl that looks like them or they see a boy that represents somebody in their class it means so much, it’s so impactful.”

Nyshell Lawrence, her husband and four daughters. (Photo: @socialightsociety/Instagram)

The bookstore offers a wide range of books from children’s, poetry, classics from Alice Walker and Audre Lorde, to anti-racist and contemporary works. Now, what began as a small online book club, then grew to pop-up shops, and finally a brick-and-mortar bookstore is provi

“If you had to get a book, then you probably have to go on Amazon or elsewhere. To have a space in the community where you can read and share about books with others is empowering,” said Kim Milton-Mackey, who runs Dreams and Visions Manifested and is a nonprofit sponsor of Socialight Society.

“Sometimes there just may not be knowledge that these [titles] exist,” she continued. “Perhaps we don’t know that there’s a Black author that wrote about this certain topic. This space makes that visible for everyone.”


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