Local bookstores seeing increased demand for books about racism, social justice

photo by: Caroline Huff

A collection of books about racism and social justice from The Dusty Bookshelf.

Reading lists featuring books about racism and social justice have cropped up on the internet and social media following the killing of George Floyd, and two local bookstores said they have seen increased demand for these resources.

Danny Caine, owner of The Raven Book Store, 6 E. Seventh St., said that books have been selling “at Christmas levels” since last week and that 50% to 75% of all orders have included at least one book about racism.

For The Raven, the two most popular books have been “How to Be an Antiracist” by Ibram X. Kendi and “White Fragility,” by Robin DiAngelo. Caine said he had more than 50 orders for both and that the two books were currently out of stock. On Saturday, Sunday and Monday, the Raven donated 5% of its sales to organizations working toward social justice, which Caine said helped boost sales.

Caine said he was “very happy to be selling these books” and that they were “a great first step towards meaningful action.”

Holly Hurley, the manager at The Dusty Bookshelf, 708 Massachusetts St., said the demand for books about racism and social justice has doubled to tripled in the last week.

Typically, the used bookstore sells one or two books daily from its window display. Since the bookstore reopened after its COVID-19 closure, it had not even been selling one a day.

But the store saw a different result when its window display featured books about racism to complement Sunday’s protest march in downtown Lawrence.

“We had placed books in the windows that would help support the protest, and we sold 10 books in the last two days, which is really unprecedented for us,” Hurley said in a phone interview with the Journal-World on Monday. “It’s great. We want people to read that.”

Hurley said two of the most popular books the store has sold are “A Kids Book About Racism,” by Jelani Memory, and “White Fragility.”

In May of 2019, Kendi, author of “How to Be an Antiracist,” wrote an anti-racist reading list for the New York Times, which includes former Lawrence resident Langston Hughes’ essay “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain.”


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