The Bronx hasn't had a local general-interest bookstore for years, not since Barnes & Noble closed back at the end of 2016. But lifelong residents are changing that. A few weeks ago, on Independent Bookstore Day, Noëlle Santos opened The Lit. Bar, a bookstore and wine bar. And now, as Welcome2TheBronx reported, Bronx resident Latanya DeVaughn is bringing her venture Bronx Bound Books to the borough. The mobile bookstore will host story time, readings, and more programs along with community partnerships.
DeVaughn, a writing facilitator who formerly ran open mic nights at the now-defunct Books In the Hood, tells Gothamist that her bookstore dream has "lived in my brain for about 20 years," when she started thinking up ways to bring books to locals, particularly people who don't have access to transportation, and who live in areas that make it challenging to reach bookstores. Initially, DeVaughn was floating the idea to host pop-ups, but then realized that she didn't have to take the books off the truck at all. "The structure of my vehicle will [include] bookshelves, and people can come in and browse and have various workshops, book signings, open mics," she says. "Everything a bookstore would have, but on wheels."
The idea isn't dissimilar to, say, the bookmobiles that the New York Public Library is deploying over the next couple of months to several boroughs, including the Bronx. The difference is that Bronx Bound Books can also serve a community's hyper-specific needs while bringing books into the fold. "It's also gonna be a vehicle for resources—you can’t just put books in the neighborhood, especially in the Bronx," she says.
To help people struggling with reading, for instance, DeVaughn aims to partner with daycares and retirement communities. That way, people can practice and gain confidence with their reading while helping someone who has difficulty doing so, or can't readily pick up a book themselves. DeVaughn also says that a friend who teaches special education will curate the bookstore's early childhood section, and will have resources to help families whose children have special needs. She's intent on culling the bookstore's selection from fellow local independent bookstores, such as Word Up in Washington Heights, in addition to having readers from the community curate the bookstore's picks from genres they love, from comic books to contemporary fiction.
While the roving bookstore will move throughout different communities within the borough, DeVaughn aims to have several recurring locations in areas where transportation options are limited, such as Throgs Neck and Norwood. "If it takes someone a half an hour to get their nearest bookstore, I want to be able to meet them halfway at least," DeVaughn says.
In the coming weeks, she'll be unveiling a crowdfunding campaign to raise an estimated $65,000 to get the bookstore off the ground. There's no firm date yet that the store will be making the rounds, though she's hoping it'll be sometime in the fall.
Regardless of whether the van is up and running by then, DeVaughn is planning a borough-wide reading day in the early fall, so that people can bring their books and blankets to the park and read together. "I think visibility is key," she says. "There’s a very big misconception that people in the Bronx don’t read... I want to normalize reading as much possible."