With Boston full of so much history and culture, it’s natural that there are so many bookstores all around the city. But as Arielle Gray and Cierra Michele noticed, most of those shops lack sections of books written by authors of color. They also saw that certain neighborhoods like Dorchester don’t have bookstores, which means residents have less access to literature.
And so after applying for and receiving a grant from the Dudley Square Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI), Gray and Michele set out to change that. These days they’re the co-founders of Print Ain’t Dead, a series of pop-up bookstores that will turn different venues in Upham’s Corner into spaces for literary connection and community during October and November. New and gently used books written by authors of color will be sold at a reduced price, between $2 and $5, so people can afford to expand their collection of books and expose themselves to literature they may not have access to otherwise.
“I think everybody should have access to affordable reading material, and a lot of times in areas that are predominately people of color living there, those things aren’t given to us or the city doesn’t see it necessary to install these types of exhibitions,” Gray told DigBoston.
Gray said she wants the stores to have a cozy atmosphere, so lights, bookshelves, rugs and seating areas will transform the room into a more intimate setting. It will become a place where visitors feel comfortable sitting down, listening to music, and diving into a new book.
“We want it to be a visual experience, we want it to be a literary experience, we want it to be a cultural experience that people are really going to walk away with,” said Gray.
In addition to selling books, each night there will be a performance by a featured author who will read a selection of their writing for about 25 to 35 minutes.
Most of the proceeds from the event will go to the author who is performing that night, so audience members support local authors by putting money directly in their pockets, Gray explained. The featured performers include Porsha O and Chloe Wong.
“We are a community and a community supports one another, so by coming to the pop-up, you’re not only supporting the pop-up but you’re supporting the authors that we’re featuring,” said Gray.
When the featured performers are finished, audience members are welcome to take the stage and read some of their own work in an open reading. This gives authors who write short stories, for example, the opportunity to share their pieces in a setting that is more geared toward literature than performance art, like spoken poetry.
The overall goal of Print Ain’t Dead is to bring literature to communities that don’t have permanent bookstores, give residents access to literature that they don’t have on a daily basis. Gray hopes Print Ain’t Dead will show people that any area can be transformed into a place for literature, including unexpected or untraditional places.
“Any space is a literary space, any space is a space to read and to connect,” said Gray. “You don’t need to be in a fancy bookstore to do those things.”
In the future, Gray would like to expand these pop-ups throughout the city to more neighborhoods, including Mattapan and the Seaport. She hopes to eventually spread them to other communities across Massachusetts and over state lines in places in need of accessible literature.
“I just think it’s a basic human right to have access to books,” Gray said. “It’s a basic human right to be able to go to a bookstore in your neighborhood and buy a book if you want to, and to also buy books written by people that look like you, people who reflect you and your culture.”
The Print Ain’t Dead opening reception will be at the Fairmount Innovation Lab on 10.26 7:30-10pm, and the other three will be at the Pierce AIR Space in Uphams Corner noon-4pm on 10.28, 11.4, and 11.18. printaintdead.splashthat.com for more info.