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Thursday, July 9, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Floyd killing sparks Spokane interest in books about racism

UPDATED: Thu., June 4, 2020

John Waite, owner of Auntie’s Bookstore in downtown Spokane, said he noticed a run on Black Live Matter-related books  on Sunday, the first day of protests in the city over the death of George Floyd. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
John Waite, owner of Auntie’s Bookstore in downtown Spokane, said he noticed a run on Black Live Matter-related books on Sunday, the first day of protests in the city over the death of George Floyd. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Outrage hasn’t been the only reaction Spokane – or the rest of the country – has had to police killing George Floyd. Auntie’s Bookstore and the Spokane Public Library have seen a significant uptick in sales and checkouts of books pertaining to the Black Lives Matter movement.

“I think people are trying to understand what’s happening and be educated about the reality that some people face,” Auntie’s owner John Waites said. “And it’s encouraging to see people educating themselves.”

Waites noticed the run on Black Lives Matter-related material on Sunday, the first day of protesting in Spokane.

“We are literally out of everything right now,” Waites said. “Everywhere, every warehouse as far as I know, frankly, almost every bookstore, you’d have to be very lucky to find any of that available right now.”

Waites said his distributor wouldn’t be able to supply him with any of the books for another three weeks.

Tennessee-based Ingram is one of the largest book suppliers in the country.

“We’ve seen a substantial surge in demand for titles with subjects related to racism, social justice, and other societal issues,” Ingram spokeswoman Shannon Hunt said in an email. “We are doing our best to make these titles available through our publisher vendors.”

The library, which is also responding to the same demand, has an advantage because it can order e-books and audiobooks, which Robert Roose, support services director, pointed out don’t take time to print.

Accordingly, he has ordered extra e-copies of several high demand books:“How to Be an Antiracist” by Ibram X. Kendi (71 requests); “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism” by Robin DiAngelo (79 requests); “So You Want to Talk about Race” by Ijeoma Oluo (30 requests); and others.

Roose recently wrote a letter to the library’s board about how he sees the library’s role in this movement.

“With the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and consequent protests around the world, including Spokane, people are once again facing our heritage of racism,” Roose wrote. “Citizens trying to navigate and find direction during this trying time are turning to the library’s digital collection for recent titles that are part of our national discourse on race. Requests for these titles have surged dramatically, and the library has responded by adding multiple new copies for each of these titles.”

Roose has seen this type of increased demand in the past during similar protests, but never at this level. He’s not sure what’s making this time different, but it does feel different to him. He speculated that perhaps the stay-home order has caused people to self-reflect.

“I think we are all looking at ourselves, our own behavior, attitudes and how we fit into all this, and how we might make progress, how we might be better as a community or better as individuals,” Roose said.

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