The Bronx Bookstore That Comes to You

| 4 min read | 28 min listen Screen Shot 2021-10-28 at 3.51.39 PM

Bronx native Latanya DeVaughn knows that every neighborhood deserves a bookstore. Even if that store is in a converted bus....

Bronx native Latanya DeVaughn knows that every neighborhood deserves a bookstore. Even if that store is in a converted bus.

As a young girl, Latanya drew inspiration from her grandmother who instilled in her a thirst for knowledge and a love of reading.

“My grandmother was an educator in the South Bronx,” Latanya tells us. “She read to the people in our community who couldn’t read for themselves. She read prescriptions, leases…some people’s lives depended on the information she gave them. She’d come home [from her teaching job] and she still had this, you know, this calling to help people in our community.”

Growing up in the Bronx in the 1980s, if Latanya wanted a book, especially one that represented her, she’d need to hop a train for over an hour one way just to get to the nearest bookstore, let alone to find the content that she craved.

“When I was a kid, if I wanted a book on Maya Angelou, or James Baldwin, or anyone Black, I really had to search for it.”

But that – and her perception of what was possible – all changed years later when she discovered a new bookstore in her neighborhood, owned and operated by her son’s teacher.

​​“So that’s where it clicked,” Latanya says, “that I could possibly own a bookstore one day. I said, ‘wow, Miss Harris is a regular person, and she owns a bookstore.’ So it wasn’t until I saw it that I knew that I could do it.”

Unfortunately, in large part because the neighborhood was rapidly changing, it wasn’t long afterward that the teacher was forced to close her bookstore. The impact gentrification was having on rental prices in the Bronx made Latanya realize that a brick and mortar store was not in the cards for her.

But that didn’t stop her from pursuing her dream. “It still was there. It was still fermenting in my brain,” she says. “I’ve gone to places like WordUp bookstore in Washington Heights and Veronica there, she’s amazing and she owns it and I just was like, ‘you know what, I’m just gonna do it, like pop-up style.’”

Latanya realized her dream with the business reveal party for Bronx Bound Books on May 5th, 2019. She began selling new and used books on foot, and delivering donated books to shelters and organizations. She also taught writing workshops for kids and adults, including at shelters across the Bronx. Her friends who owned cars helped transport books and supplies, and Latanya’s pop-ups were a success. But it was tiring work and her outreach was limited.

That’s when she found inspiration online from a Pinterest post featuring a book truck in Delaware. “I didn’t know that a book truck was possible. It didn’t even dawn on me to think of that. But it showed something that inspired you know, Bronx Bound Books, a bookstore on wheels.”

With the help of a small business grant Latanya was able to purchase a used shuttle bus in good condition. It needed some minor fixes, and in order for it to become a bookstore, it needed to look like a book shop inside.

That’s where GoFundMe came in. The fundraiser – which is ongoing – helped to repair and renovate the bus and get it ready for a September 2021 roll-out. With increased visits to farmers’ markets, and by partnering with educators and visiting schools, Latanya was able to sell more new and used books than ever before. She’s also continued the important work of visiting shelters, where access to the latest books can be limited.

Since Bronx Bound Books began in 2019, and with the recent help of her bookmobile, Latanya has delivered over 7,000 free books throughout the various Bronx neighborhoods.

“It’s more than just a bookstore,” Latanya says. “It’s a vehicle for us to create more programming, more access to books, and really be there for our community.”

Donations to the ongoing Bronx Bound Books GoFundMe will help Latanya expand her outreach to schools, markets, and shelters in more communities, hire a local artist to paint a mural on the bus, help with maintenance and repairs, and continue to spread the joy of reading.

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