Life goes by quickly, but we can experience a countless number of lives by the content we consume. Modern society gave us access to vlogs, podcasts, and social media profiles where we can put our own identity down for a moment. Yet, the classic way into another person’s shoes that’s as effective as ever is “reading a book”.
A plethora of stories exist in the world. In book publishing, many of the books chosen are written by white authors, and focus on stories attached to a “generalized” white perspective. Stories of minority demographics do not have the same level of access to representation, in fact, some minority stories are written by white authors. Combining these situations creates a mixture of misrepresentation, dilution, and absence.
Why miss out on all the lives you could live?
In this series, called ALL Ways, we’ll grow to know social enterprises by their charming points. We say “charming” to refer to branding and approaches that help us see another way to manage social entrepreneurship. We’ll also suggest ways to interact or use these charming points in our own involvements with social enterprise (personally and professionally).
This post is an outside observation of a company for inspiration in social enterprise interaction and engagement.
In today’s post, we look into the transitive Amplify Bookstore supplying new life to the phrase “Once upon a time”. Amplify Bookstore gives people access to buying books written by and highlighting minority demographics.
Knowing the Company: Amplify Bookstore
Marina and Xuan (pronounced sh-wen, like ‘Gwen’) co-founded Amplify Bookstore in Australia to curate a collection of literature focused on POC (people of color). On the About page, they express their initial drive in starting this initiative: “We created the shop because as People Of Colour, we recognised how difficult it was to find books written by people like us, or with characters that looked like us.”
Books in the collection are mainly focused on BIPOC authors and characters from all over the world. Translated works are also available in the bookstore’s selection.
You can check their Why Amplifly? page for more interesting data and talking points about why the book industry needs a boost of diversity. Here are examples from the page:
“The 2019 Diversity Baseline Survey by Lee and Low Books estimates that the industry is 76% white overall and 82% white in editorial departments.”
“Reading across broader cultural perspectives ‘presents diversity as a natural phenomenon’. Normalising racially representative stories shares knowledge that breaks down the mentality of an us/them binary, and ‘exposes the norms of the dominant culture as constructed rather than universal and natural’.”
Looking at the business, Amplify Bookstore is a local, indie shop that packages and ships sustainably. For user engagement, readers can follow the year-long reading challenge held on The Story Graph if they are unsure of where to begin their diverse reading. Amplify Bookstore also has a Book Box option for sale of literature focused on a cultural theme.
What surprised us
Who knew so many diverse stories were available? Usually, finding a diverse narrative means going out of the way to research what options even exist. Here, Amplify Bookstore provides direct access to alternative voices compared to what is pushed in mainstream content. Works included in these collections also promote translated literature that we may not ever be made aware of otherwise.
Social entrepreneurship is not always about coming up with the best new idea, sometimes it’s about building upon ideas. In this case, Marina and Xuan built upon an already established business model of having a bookstore. They then committed to a niche, or supplied for a very specific audience where they could resonate with the need/issue.
Beyond that, the initiative values audiences that would also benefit from more representation. Inside the book selection are stories focused on similar layers of misrepresented minority demographics, such as sexual orientation and immigration. They are focused on sharing stories from perspectives showing life trajectories that differ from each other. Amplify Bookstore expresses this intention on their about page when they stated: “We know that there are other diversities in life that don’t pertain to race, so we hope that in our far-reaching selection, you will also be able to find intersectionality.”
What is the benefit for good
By supporting Amplify Bookstore, readers are supporting small business, sustainable business practices, minority demographic authors, and diverse literature. Creating a world where we understand each other, involves being able to allow others to show us a different viewpoint. Reading books is a method that provides intimacy and transparency of the perspective without a feeling of shame or exploitation.
Additionally, reading books is less invasive for the reader and the minority demographic. We shouldn’t be embarrassed or afraid of “tough” conversations, but when we are, we can use content to exchange our thoughts. People providing representation are able to express their life experience on their terms without as much direct emotional tax. People who have questions don’t need to feel a fear of being chastised for the questions they may have.
Although “we are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike” as Maya Angelou wrote, we all have our own stories. We can embrace different perspectives, and apply the base principles in those different perspectives to learn from one another.
We like to encourage actively participating with positive initiatives. Each person making their own choice to participate adds up! Whether you engage for fun, inspiration, or expression, here are our suggestions for engaging this initiative:
-Check out the Pre-Loved section of the bookstore for secondhand gems
-Follow Amplify Bookstore on Instagram for bite-sized content
-Offer to start a book club at your initiative to complement DEI programs
-Host an all-team/all-staff meeting to give everyone the opportunity to share perspectives on a theme related to the initiative’s “company culture” or work process
People Helping People Podcast is seeking methods clearly supporting an effective impact. Observations and discussions on happenings in the social enterprise community are a significant part of our contribution to social good. Continue to check in for more conversation-starting content.
Suggested podcast episodes:
“You’ve got to go swim with the turtles to see where the plastic’s coming from.”
“I use the example of curbs all the time; so you’ve got the curbs, and then you’ve got the little slope for people in a wheelchair with mobility issues. Unless you’ve had mobility issues, or been in a wheelchair, or seen it, you would never think to have that curb.”
“… learn to suspend our judgment in the moment of listening and of observing.”