After shootings and protests, stores can't keep these books in stock

A banner lists people killed in Minnesota.
Denisha Young, 19, right, of Eagan, holds one end of a banner Sunday listing the names of more than 200 people killed by police in Minnesota since 1984. Philando Castile's is the latest entry.
Angela Jimenez for MPR News

The police shooting death of Philando Castile in Falcon Heights — and the widespread protests that followed — have left many people searching for ways to make sense of the violence and unrest.

Some are turning to the bookstore.

The Magers & Quinn bookstore in Minneapolis sold out of Ta-Nehisi Coates' memoir, "Between the World and Me," this week. The book, which was released last summer, is an open letter from Coates to his son about the fears and dangers of being black in America. Toni Morrison hailed it as "required reading."

Magers & Quinn assistant manager Annie Metcalf said the book has been a consistent seller for the store all year. "No one has stopped asking for it, ever since it came out," she said. In the last week, though, the store sold through every copy it had, faster than expected.

Metcalf said the store has also fielded more requests than usual for Michelle Alexander's "The New Jim Crow," a nonfiction account of how mass incarceration has disproportionately affected the African-American community.

Across the river in St. Paul, booksellers are seeing the same thing: Common Good Books sold through all of its stock of "The New Jim Crow" this week, unusual for a book that was published four years ago.

Recommended books on race
Bookstores across the Twin Cities have been selling out of these titles in the wake of police shootings and protests in Minnesota and around the country. Booksellers say people are actively looking for books that can promote understanding.
Book covers courtesy of publishers

"It's one of those books that changed the conversation, and I think it's still resonating with people," said Common Good's general manager, Martin Schmutterer.

Common Good also quickly sold out of "A Good Time for the Truth," a collection highlighting the experiences of 16 Minnesotans of color.

Sue Zumberge, the owner of Subtext Books in St. Paul, can't keep "A Good Time for the Truth" in stock, either. Her store sold four copies Wednesday morning alone. Subtext recently held an event with the editor of the collection, Sun Yung Shin, and people were buying second or third copies of the book to pass out to people they knew.

Subtext has sold through its stock of Coates' memoir and is running low on Claudia Rankine's "Citizen," a meditation on race in America. The impact of "A Good Time for the Truth" is different, though, Zumberge said, because it's local.

The book "is the experiences of people of color who live in this state. You cannot say 'Oh, it's not us,'" Zumberge said.

The sales trends of these particular titles extend to bookstores throughout the Twin Cities: Moon Palace Books immediately sold out of "Citizen" last week. Boneshaker Books is sold out of "Between the World and Me," which has been their best-seller all year. And Birchbark Books has seen "A Good Time for the Truth" moving quickly.

Martin Schmutterer, of Common Good, is heartened to see the sales.

"I'm glad that people are turning to bookstores," he said. "Because it's what bookstores are really good at: Helping understand the world around us."

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