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2019 Literary Lookback: The Rise of Noname’s Book Club

Rapper Noname started a book club this past summer and has amassed a strong following with mostly millennial readers looking to discover a variety of books from authors of color.

With its August launch, the book club selected two books: Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire and We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby. Two books remained a constant over the months, with the latest twin picks being The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon and Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi.

The book club blossomed on social media—now having almost 67,000 followers on Twitter and over 38,000 followers on Instagram—and then moved to in-person meetings in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Cincinnati, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. Photos from the meetings and from members make up most of the timelines on the two social media networks as well as vintage and stock photos of black people reading books. Letting members know they are seen and supporting their reading goals shift the book club, though helmed by a celebrity, away from the celebrity book club model that usually keeps the conversations online and seldom acknowledges members.

From cult classics to the words of emergent authors, Noname’s Book Club highlights books that speak on human conditions in critical and original ways.

That’s Noname’s Book Club’s mission statement, and it shows in the actions the group has taken to make an impact on the diverse consumers the literary industry tends to ignore.

supporting black-owned bookstores

The book club sends members to black-owned bookstores in seven cities to purchase the picks and some holding in-person meetings. One example is The Reparations Club in Los Angeles, which has quickly become home to many black creatives since opening earlier this year.

boycotting Amazon

Buying from the independent bookstores came from the book club’s stance on not buying books from Amazon. The boycott movement, popular with many indie booksellers and especially black literary groups, is to bring money back to those booksellers, especially the ones catering to consumers of color since they are usually not the top indie bookseller in their regions. Amazon has been blamed for taking necessary book sales from indie booksellers, especially with the e-retailer giant gaining a stronghold in the publishing industry creating its own books and other media based on books.

connecting with public LIBRARies

This month, the book club partnered with the Los Angeles Public Library to help members find the selected books free of charge. The book club posed the question of what should be its next partnership, and many followers chimed in, with Binghamton, New York getting a lot of votes.

In less than six months, the book club has made a major impact in magnifying the visibility of readers and authors of color, so the next year may bring more advancements in celebrating these literary stakeholders.

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