There are many revered Black authors in American literature – Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou and Langston Hughes to name a few. Their work is often centered on the Black American experience, which can often be defined by oppression.
Milwaukeean Cetonia Weston-Roy wanted to read more books that featured Black narratives but didn’t focus on overcoming or dealing with oppression and she knew she wasn’t alone. So, she created Niche Book Bar. A mobile bookstore that features Black authors in genres that run the gambit from speculative fiction to nonfiction biographies.
“I’d always felt like something was missing from books and the books I was reading,” says Weston-Roy. “I was looking for more representation outside of books that were based in trauma.”
She was having trouble finding books outside of Black History Month in February and even those books all felt centered around Jim Crow, slavery and poverty. As she started researching Black authors, she found ones like science fiction author Octavia Butler. Weston-Roy also realized that she wanted to expand the kinds of stories told in Black literature so it includes more mainstream narratives but also gives alternative stories from Black writers.
“It’s just a matter of providing the full spectrum of Black literature so, in addition to those, you’ll also find the fantasy, sci-fi, self-help, motivation, you know, a little bit of every topic, mystery, not just the race and culture and pain,” she says.