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Anti-racism books are flying off the shelves and experts say it could be the tipping point

The owner of a bookstore in Norfolk and the director of Hampton Public Library say they're trying to keep up with the demand of books about race.

NORFOLK, Va. — The death of George Floyd under police custody and calls for change across the country have led people to look inward and examine their own views on race in America.

It's led to a growing demand on books about black history and racial injustice. Now, some bookstores and public libraries are struggling to keep up.

Sarah Pishko, the owner of Prince Books in Downtown Norfolk, said she has sold out of every best-selling book about race.

Pishko has run the charming bookstore for 35 years, but said she’s never seen anything like what she has witnessed over the past two weeks.

“The demand has gone through the roof,” said Pishko. “It has been non-stop.”

Pishko said they've been flying off the shelves ever since people began protesting for Floyd across the country. She said her phone rings every 10 to 15 minutes with inquiries about books on the topic and she's struggling to keep up with online sales.

“The orders keep coming in, and they don’t stop coming in and we’re just amazed,” said Pishko. “We don’t have anything in store; we had them, we just sold out.”

It seems the masses are responding to growing calls for people to educate themselves about race.

On Thursday, all five of the New York Times list of best-selling non-fiction books were about anti-racism:

  1. White Fragility, Robin Diangelo
  2. So You Want to Talk About Race, Ijeoma Oluo
  3. How to be An Antiracist, Ibram X. Kendi
  4. Me and White Supremacy, Layla F. Saad
  5. The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander

Randolph Walker, an author and professor at Hampton University, said it goes beyond a book trend. It’s the beginning of a movement toward change.

“To borrow from Malcolm Gladwell, I think we’re on the tipping point for race in this country, and I don’t see it as being a trend,” said Walker. “These books are designed to help the reader understand exactly what systemic racism is and the role that they could play in helping to correct the situation and once you learn that, you don’t forget it. So, I think that this is the beginning of something that could be much bigger than it currently is.”

Within the Hampton Public Library system, Director Valeria Gardner is pushing out reading list recommendations and ordering more book titles in an effort to keep up with the demand.

She said there has been an increase in library check-outs for books about race.

“People have become aware and they wanna know more. They question their own personal beliefs and they just wanna know more about perceptions,” said Gardner. “Books are definitely the gateway to knowledge. Books, e-books, audiobooks... however you get the information, it’s great.”

Pishko spent her busy Thursday afternoon placing more book orders and sorting through boxes of new shipments. She said she hopes the books will lead to understanding for generations to come.

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