Monday, July 17, 2017

New Independent Bookstore in D.C.: Duende District

By Angela Maria Spring

Angela Maria Spring and Tara Campbell at Artomatic
 What does it take to create a bookstore by people of color, where everyone is welcome? As Duende District Bookstore enters the final days of its second pop-up venture (at La Mano CafĂ© in Takoma), it’s a perfect time to reflect upon how we got here.

The vision for Duende District first began to take shape after I visited Puerto Rico for the first time since I was 12 years old. As a child of immigrants, sometimes you have to go back to the place where a large piece of your identity was formed before you were even born. That’s what Puerto Rico and Panama are to me. It shook me loose from a lifetime of living a double identity, the feeling of never being solidly formed.

Duende District Pop-up at La Mano Cafe
When you see your people on the streets of your neighborhood each day, but hardly ever in the bookstore you work at, and you go back to a country where everyone looks like you, acts like you and owns all the businesses, coming home to the exact opposite is quite a shock.

I’ve been a bookseller for nearly two and half decades, and it was past time to find the courage to venture out on my own and create an amazing, gorgeous bookstore that will embrace and serve my community, as well as other communities of color, then extend the invitation to everyone.

When I met Tara Campbell, a fellow writer of color, at a book group of local women writers this past February, I was only just beginning to think about what it would take to open this bookstore of my dreams.

Tara is also the literary coordinator for Artomatic, a non-profit organization that hosts a six-week arts and literary festival each year in a building either slotted for demolition or change. I had left my job as the floor manager at Politics & Prose in late 2016 and my original plan had been to have a pop-up venture by the end of 2017.

But when Tara mentioned that Artomatic was looking for a start-up bookstore to work with, well, when opportunity knocks, you take it. I decided to use the experience to put together the pieces of a mobile bookstore and start my first crowdfunding campaign to test the viability of the business idea.

Part of the Children's Book Selection
From the end of February to today, Duende District has gone from a conceptual bookstore “installation” in Artomatic to a mobile pop-up bookstore operation with a fully funded Kickstarter campaign to back its existence. We are already forming strong partnerships with different communities in the DMV and lining up future pop-up opportunities in the coming months, including The Writer’s Center in October 2017.

I couldn’t have done this without such strong support of the D.C. bookstore and writing communities.

For more information and our hours, visit

Angela Maria Spring is the founder and owner of Duende District Bookstore. She is originally from Albuquerque, N.M. and holds an M.F.A. from Sarah Lawrence. She has been a buyer and manager in indie bookstores in New Mexico, New York City, and Washington, D.C. Her poetry has appeared in numerous publications, including District Lines, Tar River Poetry, and Revolution House.

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