Jacksonville’s Pop-Up Woman Fire Books Celebrates Diversity in Books
For Vanessa Nicolle, reading books is more than just a hobby, it’s a passion and now, a company. The 27-year-old remembers skipping recess in elementary school so she could go to the library instead. The love story continued into adulthood.
But while browsing bookstores, the Filipino-American found a loophole: she couldn’t find books written by people of color and other marginalized identities.
“I couldn’t understand why it was so hard to find a book written by someone like me, an Asian American woman,” she said. “So I created my own bookstore.
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Woman Fire Books is a Jacksonville-based online bookstore that celebrates diversity, selling new and used books written by marginalized authors.
Featured books include “My Heart of Rice: A Poetic Filipino American Experience” by Ashley C. Lanuza, “SANA SANA”, a book combining African, Latin, Women’s and LGBTQIA studies by Ariana Brown, “Raised By Unicorns: Stories from People with Parents LGBTQ + “by Frank Lowe and many more.
The online store started out as a hobby. Nicolle, who has lived in Jacksonville for two and a half years and raised in Pensacola, took it as a New Year’s resolution for 2020 – just before the coronavirus pandemic hit.
“I didn’t think it would become anything, but I slowly realized how much I really enjoyed sharing my books with others,” she said. “Along the way, I also realized how important my mission is: to celebrate diversity and encourage reading for all.
In addition to the online store, Nicolle has expanded its business to include pop-up bookstores in various local markets and events.
His tent at Vagabond flea market at Murray Hill, hosted by the owners of Vagabond Coffee, featured dozens of books by Asian authors, black authors, LGBTQ + authors and more. Some books cost as little as a few dollars. She has more pop-ups planned this summer.
Amplify the voices of various authors
Clients like Reggie Lynn Agulto, 24, have supported Femme Fire Books from the start.
Agulto, who is Filipino and lives in Riverside, described the “joy” she felt when she first saw the store.
“Around this time last year, I looked at my bookshelf and found that I only owned one book from an Asian author – Haruki Murakami,” she said. “I have just been on a personal mission to change that.”
Agulto added, “Sometimes you get bogged down with what’s already in front of you. Then you find a store like Femme Fire Books and realize how many authors you have missed,” she said. “For example, I can’t imagine hearing about ‘Halo-Halo’ by Justine Ramos if I hadn’t seen it on the Woman Fire Books website.”
Nicolle is hoping to eventually open a physical store, but is happy with the way things are going now.
In March, when the country saw an increase in discrimination and hate crimes against the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, Femme Fire Books was featured as one of the top Asian companies in support Good housekeeping magazine. Nicolle also uses her store’s Instagram account as a platform to showcase new books and connect with marginalized authors.
“The purpose of opening a bookstore like Femme Fire Books is to amplify the voices of diverse authors, more accurately reflecting the cultural melting pot of what America represents in our selection of books,” said Nicolle. “There is a very stark disparity in the publishing industry that cannot be ignored.”
Clients like Blayre Desormo, 28 from Arlington, see the value in supporting a small business like Nicolle’s.
“Femme Fire creates an opportunity to recognize writers who often have to work twice as hard to keep pace and helps emphasize the importance of inclusion,” Desormo said. “
According to New York Times, 11% of books published in 2018 were written by people of color. The remaining 89 percent were written by white authors. The range of those books that appear on bestseller lists or prominent bookstore shelves is also small. Twenty-two of the New York Times‘220 best-selling fiction books in 2020 have been written by people of color.
“This statistic is very noticeable when you search for books in your average bookstore,” said Nicolle. “How can diverse voices be heard when they do not have a forum to speak? How can we better understand each other if only one side of the story is being told?
She continued, “Every day I look forward to selling books to create a space that champions a variety of voices, not just the same traditional authors. Buying from Femme Fire Books and choosing to diversify your shelf is a small way. to contribute to the fact that representation, diversity and inclusion are important. ”
You can view Femme Fire Books by purchasing the online store, femmefirebooks.com, or by visiting one of these upcoming pop-up appearances: