This story comes to you through a partnership with https://sahanjournal.com/a nonprofit newsroom dedicated to covering Minnesota’s immigrants and communities of color.
When Mary Taris was raising her four children in North Minneapolis, she knew she had to give them books that were more representative of who they were than the ones she had had as a child.
“I always had to spend more time and money finding books that our black kids could relate to,” she said. “At some point, after years of frustration, I just decided I had to do something about it.”
And she did.
In 2018, Taris founded Strive Community Publishing to carve out a niche in the publishing world for black authors. It has published fiction and nonfiction for adults and children by 20 authors and five illustrators, and recently opened its first store at the IDS Center in downtown Minneapolis.
Strive Bookstore’s grand opening will take place on July 20 and will feature Anthony Walsh, author of “Hockey Is for Everybody.” The bookstore launch will also kick off Strive’s summer Book Talk series, where customers will have the opportunity to meet authors.
“We hope that at the grand opening we can get to know some of the people who live in the downtown community and find out what they would like to see in a bookstore,” Taris said.
“I always wanted to be like someone else”
Taris’ experiences as a reader, educator and mother have all contributed to her aspiration to provide children with culturally relevant books.
When she was a child growing up in North Minneapolis, reading was a respite from a chaotic home life.
“I would just be in my bedroom reading whatever I could get my hands on,” Taris, 58, recently said during an interview with Sistah Co-op, the business collective focused on black women in the world. IDS center where Strive is also located. “It was like reading to escape and wishing we were somewhere else.”
But she never felt represented in the books she read as a child.
“I always wanted to look like someone else in a book instead of appreciating my own life and my own culture and understanding my own identity,” she said.
It wasn’t until Taris was in her twenties that she read something she could see herself in. One of her colleagues, an older black woman, had intervened.
“Girl, you have to read books written by black people,” Taris recalled telling her colleague. She lent Taris “Disappearing Acts,” a novel by Terry McMillan.
At that moment, a whole new world opened up to Taris. “My mind was blown,” she said.
Taris said the straw that broke the camel’s back came during her final years as a teacher. Her school, located in the Robbinsdale School District, had received an arts grant and she was encouraged to develop a lesson plan that incorporated the arts.
At the time, her class of predominantly black fifth graders was busy learning autobiographies and biographies. But there were only a handful of black biographies in the school library.
To fill this void, Taris planned to have her students pretend to be adults and write and illustrate their own autobiographies. She made a budget request for blank books and markers for her students.
His request was denied.
“That was it for me,” Taris said. “It’s like, ‘I’m just going to start my own business and I’m going to spend my money on what I want for our kids.'”
She quit teaching in 2019 to focus on Strive.
“They hand over their baby”
When Taris founded Strive, she was supported by a circle of writers she calls her founding authors.
“I give them this honor because they had to go through the learning process with me,” Taris said.
She said she felt lucky that they trusted her — and Strive — with their stories.
“A key thing in publishing is being able to have the trust of writers, especially marginalized writers like black writers are, because they’ve been writing their stories for years,” Taris said. “The moment it happens to me, they hand over their baby.”
Donna Gingery, a 61-year-old black woman and one of the founding authors of Strive, said one of her favorite things about working with Strive was the support and encouragement she received throughout the process. of writing.
“There are a lot of things I love about Strive Publishing,” Gingery said. “The encouragement from the writer, the respect you get from the publisher, and not trying to change the narrative of your book. I think that’s really important.
Taris said Strive does its best to hire black editors to review their books.
The book Gingery is currently working on was inspired by her childhood and her great-grandmother. It’s not ready yet, she says, but she’ll take it to Strive when it is.
Taris’ vision for Strive doesn’t stop at the location of the IDS center. “We have plans for growth and a possible second location,” she said.
In the meantime, she wants to focus on serving the downtown community. “We really strive to connect across cultures,” she said.
Part of that, she said, is portraying the black community and all of its wealth and diversity of talent in a positive light.
Readers are already responding.
“It’s a cultural exchange,” Shimelis Wolde, 70, said recently as he toured the co-op. “It’s important for the next generation.
The official opening of Strive Community Publishing’s new bookstore will be from 5-7 p.m. on Wednesday, July 20. The store is located in Suite 254 of the IDS Center, 80 S. 8th St., Minneapolis. Light refreshments will be served. More information is available at 763-270-5738 or [email protected].
Five new books at Strive Bookstore recommended by founder Mary Taris
“Mix or Vanish: A Memoir,” by Colnese M. Hendon
“Blend in Or Fade Out: A Memoir” explores Colnese Hendon’s experience as a biracial child adopted into a middle-class black family. This gripping memoir follows Hendon through a journey of healing and self-discovery as she navigates the racial and cultural landscape of Minnesota.
“Victory Over Kidney Disease”, by Kevin LA Jenkins
Part self-help book and part memoir, “Victory Over Kidney Disease” covers eight principles that Kevin Jenkins followed in the years leading up to his kidney transplant. Although the story is about his personal battle with kidney disease, Jenkins’ eight principles are broadly applicable to anyone’s life.
“Under a Cloven Sky: A Scorched Heavens Novel”, by Ricardo G. Peters
“Under a Cloven Sky: A Scorched Heavens Novel” is a young adult novel that explores the struggles of royalty and power. It features a host of black characters on a beautiful fantasy island. This is the first volume of a planned trilogy.
“Yes, that’s my mom”, by Jean Mountain
“Yep, That’s My Mommy” explores the experience of a child discovering his transgender mother. This touching picture book helps young children navigate some basic questions about what it means to be transgender in a simple, age-appropriate way.
“Hockey is for everyone”, by Anthony Walsh
“Hockey Is For Everyone” follows Anthony, a young black boy, through his experiences as the only black hockey player on his team. This children’s book was meant to be an easy way to spark important but often difficult conversations about race between parents and children.