Readers, I am truly shocked and heart-broken to hear of this closing. Reminds me of what happened to Sisterspace on U St. a few years back in D.C. Hue-man’s closing brought forth a bitter reminder of many really good bookstores that have disappeared in the last decade. I wish I could say I was optimistic about accessibility and that with the incursion of technology, Black authors would be playing on an even playing field.
Instead, I find myself concerned that with the gradual death of the physical bookstore (and physical books themselves) will come the death of a certain kind of community, where people come together into one space for that one purpose–to find, to browse, and perhaps to purchase. Bookstores are the one place where you can indeed loiter and languish for hours at a time without spending your entire paycheck. On the other hand, you may find yourself spending hundreds of dollars on books over the course of months, as well as driving your spouse or partner insane with the ever-growing pile of books that need a proper bookcase and more likely than not, a room bigger than a walk-in closet. Bookstores beckon like-minded people to gather within brick walls in order to meet and talk, perhaps even to agree to meet there again just to commiserate over a favorite author or genre.
I realize the owner sees this closing as being much more complex in its reasons beyond gentrification, but I do not believe for one second that it did not play a role in it. Whether Hue-Man’s closing was and is a part of a much larger gentrification engine or whether it was and is fueled by the increasing demands of competing with that monstrosity of a bookstore Amazon, the unfortunate reality of economic imbalance delivered the expected results that we now witness with much sorrow and gnashing of teeth. Is this our future? Is this what we really want or need?