The black-owned Brixton bookshop that has novels with ethnic minority, LGBTQ+ and neurodivergent characters

Brixton, south London is an area bustling with character.

Leaving the station you are greeted by waves of people from all walks of life, co-existing through their every day.

Seeing all these people with your own eyes is fine, but what about picking up a book where you could find a diverse main character?

That is what one bookshop in Brixton has been championing ever since its inception in 2018.

Round Table Books CIC is the bookshop aiming to be inclusive for all.

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Round Table Books is a Community Interest Company meaning that whatever they do, should be benefiting the community they are in.

That is something Meera Ghanshamdas is passionate about.

Meera Ghanshamdas, 43, is Co-Director at Round Table Books. Along with Aimée Felone who founded Round Table and is also a Co-Director, they deal with the everyday runnings of the store.

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MyLondon got to speak to Meera about the importance of Round Table’s mission and why it’s important to have representation.

Meera along with the founder, Aimée want people to have books they can find themselves in

Meera along with the founder, Aimée want people to have books they can find themselves in

Meera said: ” Our mission statement is to diversify the children’s landscape and make children literature a lot more inclusive.

“We support independent publishers as well as only stocking books from diverse authors. All our books are about representation”.

Seeing people come in and take an active interest to diversify their literature is a nice feeling for Meera.

In the wake of the George Floyd murder and subsequent Black Lives Matter protests, people started taking a vested interest in trying to understand the experiences of minorities.

However, as media attention dropped off, people’s interests started to fade.

“We’ve definitely seen a drop off in the last 4-5 months of people from non-diverse backgrounds trying to find out more.

The books all focus on represenation

The books all focus on represenation

“People have a tendency to move on. But that is problematic because our experiences aren’t trends.

“It’s a lifetime experience. So there is still a lot of work to be done”, she said.

That is why Round Table Books only stocks books from diverse authors. Doing this gives them the chance to push people in the direction of finding out more.

The books are all about representation as that is something many minorities can identify with. They grow up reading books that don’t resonate with their life or don’t have characters that look like them.

The books will either be about a representative experience or from a representative author.

That is why they have books such as ‘Queenie’ by Candace Carty-Williams or ‘The Story of Afro Hair’ by Kandace Chimbiri. This gives children from diverse backgrounds a chance to find out more about their experiences.

There are also books centred around neurodivergent and LGBTQ characters.

A table with a selection of books chosen by Round Table

A table with a selection of books chosen by Round Table

Meera said: “Growing up I needed something to help me have those conversations about representation.

“Books helped to answer some of my questions and helped with the dialogue in my head. And even for kids who haven’t found the right reading material, there is still something for them.

“There are a number of graphic novels which kids can pick that can be a gateway into having those conversations.”

There are books such as ‘Black Panther’, ‘Mayhem Mission’ and the ‘Lumberjanes’ series.

Another thing Meera has found is that adults and parents are also interested.

Round Table predominantly sells children’s books but due to the conversation evolving over this last year and a half, things changed.

“We couldn’t just sell diverse kids books anymore. When kids come to get books, the parents would look for some as well so they needed options.

“Because the conversation has changed in society, how can parents have conversations with their kids about what they are reading?

Meera talking to a customer about finding a book for herself and her son

Meera talking to a customer about finding a book for herself and her son

“As parents are reflecting off what they are reading, they can then talk to their kids in a more enhanced way about what they are reading”, Meera added.

Round Table Books started as a pop up on Coldharbour Lane in 2018. Due to the success of that and the people asking for a permanent space, they got a space in Brixton Village in April 2019.

They are still firmly entrenched in the community and are still actively looking at projects that will benefit the community and children.

There are plans to work with local schools, talks of diverse book clubs in schools, working with Ritzi Cinema and local groups. Community and kids are at the heart of everything they do.

Meera said: “We just want to keep building community links in Lambeth.

“Working with organisations in the borough and diversifying the arts they are within.

“By having book clubs in schools, we could create conversations around the books children are reading.”

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