As a former teacher in New Orleans and mother to some voracious readers, Heights resident Terri Hamm understands the importance of books to young readers – and the importance of readers recognizing themselves in literature. So she has launched Kindred Stories, a bookstore for all ages committed to amplifying Black voices and bringing diverse stories to the local community.
“My daughter Elle has probably read more books in her lifetime than I have,” Hamm said. “She wanted to read books about Black girls by Black authors and has really been able to explore the diversity of Black culture.”
For a time, Hamm ordered books to keep up with Elle’s passion but said the algorithms of the online sites kept showing her the same types of books.
“I wanted a way for her, and for other people to be able to explore multiple genres in Black literature,” Hamm said. “And I realized that there was not a space for that in Houston."
The store, which is now online, opened in February. By the end of summer, Hamm and Kindred Stories plan to move into a leased space in the Third Ward, a community that Hamm said does not have the same access to books as the Heights.
Hamm’s journey to being a bookstore owner started with her own research more than a year ago. A marketing major at Howard University in Washington, D.C., Hamm devoured resources from the American Booksellers Association and Paz & Associates, a resource for independent booksellers.
She said she has learned the most about the industry by visiting one of her favorite independent bookstores – The Lit. Bar – in the Bronx and visiting with Afro-Latina owner Noëlle Santos.
“She and I talked for a long time,” Hamm said. “I’m still learning new things every day.”
In addition to her online presence, Hamm has taken her shop on the road, at pop-ups in local coffee shops and at the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum.
“I’m all about baby steps,” she said.
Hamm is also passionate about working with underserved communities to provide books and is still brainstorming ways to get books in the hands of more readers of color.
“Books are expensive,” she said. “I’m looking to connect schools and nonprofits and maybe do some fundraising.”
One bright spot of the pandemic, according to Hamm, is the ability for small stores like hers to host big-name authors through virtual book tours. This week Michelle Williams of Destiny's Child is doing a weeklong virtual tour for which Kindred Stories will provide the books to local participants.
“It’s a way for us to be involved and get our feet wet,” Hamm said.
So far, Kindred Stories is attracting previous book readers who are looking for Black-authored books online. Hamm also does special orders for other communities of color.
“I just did an order for a school with a community that is 50 percent Latinx,” Hamm said. “Although promoting Black authors is my passion, I support all authors and all authors of color.”
Hamm notes that in looking back at the books Elle has read over the years, she realized that a lot of the books with Black main characters were not written by Black authors.
“I firmly believe that Black people should be able to tell their own stories,” Hamm said.
For more information, visit https://kindredstorieshtx.com/.