A new hub for Black books opens in a downtown Lansing smoothie shop

Nyshell Lawrence read her first book by a Black author in the second grade: “Roots” by Alex Haley. 

“Something about it intrigued me and I wanted to take it home,” she said. “I know in second grade I could not understand all the complex things that happened in the story, but just the idea that I had this huge book written about Black people was major for me.”

But as she grew up, she struggled to find books about Black culture that didn’t focus on pain, slavery or other trauma, she said.

On a 2017 date to a bookstore with her husband, the couple left empty-handed, unable to find books that contained the natural inclusion of Black people. She said the selection of books by Black women was particularly dismal.

“We spent the rest of the evening talking about how we could create something that would be for Black women that would celebrate us,” Lawrence said. “That’s where the idea and the concept of Socialight Society came from and came about.”

A selection of children's books written by Black authors at the Socialight Society on Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021, at Soul Nutrition in downtown Lansing. Nyshell Lawrence is opening the shop where Black women can read and discuss Black literature together.

And so Lawrence started gathering friends and peers for a book club. She curated the reading list herself — all books by Black women — which the group met online to discuss.

As her club grew over the summer, Lawrence started buying through Bookshop.org, an online retailer that supports independent booksellers. She sold books at pop-up shops at Afterglow Market, Social Sloth Café and at the Lansing Mall.

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