There’s a New Place to Buy Latino Literature in Houston

The grassroots effort brings books to a traditionally underserved Houston neighborhood.


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The sun is setting outside, but the excitement is just beginning inside the Talento Bilingüe de Houston Community Center just east of downtown.

Teenagers are stringing up colorful lights above a small stage. Music and laughter fill the room to the side, where people are hanging up tote bags bearing pictures of Frida Kahlo. Pink shelves line one of the walls.

A new bookstore is coming to Houston's East End.

"We were here over the weekend painting shelves, so it's unglamorous work right now," says Tony Diaz, the founder of the literary non-profit, Nuestra Palabra: Latino Writers Having Their Say. Until now, they've never had a physical location to sell books.

"People have said that downtown Houston was a book desert," Diaz says. "We've just created an oasis."

They're calling the place Nuestra Palabra Books and Art. It'll feature works by and about Latinos, including local authors whose books may be hard to find in the big-name bookstores.

"Like Marie Elena Cortes," Diaz explains. "She has a book called Neglected by Two Countries. It's about kids who've been kind of caught in the immigration system and it's their personal stories."

The store had its soft opening inside Talento Bilingüe last week. They're waiting for the green light from the city to knock out part of an inside wall to make room for a counter, then the grand opening will follow. It's not just a place to pick up a book. They'll also serve coffee and sell art.

"Our community really needs a cool little bookstore to come chill at because these are serious, heavy duty times," Diaz says. "And I think now, more than ever, we do need a place where we're not by political party and we're not going to bully people. We're going to celebrate people."

Diaz says they plan to host nationally-published authors for readings at least once a month, alongside community writers.

"I think this is a great place for everybody to meet on a common, even ground," he says. "Meet us in person, have a good time or take some books away. A lot of times, folks come up to me and say, ‘Hey, what are some books that can tell me about the Latino experience?'"

So far, there are about 500 books in stock, with room to grow to about 2,000. Someday, it may be even more than that.

"We would love to have the issue where we have to expand, but we haven't even officially opened yet," Diaz says with a laugh. "So, it's kind of one thing at a time."

The grand opening of Nuestra Palabra Books and Art is set to take place sometime before Christmas.

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