Meet Bronx native Latanya DeVaughn, an enterprising mother of three who believes every neighborhood deserves a quality bookstore. Even if that bookstore happens to be within the most impoverished borough within New York City where the median income is around $30,000.
As a young girl, Latanya drew inspiration from her grandmother who instilled in her a thirst for knowledge and a love of reading.
“My grandmother was an educator in the South Bronx,” Latanya tells us. “She read to the people in our community who couldn’t read for themselves. She read prescriptions, leases…some people’s lives depended on the information she gave them. She’d come home [from her teaching job] and she still had this, you know, this calling to help people in our community.”
Growing up in the Bronx in the 1980s, young Latanya had to hop a train for over an hour, traveling out of the borough across the Hudson River into Manhattan just to get to the nearest bookstore that had the book she desired.
“When I was a kid, if I wanted a book on Maya Angelou, or James Baldwin, or anyone Black, I really had to search for it.”
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Her perception changed regarding the possibility of owning your own business when she discovered a bookstore had suddenly opened within her own Bronx neighborhood that was owned and operated by her son’s teacher.
“So that’s where it clicked,” Latanya said, “that I could possibly own a bookstore one day. I said, ‘wow, Miss Harris is a regular person, and she owns a bookstore.’ So it wasn’t until I saw it that I knew that I could do it.”
Unfortunately, the Bronx is a borough in constant flux, rapidly changing with any downswing in the economy. It wasn’t long after opening her new bookstore that Miss Harris was forced to close the store due to the erratic real estate market that plagued the impoverished borough, where liquor stores far outnumber any retail business.
Nonetheless, that didn’t stop her from pursuing her dream. “It still was there. It was still fermenting in my brain,” she said. “I’ve gone to places like WordUp bookstore in Washington Heights and Veronica there, she’s amazing and she owns it and I just was like, ‘you know what, I’m just gonna do it, like pop-up style’.”
She began putting her dream into reality. On May 5th, 2019, Latanya created a series of pop-up events under the banner of “Bronx Bound Books”. She began selling both new and used books on foot, walking from one homeless shelter or organization to another and dropping off donated books to the needy.
Manhattan has over 70 brick-and-mortar bookstores, but the Bronx only has one. Latanya Devaughn's genius invention of ‘Bronx Bound Books’ brings a bookstore to every block, even if just for a day. https://t.co/11Pm4bsP98 pic.twitter.com/iQ0zR7ZDt5— Good Morning America (@GMA) January 23, 2022
Latanya also began teaching writing workshops for kids and adults at shelters across the Bronx. Soon, her friends and neighbors who owned cars began lending a hand, helping Latanya deliver books across the Bronx.
However, her outreach was limited. That’s when she stumbled by chance across a Pinterest post on social media featuring a book truck in Delaware. “I didn’t know that a book truck was possible. It didn’t even dawn on me to think of that. But it showed something that inspired you know, Bronx Bound Books, a bookstore on wheels.”
Latanya quickly started searching for old buses. She found one in relatively good mechanical condition and converted it into a mobile bookstore, which she parks outside of markets, schools, and parks in the borough.
Appearing recently on Good Morning America, the mother of 3 explained her devotion to the written word, along with her love for her impoverished borough.
“We’ve been shortchanged for so long in the Bronx. Some people feel like we’re the forgotten borough, and everyday that I’m out, even the whole existence of Bronx Bound Books being supported and fueled by the community, shows people in the Bronx that you’re not forgotten.”