Ancestry Books is a community that focuses on re-centering the narratives of indigenous authors and authors of color. Co-founders Chaun Webster and Verna Wong have both had a longstanding passion and commitment to literature. Chaun, who is himself a poet, founded Free Poet’s Press
in 2009 with the intention of creating a platform for Black and Brown authors to take back their inherent right to create and own what they’ve created, developing their own rubric of analyzing it and the onus for determining its purpose and distribution. Verna is an ELL teacher and currently pursuing a masters in Literacy Education from Hamline. As an educator, Verna has sought to create space for her students to see themselves in the literature they read, and to engage all media critically.
Opening a bookstore in their community was a dream for quite awhile that became more realistic after visiting La Casa Azul Bookstore in New York in November of 2012. When visiting and seeing the beautiful space situated in the heart of El Barrio and the cultural energy that it brought to its community, it became more than just something Verna and Chaun were content to just dream about.
In January of 2014 they signed a lease for a storefront at 2205 Lowry and launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for Ancestry Books. In 13 days they managed to raise $10,000 and received another $10,000 grant shortly thereafter to partner with the neighborhood to run events. From the shelves, to the logo design, to the painting and flooring it has been a community effort building Ancestry Books which opened on June 7th, 2014. Events ranged from readings, workshops, storytelling, musical performance and installation art.
Unfortunately, on September 26th of that year, Ancestry Books closed their physical location and is currently operating online until a new home is found. They can take book orders by email and phone.