Map of NC

Map of NC

November 16, 2022

An Interview With The Roasted Bookery

North Carolina Literary Map was given the opportunity to interview The Roasted Bookery! They are the only Black-owned independent bookstore in Wilmington, North Carolina. The Roasted Bookery is owned by Jerry and Erin Jones, and actively works to spotlight inclusive/diverse Young Adult and Children's literature. Read more about Jerry and Erin's venture in this interview!

Why do you think the North Carolina Literary Map is important for bookstores?

Digital information by its very nature is fragmented and siloed. More often than not, a trusted source of information is necessary to collate that information and present it in a neutral and non-biased format. This is even more true for independent bookstores as we typically don’t have the resources to blast our presence across all digital platforms and really rely on word of mouth and relationship based conversions. The NC Literary Map serves the purpose of gathering all of this information and planting it in one, trusted location so that we (indieshops) can be found. Plus, it has the added bonus of amplifying our presence. Tell us more about your store, including its history and location. 

Why did you choose North Carolina?

Jerry and I are both former teachers who left the profession last year.  We decided to make the jump into small business and fulfill a dream of owning a bookstore.  We started as an online only and have moved to pop ups around our town, Wilmington.   We are looking for a brick and mortar as well in order to complete our dream.  This has proved challenging, but we really love being in the community with our pop ups and feel we will have a strong following by the time we do move into a building.  Wilmington has been our home for almost 22 years and we don’t see leaving in the near future.  We are both from North Carolina.

What is unique about your bookstore? Also, what types of books does your store stock and specialize in?

We have a carefully curated selection of books that highlight BIPOC and LGBTQ+ characters and authors.  We believe that representation matters in life and in literature.  People who see themselves, and really see people who are not like themselves, as protagonists in books allow for stronger connections to community and greater critical thinking skills.  

What’s your favorite section of the store?

Jerry - My favorite section of the store is our science fiction and fantasy collection. Fundamentally, I’ve almost always preferred books that talk about what the world could be like. I read stuff like Tolkien, David Eddings, Glenn Cook, etc. Of course, I devoured The Wheel of Time, though when I first started that series there were only…5 or 6 books out, maybe? That is what I had access to in our local library in Bladenboro, NC where I grew up. Finding a world of fantasy and science fiction where the authors looked like me and the characters authentically sounded like me was mind-blowing. I love books steeped in west African mythology and Afrofuturism. Okorafor and Adeyemi come to mind. “Next” on my TBR is the work of Nalo Hopkinson whose work is rooted in the Afro Caribbean diaspora. Rooted in the African American experience is a work like A Song Below Water by Bethany Morrison. Love, love, love. I know that I’m missing a ton but those are the works that are top of mind for me. Oh, how could I leave what I’m currently reading? I’m finishing Cazadora by Romina Garber. It is contemporary fantasy duology that tackles immigration/emigration, gender roles, patriarchy all set against a backdrop of Argentenian folklore. I had just finished Jemisin’s Inheritance trilogy, and I needed something different (I almost wrote lighter but that’s the wrong word).

Erin – This is the hardest question.   I primarily read YA fiction and love it all.  I live compilations of short stories (currently: A Phoenix Must First Burn) because you get a taste of many different authors.  I also trend toward dystopian fiction.  This is both a good and bad thing.  Seeing a world that may not be too far off in the future can be terrifying, but also can give a sense of hope (currently listening: Our Missing Hearts).   Books that add a little supernatural or cultural lore to their stories also intrigue me.  Skin of the Sea flawlessly executes the lore of mermaids this way and takes you into a place of magic.   I like books that have messages but aren’t too “preachy”.  This can be found in nonfiction books like Rise Up  and  Stamped, as well as in fiction like Sanctuary and A Song Below Water.  In all of these books, the messages are clear and allow the reader to learn while reading without the feeling of being taught.    It is very hard for me to pick a specific genre, other than YA, as I think there is so much to offer.  If I can get lost in a book or learn something from it, I am 100% in. 

What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to your business?

As a virtual and pop up shop, currently, we work a lot.  I would say we put in at least 40-50 hours a week each.  I am sure this amount of time will increase when we have a brick and mortar, especially in the beginning.  We strive to have a work/life balance since this was one of the reasons we left teaching.  With flexible hours, we are able to spend the time we want with the kids and doing things around the house while balancing our time with the business as well.

Do you think it’s important for a bookseller to be actively involved in the community? If so, how are you involved in your local community?

100000%.  Community is vitally important!  We believe that everyone should be seen and heard, and what better way to live that than by being in the community.  We work to balance our markets at a variety of venues around town.  We work with local businesses and organizations that we feel fit into the culture we strive to promote.  We volunteer at community events and attend small business gatherings offered in town.  We also talk to anyone who walks into our booth, both about books and community issues.  We continue to push ourselves, as we are both homebodies, to be out and about and make community connections and relationships.  This will only help our business to grow.

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