A Milwaukee author has plans to open a book bar in the city, focused on bringing varied Black literature to the forefront, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.
Cetonia Weston-Roy is an author and founder of the Black Authors Collective, an online Black authors coalition, based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The budding author started the collective to build community among Black lit writers in the city, an effort she felt necessary to help bring her ultimate goal of opening a book bar to fruition.
The Niche Book Bar is an idea Weston-Roy came up with while in college. After putting her son to bed, she sat down with a glass of wine and a book. She fell into instant utopia. At the time, she tweeted out, “Someone…anyone PLEASE make a Barnes and Noble kind of place with a bar.” Years later, she realized that someone was her, and she sought to make her dream happen.
“I want to be around books. I want to talk about books. I wanna be in this environment where a child I help pick out books [has characters in it] that look like them [and] will cause them to love reading. And then they come back with their children to start them off on [their own] reading adventures,” Weston-Roy said.
The only other Black book store in the state, The Reader’s Choice, closed in 2017 after 28 years. Weston-Roy reached out to the owner, who gave her some great insight and tough love regarding the book business’s realities. Nonetheless, Weston-Roy persists, riding her makeshift book bar around town on a blue tricycle until she secures the funding to open a brick and mortar store. The Niche Book Bike pedals around the city to parks and public events in the city, equipped with a customized yellow bookshelf with collapsible shelves on the back, filled with Black writers’ literature while serving tea from a Black-owned tea shop in the city.
Currently, Weston-Roy is a finalist in the Brew City Match, an initiative focused on granting funding to small businesses in Milwaukee’s underserved communities. She hopes this will be the seed money needed to materialize the store, but if not, she plans to find another way while continuing to write books she wants to read. Her first effort, a children’s book entitled “The Misadventures of Toni Macaroni in: The Mad Scientist,” tells the story of a little Black girl who goes on a hunger strike due to her Dad’s lousy cooking. The character is based loosely on Weston-Roy’s childhood and, in her own words, gives Black kids “a chance to just be.”
Photo Courtesy of Cetonia Weston-Roy
Weston-Roy hopes to feature similar works in her store, which she plans to open in the historic Bronzeville neighborhood of Milwaukee, an area known for its rich Black culture and entrepreneurship. Her focus is to provide literature that reflects the truth but also provides hope and joy.
“I’m trying to go for varied literature because we shouldn’t just have trauma-based work presented in front of us. When I started [the Black Authors Collective], I kind of felt like it was just a me problem, that there weren’t enough books in a varied amount of genres that reflected me. But as I did this more, I found out I wasn’t the only one feeling this way, by far,” Weston-Roy said.