Reading has always been Terri Hamm’s way of bonding with her daughter. But as a child and teen, Hamm herself struggled to access books that reflected her own experiences as a Black immigrant girl growing up in New York City.
“It’s not that those books didn’t exist,” Hamm tells Houstonia. “I just didn’t have access to them. My daughter, Elle, also didn’t really have a book space to go to that reflected the kind of books that she needed.”
Hamm’s already started to change that, with the opening of her online bookstore, Kindred Stories. By summer’s end, though, she plans for her store, which specializes in amplifying Black and other minority voices, to have a brick-and-mortar location within Houston’s Third Ward.
“We need all the space we can get to combat all the obstacles that are constantly showing themselves in this country,” says Hamm. “We need safe spaces to come together to learn, to share and explore.”
Since opening its virtual doors in February, Kindred Stories, which hosts its first-ever in-person author event, a reading with author Nicole Lynn on July 20, has been hosting pop-up events and working with local schools to diversify their libraries.
After watching the success of the pop-ups, Hamm decided it was time to open a permanent location. Well, a semi-permanent, small location in partnership with a Third Ward nonprofit—Project Row Houses.
“It’s a long-term pop-up, until we find the perfect permanent bookstore space,” says Hamm. “The Third Ward has so much black history and culture, and I hope that the store can also be a space where Third Ward history is on display.”
Kindred Stories will also do this by showcasing the work of Black artisans. Hamm envisions a space full of pottery, candles, teas, coffees, wrapping paper, stationary, and, of course, books. The physicality of that space she dreams of opening is essential to the bookstore’s mission of creating as a space where underserved neighborhoods can gain access to works by diverse authors about diverse experiences, she explains.
Most importantly, Kindred Stories is a bookstore for children, like Hamm once was and her daughter, though 13 now, will always be in her eyes. Younger readers—whether they be in diapers or about to head off to college—"need to be able to see that their own stories are worth telling, and that they can be the people who tell them," Hamm explains.
“These are the kids questioning their identity, trying to understand who they are in the context of their families and the neighborhoods they are growing up in, and comparing and contrasting it to what they see in the media. They’re the ones who need it most, and that’s what the bookstore is all about.”
Kindred Stories’s reading with Nicole Lynn takes place July 20 at Project Row Houses Community Gallery, 2521 Holman St. More info and tickets at kindredstorieshtx.com.