“I think every neighborhood deserves a bookstore, even if it’s just for one day,” says 41-year-old Latanya DeVaughn, who literally put her money where her mouth is by establishing Bronx Bound Books, a mobile bookstore in a rebuilt bus.
DeVaughn first traded on the idea of a travel bookstore back in 2019. By using Ubers and asking friends for rides, she took her books to various pop-up events, farmers markets and schools before receiving a grant that made it possible for her to convert the Ford 2012 Ford E-350 shuttle bus, which she bought on election day 2020 into an actual bookstore on wheels.
“I was initially looking for a school bus,” she explains. “But because of COVID-19, it would be crazy to find a mechanic to do the work. I did some research and found that the shuttle bus runs great, is sustainable, reliable and easy to repair.”
Visitors will find about 3,000 new and used books in the unusual store at any given time. They run the spectrum in terms of genre – from children’s books to classics, bestsellers and more – which, according to DeVaughn, is actually the point of the whole endeavor. “The key here is the power to choose,” she says. “There’s a huge misconception that people in the Bronx don’t want to read. I think the books they’ve had access to were just not the ones they wanted to read.”
Among the requests she often makes: A Wimpy Kids Diary and former President Barack Obama’s tomes.
Currently, the bus runs by appointment. Once hired, DeVaughn drives to schools, temples and shelters, allowing visitors to shop for free. Other times, she goes to events like the Bronx Night Market for free and sells her books to those in attendance. According to her estimates, she has already sold or distributed about 7,000 books in this calendar year.
When DeVaughn is asked about her hopes for the future, DeVaughn is quick to note that the book buying experience in the Bronx deserves a overhaul. “I want it to be something that happens on a daily, regular basis,” she says. “I want to give parents their dignity back. It can feel like they’re failing if they can not afford anything. The storybooks are very important, so when parents can not afford it, it’s a problem.”
As for her own favorite writing, the business owner is reluctant to make a single choice, even though she mentions people like James Baldwin and Maya Angelou. “I have three children, and it’s like asking for my favorite child,” she jokes. “I love everything that is uplifting and teaches me about the past and the people who came before me.”