This Super-Charming Pop-Up Bookstore Wants to Add Some Diversity to Your Shelves

Duende District aims to be "a bookstore by and for people of color—where all are welcome."

Nina Strassburger-Rivas tucks into a title at the Duende District pop-up at La Mano Coffee Bar in Takoma Park. Photo courtesy of Nevin Martell.

The front window of La Mano Coffee Bar in Takoma Park looks like a bookstore, not a café. A charming mishmash of shelves and benches are decked out with titles that span reading level, interests, and genres. There’s everything from children’s picks, such as Eileen Wasow’s El Dia de Ana and Every Little Thing, based on Bob Marley’s classic “Three Little Birds,” to adult fare, including Traveling Soul, a Curtis Mayfield biography, Daisy Hernández’s memoir A Cup of Water Under My Bed, and Ta-Nehisi Coates’s graphic novel, Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet.

The books do have something in common: they are all by authors of color.

This is Duende District, a pop-up bookshop with a mission. “It’s a place for people of color to shine,” explains owner Angela Maria Spring, who is bicultural—the product of a Panamanian/Puerto Rican mother and a white American father—and identifies as Latina, “but I want everyone to feel welcome.”

Spring has a background in the book business, having spent more than a decade and a half in the industry working for Politics & Prose, as well as Books of Wonder and McNally Jackson in New York City.

She founded her mobile lit boutique in February of this year and debuted it at the Artomatic festival in April. Funding came from a Kickstarter campaign that raised close to $11,000, almost $2,000 more than her goal.

The name comes from poet Federico García Lorca’s essay “Play and Theory of the Duende​.” “The word duende technically means elf,” explains Spring, who has an MFA in poetry from Sarah Lawrence College and has seen her poems published in Tar River Poetry and Revolution House, “but Lorca describes it as the place deep inside of you where creativity begins and then rises up out of you.”

The constant challenge to adapt to new surrounding appealed to her. “I love transforming a space into an actual tiny bookstore that’s warm, welcoming and beautiful to look at,” she says.

There’s an immediacy to the pop-up format, which allows her to do business where a full-time brick and mortar bookstore might not be viable. “This is a way for me to get into communities right away,” she says.

Parents will be happy find plenty of choices for themselves in stock, as well as a strong selection of baby books and pictures for early readers. Spring is hoping to expand with more middle reader, young reader, and teen books at future pop-ups.

Duende District will be at La Mano through August. Then bookworms will find it at the A Creative DC space in Brookland and a space in Hyattsville in September, followed by stints at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Anacostia’s East of the River Book Festival, and DC’s Fall for the Book Festival, all in October.

Parenting writer

Nevin Martell is a parenting, food, and travel writer whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, New York Times, Saveur, Men’s Journal, Fortune, Travel + Leisure, Runner’s World, and many other publications. He is author of eight books, including It’s So Good: 100 Real Food Recipes for Kids, Red Truck Bakery Cookbook: Gold-Standard Recipes from America’s Favorite Rural Bakery, and the small-press smash Looking for Calvin and Hobbes: The Unconventional Story of Bill Watterson and His Revolutionary Comic Strip. When he isn’t working, he loves spending time with his wife and their six-year-old son, who already runs faster than he does.