Casting the Spotlight on Third Eye Books, Portland’s Only Independent, Black-owned Bookstore

About once a month I visit Third Eye Books, Portland’s only independent, Black-owned bookstore. Located right off Division Street and 33rd Ave in inner SE Portland, this delightful bookstore is tucked away inside an old Portland house. Owners Michelle Williams and Charles Hannah have created a comprehensive book-buying experience. The store opened at this location earlier this summer, in June of 2021. The bookstore does a brisk walk-in business from Tuesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., attracting folks from the busy Division Street area. Parking is available on the streets around the shop; be sure to allow some time for browsing because you never know what you will find!

Michelle and Charles give book-buyers a warm welcome when entering the store. In their own words, “our vision is to be the number one supplier of African-centered books, accessories, and gifts in the Portland Metro area.” Whether you are looking for classics written by Black writers such as Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, or Audre Lorde (to name a few), or a new fiction written by N.K. Jemisin and Nnedi Okarafor, or books on anti-racism, you will not be disappointed. The selection of books is large and well-stocked, including a section for children and YA as well as Black-centered cookbooks and culinary books.

Every time I visit, I end up leaving the shop with three to four books. In my most recent visit, I picked up Caste by Isabel Wilkerson, Robin di Angelo’s new book, Nice Racism: How Progressive White People Perpetuate Racial Harm, Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor, and Witches Seeped in Gold, a debut novel by Ciannon Smart. Often I go in looking for a specific book, but I always allow myself to explore and pick up books that I know nothing about. Often the books I discover are fantasy books, but I’ve also picked up Amanda Gorman’s new children’s book, Change Sings, as a gift for my great-niece and great-nephew.

Third Eye Books also offers a rewards program on their website, as well as a robust online ordering system that allows for special book orders and bulk orders. Third Eye Books also works closely within the local community and is currently sponsoring a “Children’s Book Blitz” on their website. Hosting a list of twelve books for purchase, these books specifically “support a local Girl Scout’s mission to collect one thousand books.” The bookstore lists virtual events happening monthly and gives visitors the option to shop specific book collections such as “Black Freedom,” “New Arrivals,” and “White Accomplice” collections. Co-owner Michelle Williams has also recently been named to the Advisory Board for Ooligan Press and Portland State University’s Book Publishing program.

As I am preparing for my monthly visit to the store, I am wondering what treasures I might find. I have no agenda—I’m only looking to pick up a few books to add to my ever-growing collection. Perhaps fiction, perhaps a cookbook, perhaps some nonfiction. Who knows what I will find? Whatever the case, I never leave without at least one book because this gives me a way to not only support Third Eye Books as a Black-owned business but also to continue to enrich my own reading life with more books by diverse authors. Visit the store, stop in and say hi, and make sure you leave with at least one book.

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