Cover Photo: A photograph of Hannah Oliver Depp,  a black woman in a dark blue t-shirt and glasses, holding a colorful stack of books and standing in front of full wall-to-wall bookshelves. She looks toward the left of the frame and smiles.
Photograph courtesy of Hannah Oliver Depp

Bookseller Spotlight: Hannah Oliver Depp of Loyalty Bookstores

Depp has built Loyalty into a highly regarded brand, one that honors her vision of an independent bookstore committed to social justice.

This is the first installment of “Bookseller Spotlight,” a series of features on the business of bookselling.

Booksellers are an odd lot. The profession requires both the introversion necessary to sit for hours reading in solitude and the extroversion needed to put a book in a stranger’s hand—often after administering an impromptu field test of their reading habits—and say, “Trust me; this is the book you need.” Similar to the way reading is simultaneously an escape from the world and a path deeper into it, bookselling is at once gnomic and performative, a mix of studious attention and improvised fortune-telling.

All the parts of me now finally have a place

Proust

off

my

those matters

same

is

As time wore on, Depp felt mired in the role of professor for a class she didn’t really want to teach—much less the 101 version. Like Gay, she could feel herself rolling the same stone endlessly up the mountainside, everyone applauding or crying but ultimately doing nothing. Eventually, Depp concluded that the best way to make a difference was to gain more influence. In order to do that, “You pretty much needed to be the head buyer at an extremely well-regarded legacy bookstore, or you needed to be an owner.”

diversity

Steve Haruch is a writer based in Nashville. He edited the books Greetings From New Nashville and People Only Die of Love in Movies: Film Writing by Jim Ridley. His work has appeared at The New York Times, The Atlantic, NPR's Code Switch and elsewhere.