- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 2, 2016

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) - As a Purdue University librarian, recommending books to students and community members is part of Jamillah Gabriel’s every day.

Now, Gabriel will be working to connect readers across the country with literature written exclusively by black authors.

Gabriel is launching a monthly literature subscription box, called Call Number, a nod to her profession. Subscription boxes are a recent trend - for a flat rate, subscribers receive a monthly parcel with anything from makeup to snacks or, in this case, books.

“The motivation is to promote black literature,” Gabriel, who works at Purdue’s Black Cultural Center Library, said. “The publishing industry is not diverse. There are not that many writers of color and the ones that they are published don’t get the press white authors do.”

Gabriel said the inspiration for the box came after she subscribed her niece to a monthly service, which highlights black children’s literature. She wondered if there was anything like this for adults. Quickly realizing there wasn’t, she decided to start her own subscription box.

With help from the Purdue Foundry and an IndieGoGo campaign, she raised enough capital to launch her business.

Gabriel is keeping the names of featured authors tightly under wraps, that’s part of the surprise she said, but the box will highlight lesser known black authors.

“I wouldn’t necessarily highlight authors like Zadie Smith, because she is so well known. . Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Nicole Dennis-Benn, those are the kind of writers I want to highlight,” Gabriel said.

In addition to a book, the box will include a carefully curated collection of items that reflect themes in the book, black literature or aspects of working in a library.

“I also wanted to create some awareness about how you organize literature in libraries,” Gabriel said. The design of the box is a nod to this. PN841 is listed on the lid, the call number for black literature.

Charms, bookmarks, journals and other items will arrive with the new piece of fiction each month.

Gabriel plans to launch the box later this month. She has been collecting emails and gauging interest since she came up with the idea several months ago, and she said the project has been met warmly by readers throughout the country.

The box costs $35 a month. Gabriel said those interested should submit their email addresses through the Call Number website to receive more information.

“It can be difficult to find writers of color if you are looking for that. Beyond the most popular ones you have to work to find writers of color. … The book will come to you, a new writer will come to you without you having to dig and search. I do the work,” Gabriel said.

For those who are willing to do a little work, however, there are other ways to stay abreast of contemporary black literature and authors not picked up by mainstream publishers. Readers looking for diverse reads can visit blogs like Well-Read Black Girl and Read Diverse Books, or even attend community events hosted by the Black Cultural Center Library.

And of course, Gabriel added, you can always go ask a librarian.

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Source: (Lafayette) Journal & Courier, http://on.jconline.com/2feKr3E

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Information from: Journal and Courier, http://www.jconline.com

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