200 black female authors in a bookstore showcase￼
In 2020, publisher Fernanda Diamant, cultural manager Irene de Hollanda, and a team of professionals related to the Brazilian publishing and literary milieu opened the Megafauna Bookstore. Carrying out such a project during the Covid-19 pandemic with mandatory isolations was a challenge. Before opening the store’s doors in the iconic Copan building in downtown São Paulo, the Megafauna team started an extensive online program with a series of debates.
From there, Megafauna strongly expressed its principles: the bookstore is a space for conversation, reflection, curation, and content creation. As they say on their website: “Megafauna values: books, booksellers, readers and their relationship with the city.” It has a collection characterized by searching for various authors, themes, and publishers. The bookstore has also been affirming its identity by highlighting the production of black authors.
As soon as they could, they opened their doors and initiated a program that included: the invitation to external curators, with the idea of expanding research and reflection on books, a series of discussions, and readings around relevant topics. With this, they intend to qualify the debates around literature, encourage reading, and reflect on the world we live in, having literature and art as a starting point. All this in a livraria de rua, as it is called in Portuguese, an independent and small bookstore with a particular nature.
The name Megafauna, says Irene, “comes from the large beings that lived and became extinct in prehistoric times. It is a name that plays with the idea of the extinction of libraries. Megafauna is positioned as a project to defend the book and a type of bookstore that should not be on the verge of extinction. Finally, it is also a symbolic reading of the Copan building, that iconic and fantastic structure in downtown São Paulo”.
Opening a bookstore in these times and our countries is a very romantic dream. Can you tell us a little bit about how that happened in the case of Megafauna?
Megafauna is located in the Copan Building, designed by Oscar Niemeyer -one of the most iconic buildings in downtown São Paulo. It is a bookstore dedicated to curatorial projects and content creation. It was conceived and materialized by professionals from the city’s publishing and academic sectors, who have always worked with content and have a solid relationship with books.
The project intends to contribute to the reflection on books. Of course, there is all the commercial concern, ultimately giving sustainability to the project. Still, it is a bookstore dedicated to cultural projects: a space for discussion and debate. We constantly make book lists and have a podcast. Since its reopening after the pandemic, it is becoming a space for meetings and seminars. We have writers passing by daily to talk about books and literature.
In general, it is a project guided by research; this has to do with the programming and the creation of the catalog. Our collection is quite specific. The bookstore is small so we can work with a niche of books. To create Megafauna, we researched around 150 to 200 Brazilian publishers, large and small. That is, our catalog is characterized by diversity. We are interested in books that can contribute to a critical, democratic, and anti-racist perspective.
Currently, the bookstore is standing out for its positioning in favor of literary debate, reader training, and concern for the legacy.
What do you think of your role as an educator of readers?
We think of training in the sense of contributing to the cultural debate. For example, we are working with a space for literary criticism columns on our site. All the time, we promote meetings, events, talks, and readings, bringing together great authors and new authors. We are constantly working with content, looking at the book from the commercial side, and considering its complete cycle. That is to say: generally, the spaces dedicated to books are segmented and separated, those who do criticism, commerce, events, or content creation. At Megafauna, we intend to work with the integral cycle of the book.
It also has to do with forming audiences within a niche, for example, increasing the number of readers of black authors. As a result of the debates, recommendations from booksellers, and the book exhibition we do, we influence the choice of books. It is not by chance that black authors are among the best sellers at Megafauna. We are doing a lot of outreach work with this approach.
What is the process of choosing the contents to be disclosed?
We work closely with the major releases and essential books arriving. We have a team very close to content, from the booksellers who have been in the trade for more than ten years and have worked in several bookstores to those in charge of communication and curatorship. They are attentive to what is happening in the literary scene. We have established relationships with large publishers, but some smaller ones with more specialized catalogs with which we identify. We know what releases they will have during the year and which ones would generate good debates from conversations with them. In addition to that, we also think and design discussions from home.
For example, we have an annual program we call ‘Season’ in which we invite a curator to think about a program and a theme based on books. We are starting the third season, and we follow the idea of rotating curatorship to be able to invite new people who bring contributions to our research. We also work with specific themes and recover editions from national and international authors at different times.
What kind of content do you have in the bookstore?
We have literature, art, photography, scientific dissemination, humanities, contemporary debates, etc.
In addition, some questions and themes pass through Megafauna in a transversal way, and such is the case of anti-racism. The concern with the Afro-descendant representation is always on our horizon. Thanks to Brazilian cultural and editorial history, it is straightforward to create programs and book selections with white men, following a hegemonic narrative. Working with programming that highlights literature of African descent or women’s literature requires more research. It is an issue we never disassociate ourselves from and consider unavoidable in the cultural debate.
When you enter the bookstore, there is something that attracts a lot of attention: from before opening and from the first day, our main display case is one where there are more or less 200 books with the cover displayed only by black women authors. That somehow reverses the paradigm and is directly reflected in sales. Our bestseller list is very different from Amazon.
Could you put together a recommended list for Vist?
Some of the recent releases our team is reading and enjoying are:
- Aline Motta, A água é uma máquina do tempo (Fósforo).
- Luís Cardoso, O plantador de abóboras (Todavia).
- Marilea de Almeida, Devir Quilomba (Elefante).
- Eliana Alves Cruz, Solitária (Companhia das Letras).
- Paulliny Tort, Erva brava (Fósforo).