Friends of Raven + Lily: Meet Katrina Brooks
Promoting diversity, inclusion, equality and cultural awareness, Austin’s Black Pearl Books is our go-to independent bookstore. Founded less than two years ago by Katrina Brooks, Black Pearl serves Austin’s multi-cultural, multi-generational, multi-socio-economic community.
When she and her family moved here four years ago, Brooks noticed a gap in Austin’s indie book scene – ‘none of the bookstores I visited focussed on diversity and inclusion,’ she says. Inspired by a visit to a Black-owned book shop in Washington, D.C., Brooks ran Black Pearl Books as a community pop-up before it found its current home at Austin’s Ten Thousand Villages. It is her hope that anyone visiting the bookstore can find themselves on the pages of Black Pearl’s books. ‘Representation matters’, she says.
Keen to find out more about Brooks and what makes her tick, we asked her about her favorite Austin haunts, where the name Black Pearl came from and what her patrons are reading right now.
‘We moved to Austin four years ago. I’m originally from Chicago and my husband is from Tulsa. We’ve lived in several places – Atlanta, Dallas, California – and this was the next stop on our journey. I love the culture and the vibe of Austin!’
‘I have such an affinity for indie businesses, that I can’t really play favorites. Some Austin indie highlights are Kickin It ATX, Flip’N Art Gallery, Still Austin, The Little Gay Shop, and BookWoman – another indie bookstore that I just love. Prior to the pandemic, we really enjoyed attending markets where we would have the opportunity to support local artisans and creators, who, in my mind, are all indie. We understand the importance of shopping locally so try to patronize indie shops, local restaurants and food trucks as much as possible. There are so many good ones here!’
‘I’ve had many entrepreneurial ventures. Over the years I’ve done small business consulting and prior to moving to Austin, owned an interior design company and vintage furniture space. I'm creative at heart, so creating businesses falls right in line I guess.’
‘Outside of pearls representing my birth month of June, black pearls represent so much of who we are and strive to be as a bookstore: independence, strength, loyalty, and healing. Legend has it that black pearls symbolize wisdom and knowledge which is apropos to why I even started the bookstore. Some cultures believe black pearls are a symbol of hope, while others believe they carry healing powers and protect from negative energy. Because black pearls were rare, they were most notably worn by royals, earning them the nickname ‘Queen of Pearls’. Most notably, pearls represent everlasting love, and at the end of the day, that is what we were founded on. How could I have chosen anything else – what other name would have been as fitting?’
‘My passion for books and reading really stems from education in general. As a mother, it’s always been important to me to provide kids with books on representation. But really, there have been so many aspects of my life that I look back on now and realize that they were just preparation for what I’m doing at this moment. The passion that I have for this bookstore was built over years of experience but is fueled by all the possibilities to come.’