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This bookstore aims to be a safe space for people of all kinds

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Posted at 7:54 PM, Jun 03, 2024

INDIANAPOLIS — Leah Johnson knows the impact book bans can have on marginalized communities.

“When I saw my own books being banned and challenged, [I] saw so many of my friends' books being banned and challenged, I knew that we needed a space where kids always knew that they could come in and get the stories that they deserved,” Leah Johnson said.

Stories featuring Black, indigenous, and queer voices with hot button topics like race and racism.

‘So it felt urgent to me that we curated a space where those stories always had a home,” Johnson said.

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That home is inside Loudmouth Books on E. 16th Street in Herron–Morton Place. It’s a space Johnson chose for its walk-ability and its neighbors, specifically Gregs Our Place.

“Gregs is a cultural queer institution in this city,” Johnson said. “So knowing that Gregs was across the street, knowing that it had been a part of the neighborhood in such an integral way for such a long time, made me feel like this was going to be a safe, welcoming environment for us to bring a bookstore that does the kind of work that we do.”

Work that includes maintaining access to stories that affirm the existence of people of all kinds.

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“We're getting kids who are queer, kids of color, [kids] who have various marginal identities, and knowing that every time they come in here, there's no doubt about whether or not they're going to be treated with care and also met with stories that reflect their existence. I know how crucial that is, because I know how important it was to me,” Johnson said.

Johnson says one of the great joys of the shop’s location is its proximity to Herron High School.

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“Watching the kids from Herron come in here after school and gather with their friends and flip through a graphic novel and sit on the beanbags where there is no expectation that they buy anything,” Johnson said. “This is a safe space for them to be and speak.

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Loudmouth is one of a number of independent bookstores that have recently opened around Indianapolis. But Johnson doesn’t see those shops as competition, but rather a community.

“For me, it feels really clear that everybody is serving a different pocket of the community,” Johnson said. “If all of us are focused on how we can uplift the communities that we are there to support, then everybody wins.”

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