Ten Ethnic Book Stores You Can Visit in Los Angeles
The shuttering of at least 200 Borders stores in the coming weeks, with 21 closing in Southern California, might leave bibliophiles across the country with fewer chain options, but it opens up opportunity for independent book sellers to revitalize their businesses after book giants like Borders once contributed to their demise.
In a city like Los Angeles, which boasts districts like Little Tokyo and "Tehrangeles," ethnic bookstores serve as richly curated cultural portals into literature, history and art that often go unnoticed outside of the cultural communities they serve. Here's a lineup of ethnic bookstores in all corners of the city that could benefit from some civil support and will add flavor to your reading list.
Liana Aghajanian Inside Kinokuniya
Chock full of Japanese stationary and an incredibly extensive manga collection that boasts hard-to-find copies of stories in their original form, Kinokuyina's 30-year run in L.A.'s Little Tokyo district has earned it a place in the heart of Japanese culture aficionados, with over 50% of their clientele being non-Japanese, according to owner Kyoichi Ishikawa. The chain bookstore, which also has locations in Costa Mesa and other U.S. cities, imports most of its stock from Japan. It has a modest Children's Book Corner, a variety fashion magazines like 25ans and titles from Japanese-Americans including Secret Identities: The Asian American Superhero Anthology by Jeff Yang and Amy Chua's parenting memoir, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.
123 Astronaut E S Onizuka #205
2. Libreria Mexico de Echo Park
Libreria Mexico de Echo Park, a 40-year-old bookstore coyly wedged between supermarkets and pan dulces carries titles like Twilight, Harry Potter and Dan Brown's latest novels translated into Spanish, along with commendable sections on medicine, religion, sexuality and cooking. While interest in the store's music section has declined due to the internet, according to manager Eduardo Muñoz, two containers full of LPs featuring the likes of prominent Spanish pop singer Camilo Sestos add more than enough charm to the humble store.
In addition to carrying a section of out-of-print titles like Pride and Prejudice and Robin Hood imported from Mexico City's prominent publishing house Editorial Porrua, Libreria also has colorful yarn and embroidery thread for sale amongst the literature and posters of Mexican public figures like revolutionary general Vicente Guerro.
1632 West Sunset Blvd.
3. Siam Book Center
While it caters almost exclusively to a Thai-speaking customer base and, occasionally, travelers prepping to go overseas to Thailand, Siam Book Center (L.A.'s first Thai bookstore according to its website) is worth a visit, if only for how aesthetically pleasing shelves full of books in Thai script look. Sitting in a strip mall on Hollywood Boulevard, the store has an array of cookbooks, aisles of sing-along karaoke CDs and even a manga section, though not as extensive as Kinokuyina's, featuring series like Moon Phase. Siam also carries copies of The Guitar Express, a monthly guitar magazine with tabs and chords of popular Thai songs, as well as Bride International, Thailand's first bridal fashion magazine.
5178 Hollywood Boulevard 323-665-4236