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A Multicultural Children’s Bookstore Has Closed But Lessons Were Learned And An Impact Was Made

A Latina with long dark hair and a Black woman with glasses hold up books and read to a group of children at a children's bookstore.
MiJa Books owner Stephanie Moran Reed, left, sits next to book author Tenille Bettenhausen at MiJa Books on Saturday, Jan. 21. 2023 at the store’s last in-person event, a bilingual story time.
(Mariana Dale
LAist )
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I will never forget seeing MiJa Books for the very first time in the Lakewood Mall. It was such a bright, refreshing experience to see such a variety of children’s books with colorful illustrations showing little girls and boys of all shades. I had never seen such a display for kids of color like this before. The teacher and auntie in me could have spend all of my gas money buying books for my little loved ones in this book paradise!

A 'Latinapreneur' With Lessons To Give

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That’s why it broke my heart to learn from my colleague Mariana Dale’s story last week that this Latina-owned bookstore, which opened in November 2021, was closing its doors. Its last day was Saturday.

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Mariana recently visited owner Stephanie Moran Reed at MiJa Books to chat about the lessons she's learned about running a business while also being a mom. It all started with a love of books and a desire for her Afro-Latina daughter to see herself in the stories she read. There just weren’t enough titles available, even online, so Reed saw a need and filled it.

Born in a pandemic, the store had big ups — and downs — after launch, and not every encounter with a customer was a positive one. But MiJa Books had a huge impact on people.

This is what Reed told Mariana:

The first customer that walked in was brought to tears. She was an older Black lady named Corine, I'll never forget her name. She was just scanning the shelves and she paused and was kind of speechless for a while. She just started shedding tears and she's like, 'I've never seen anything like this before.' I cried with her in that moment.

Read the rest of Mariana’s interview with Reed here, and learn more about the life of MiJa Books — how Reed's husband supported her choice to start her own business and how she handled the challenges that inevitably came her way.

Reed’s story and MiJa’s aren't over though. The mission will continue. She and her husband Muammar still have books available to buy online, at special events and at some nearby schools.

As always, try to stay happy and healthy, folks. There’s more news below — just keep reading.

We’re here to help curious Angelenos connect with others, discover the new, navigate the confusing, and even drive some change along the way.

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(more news headlines here)

Wait... One More Thing

Did You Know The Zombie Fungus From The Last Of Us Is Real? (Don't Worry. There's Good News Too.)

This is a photo of a graphic zombie scene with a two men with their hands on each other's faces in video game The Last of Us.
In the video game and HBO show The Last of Us, an infectious fungi turns humans into zombies.
(David McNew
Getty Images)

For today’s interesting story of the day, let’s talk about parasites.

It feels like every time I’ve checked my timeline on Twitter these past couple of weeks, I see people talking about the HBO show The Last of Us. In the 2013 video game and the show, humans are trying to survive a post-apocalyptic world after an infectious fungus turns people into zombies. As a fan of Animal Planet’s Monsters Inside Me, I’m intrigued.

Turns out this fiction isn’t so far from the truth. There is a species of fungus that does practice some sort of “mind control” in insects like spiders and ants, and causes them to change their behavior.

The good news that separates it from the show? The fungus can’t infect humans…at least for now. Read NPR’s story for more.

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