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Tattered Cover initiative aims to foster diversity in literature

Hue-Man Experience Bookstore closed in 2000 but has been resurrected in a partnership to bring more Black literature to readers around Denver.

DENVER — Tattered Cover, the Denver-area bookstore chain, recently began a new partnership to help launch a new section focused on Black representation throughout its stores and to curate diverse literary selections for organizations and individuals. 

To do this, they teamed up with Clara Villarosa, the founder of Hue-Man Experience Bookstore, which was open in Denver from 1984 to 2000. The goal of the Hue-Man Experience at Tattered Cover is to help individuals, organizations and businesses that want to learn more about underrepresented titles and authors.

“Hue-Man is a way in which we can find diverse authors, particularly Black authors, who have narratives and stories that may not have been told or aren’t being told today,” said Tattered Cover CEO and co-owner Kwame Spearman.

Credit: Byron Reed
Tattered Cover Bookstore CEO and co-owner Kwame Spearman

Tattered Cover's current owners, an investment group, wanted to change their strategy from the previous management after backlash from the Black Lives Matter movement. Spearman said it was time for things to change.

“One of the biggest things we learned in 2020 is that there are so many stories and so many narratives that haven’t been told, that are equally as rich as this sort of cannon of literature,” he said.

Credit: The Hue-Man Experience
The Hue-Man Experience Bookstore founder Clara Villarosa

Together with Villarosa, his 91-year-old mentor, she and Spearman hope to focus on educating others about diversity in literature.

“The biggest thing about Clara is that she’s a mentor,” Spearman said. “And one of the things that I found to be so great is mentorship and people’s willingness to help and to support as we’re trying to bring books into all types of communities.”

Credit: Byron Reed

“Books represent something significant,” Villarosa said. “And if you never see yourself in a book, you may not think you’re important enough to be in a book.”

The Hue-Man Experience section in all six Tattered Cover locations will focus on identifying, curating and recommending diverse authors and artists. The goal is to ensure thoughtful representation from Black, Indigenous and People of Color.

Credit: Byron Reed

“One of the biggest things we’re seeing today is seeing how much representation matters,” Spearman said. “There are just as many prolific writers who we’ve never heard about who are really changing the narratives that we think about communities today.”

Spearman and Villarosa agree the goal is to bring Black literature into all types of communities to help create a new narrative for the next generation.

Credit: Byron Reed

“This was something that I had started, and it never occurred to me that it would continue in that way, and so Hue-Man lives,” said Villarosa.

“For me, to go to The Hue-Man Experience bookstore and see books and to see covers of books with people who look just like me taught me that anything was possible,” added Spearman. “And the goal is to continue to replicate that for the next generation here in Denver.”

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