INGLEWOOD, Calif. — Books have always been an integral part of Asha Grant’s life.
As a little girl, she would stay up late reading and studied English at Spelman College, the historically Black women’s liberal arts college in Atlanta.
Grant's dream was to open a bookstore catering to Black women, femmes and gender non-binary people in her hometown of Inglewood. In December 2021, she officially opened The Salt Eaters Bookshop.
“What I’ve learned over the past few years is there is a significant community of folks who are craving spaces just like this. People have been yearning for a space that speaks to them,” she said.
The name, “The Salt Eaters,” comes from one of Grant’s favorite novels by the author and activist Toni Cade Bambara. There are always plenty of copies in stock at her store.
Grant also has copies of other classics like Toni Morrison’s “Song of Solomon” and Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” alongside new releases like, Akwaeke Emezi’s YA novel, “Bitter” and Amanda Gorman’s poetry collection, “Call us What we Carry.”
It’s the space Grant had wanted to see growing up.
“As an LA native who has grown up in the city and also lived in Inglewood when I was a child, I was always seeking spaces like this and surrounding myself with things that reminded me of me, or of my community,” she said.
The shop’s décor and interiors are purposefully curated: Pink and purple wallpaper featuring images of author Zora Neale Hurston is plastered on the far back wall. A repurposed church pew serves as a place to sit and read.
“It has such a homey feel to it and such a refreshing feel to it. At heart, I’m just a bookworm, and I love reading, so being in a place that’s filled with books and objects that are familiar to me makes me feel at rest,” Grant said.
Grant first secured the shop’s location on Queen Street in October 2020, and the journey from getting the keys to opening the store was sometimes challenging.
“I definitely felt like giving up. Every other day, I was either super excited and motivated or terrified and wanted to crawl into a hole and just say, ‘Sorry, guys. I know everyone believed this could happen, but I can’t do it. I’m too scared.’”
Grant was open and vocal on social media about her challenges and received encouragement from followers and supporters.
On a recent Thursday afternoon, Desiry Dave was visiting The Salt Eaters with Caitlin Cardenas.
“As soon as I came in I was like, 'This is going to be a good store.' I can already feel it. I feel very comfortable, and I feel represented,” Dave said.
Cardenas said the shop was a stark contrast to other bookshops around Los Angeles.
“We go to Barnes and Noble mostly and struggle to find where the Black authors are, so coming to where everyone is a Black author is really nice,” Cardenas said.
While carrying and selling books of poetry, novels and memoirs are central to Grant’s mission, she says it’s much more than a bookshop.
"It’s really about having a deeper connection to your culture, community and background — so many things that people have shunned or said aren’t good enough or aren’t worthy, and being in a space where that is just false."