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Black Woman-Owned Bookstore In Chicago Offers Poets, Readers, And Artists A Space To Release

By Danielle Dorsey

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The newly opened Semicolon bookstore offers residents a place to take a pause and find community in the Windy City. The establishment had their grand opening last week and includes a community space and art gallery for Chicago’s thriving street art scene. Semicolon is one of only a handful of bookstores owned by women in the city and the only bookstore in Chicago that’s owned by a Black woman since the closing of the Afrocentric Bookstore in 2008 and APS Books & More Bookstore, which closed last month after four years of operation. 

The bookstore and gallery is owned by DL Mullen, an author, and editor with a Ph.D. in literary theory. Her original vision was to create a multifaceted literary space that would include a library, co-working space, and membership-open club, but complicated construction foiled the project and she decided to simplify it into a bookstore instead.

The finished space features floor-to-ceiling shelves filled with books that are arranged with their covers facing out, encouraging browsers to appreciate them as art. Featured on the bookstore’s north wall is a mural pained by street artist Ahmad Lee which depicts Frida Kahlo and Jean-Michel Basquiat, two of Mullen’s favorite artists. The downstairs gallery space will act as a rotating museum to feature local artists’ work and several of Lee’s pop art paintings are currently hanging on the walls. Mullen hopes to support the local literary community with an Espresso Book Machine that can print up to 450 pages in minutes.

Mullen shared the significance of the name Semicolon with Chicago Magazine, saying, “It represents the point in a sentence where it could stop, but the author decides to proceed.” In terms of realizing her dream of owning a bookstore, Mullen said, “It means everything to me. To be able to create something that I love, as a black woman, that other black women and people can love just as much, is a huge deal.”

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