In response to criticism leveled at the name, ReadTribe, by other indie booksellers as well as on social media, BookBar owner Nicole Sullivan has changed the name of her latest venture to ReadClubHub. ReadTribe was officially launched late last week.
“It’s a hurtful word, particularly when it is used for marketing and branding purposes,” Sullivan told PW. “The whole point is to bring people together and create community. If we’re using a word that is hurtful to anyone, that is not what we want to do.”
Sullivan said that the issue was raised in an email she received from Nicole Brinkley, a bookseller at Oblong Books & Music in Rhinebeck, N.Y., after PW’s story on the initiative was published last Friday. Sullivan disclosed that Brinkley expressed concerns regarding ReadTribe, and informed her that the word “tribe” used in such a way could be interpreted as disrespectful to Indigenous peoples, as the term has become associated with Native Americans.
“She said, ‘Let me tell you how it’s going to come across, how it’s going to play out,’” Sullivan told PW.
Brinkley confirmed Sullivan’s account of their correspondence and said that she expressed her concerns because bookselling is “extremely white. We can’t rely on the women of color in the community to do the work alone. White advocates need to step up when they see something that can be changed.”
It turned out exactly as Brinkley predicted: on Saturday, Debbie Reese, an educator and activist known for pointing out racism in contemporary literature on her blog, “American Indians in Children’s Literature,” tweeted a series of comments, beginning with the point that “as a Native woman of a sovereign nation, your use of [the word tribe] means you will not have my support for an otherwise great idea.”
She added, “Whether you realize it or not, you’re playing with racist and stereotypical ideas that are so deeply embedded in your head and heart you don’t realize that they’re harmful. People are going to use your good project to create their own clubs and I’m pretty sure they’re going to use stereotypical imagery. You have created space for Indigenous people to be denigrated. You do have the opportunity to stop what will happen. Change the name and thereby tell me and other Indigenous people that you care about us too.”
Sullivan said that she immediately contacted her business partner, graphic designer, and web team to start making the changes after purchasing the domain name, ReadClubHub. The team is in the process of creating a new logo and tweaking marketing materials, the website, and the blog to reflect the new name.
“We’ll be very transparent about changing the name and why it came about,” she said, “We’ll do it as quickly as we can. We made a misstep, but we’re trying to do the right thing. It’s our corporate responsibility to be inclusive and sensitive, and to be responsive to all of our customers.”