With 23 Native American tribes in New Mexico, the only surprise is that it took so long for someone to launch a bookstore dedicated to “indigenerds”—or Native Americans obsessed with comics, games, and pop culture. Lee Francis, a member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe, opened Red Planet Books & Comics in Albuquerque a year and a half ago; it is one of the only indigenous-focused bookstores in the country.
“It’s a novel kind of space,” Francis says. “There are books that you wouldn’t normally be able to find or that get crowded out by all the other books.” Popular titles include Rebecca Roanhorse’s Trail of Lightning, the first book in the Sixth World series, Traci Sorell’s We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga, and Deer Woman: An Anthology, based on the Deer Woman comic, which features works by more than a dozen Native American women.
After spending 15 years as an educator, Francis opened the store as part of a series of initiatives for indigenerds. He founded a comic book publishing house, Native Realities, in 2015. One year later, he launched Indigenous ComicCon, an annual convention promoting Native American pop culture creators. Next year, the Con will expand into a larger event called Indigenous Popular Culture Expo at venues around the city.
Red Planet has become a part of the community fabric with regular poetry readings, book clubs, community meetings, and visits from school kids. “Month over month, we’ve kept the doors open,” Francis says. “In small businesses, if you can make it a year, you’re doing good!”