The longstanding bookstore, café and art gallery in Highland Park celebrates the most infamous works of literature.
When Lucy Frye – affectionately known in the community as "Mama Nandi" – started a bookstore 18 years ago in Highland Park, she had exactly one goal: to expand her people's knowledge. It was so pivotal, so crucial a mandate, that she put the word in the title: Nandi's Knowledge Café.
Banned Books Week – Sept. 23-29 – celebrates some of the most infamous (and famous) works of literature. Some popular African-American books that have appeared on this list include Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, Toni Morrison's Beloved, Richard Wright's Black Boy, Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and others. Nandi collects these books and more.
Just in time for Banned Books Week, she's planning a special book sale for the month of September. Books will range from $1-$5. Nandi's belief is that black people still know very little about African civilizations, so she wants her bookstore to fill in those gaps through literature, as well as original African art. "History didn't start with slavery – that's just American history," Nandi says.
Born and raised in Alabama, Nandi's family moved to Detroit in the early '70s. A DPS graduate of Pershing, she later attended Wayne State University. Her interest was in science – with two years of pharmacy school under her belt – but no matter the subject, books were integral to her life.
"I sell the kinds of books that people can't find," Nandi says. "I like Highland Park because it puts me in a community. Not a mainstream (like) Midtown. That's not the people that I'm trying to raise up. I'm trying to influence them to read more." Nandi reminds familiars and newcomers alike that she'll feed both mind and body. In addition to books, "We're known for my black bean burger," she adds.
Nandi's Knowledge Café, Bookstore and Art Gallery
71 Oakman Blvd., Highland Park • 313-865-1288