An Amalgamation of Awesome

It had been a few weeks since I finished the most recent volume of Unwritten, and I eagerly awaited the release of the next trade paperback. Naturally, when the day came, I walked over to my neighborhood comic book store, head filled, heart filled with glee.

I felt fortunate to live so close to a nice one. It was home to several cats, friendly proprietors, and an interesting selection of indie comics. I felt good spending my money there.

I pick up unwritten and an indie title I’d never heard of and made my way to the till. The guys behind the register were engaged in a conversation about one geeky topic or another & it didn’t let off when I walked up. That’s the great thing about comic book stores- being welcomed into who-would-win-in-a-fight and this-versus-that conversations by people who share your interests. So I chatted with the comic book store dudes as one of them rang my purchases. The second looked over and noticed the titles I was buying.

“Hot black chick reading Unwritten! Sweet!”

I wasn’t sure how to respond, so I didn’t. I paid for my purchases, said a friendly goodbye and went on about my day.

Later, I recounted my experience to a friend who shared my frustration with the cashier’s comment. I thought we were just a couple of geeks shooting the shit, but he had made it clear that I was other.

A woman? A black woman? A black woman who I find attractive? Liking things that I like? How fanciful! How exotic!

How irritating.

Fast forward a few years. Enter Amalgam Comics & Coffee Shop. A haven. A beacon. A place where my race & gender will never be fetishized while I’m trying to buy a book.

Amalgam opened a few months ago and I’ve visited as often as I can for coffee & comics & to spend my money at a business owned by a black woman. They held their official grand opening event this past Saturday (coinciding with Free Comic Book Day). It was lit. The place was packed. And I saw so many black nerds running shit. Home.

To be clear: this isn’t the first time I’ve seen black women in the spheres of nerdom. Many of my closest friends are black girl nerds. But it is seldom that I’ve felt no one in that space would demand that I prove my worth, demonstrate that I belong, assimilate or be shunned. If you need proof that I belong here, look no further than the woman in charge. Y’all are welcome to join us, but this is our place.

Alongside the comic mainstays, Amalgam boasts a selection of indies featuring women & people of color as protagonists, heroes of their own story rather than backdrops of someone else’s. Whether I’m stopping by to shop or just to have a cup of tea, I always leave with my spirits high.

 Johari Malik