As Enda Jean Pemberton Jones walked among the shelves at Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi, something stirred within her. Jones was on a civil rights history trip when she stopped to visit the storied bookshop. And that’s when she knew: “I was amazed by the literature that was there—the diverse literature, the culture. I said, ‘When I get back to Dallas, I’m starting a bookstore.’ ”
Last year, Jones did just that online, and at the beginning of June, her Enda’s Booktique opened a storefront on Main Street in Duncanville. Yes, there was a pandemic going on, but another kind of global movement was afoot: a reckoning of systemic racism that permeated institutions and minds. And books were a crucial tool for improving the latter. “There was a huge awareness of a racial divide, and there was a campaign to support Black-owned businesses,” says Jones, who credits the African American Literature Book Club for spreading the word via Instagram.
While Jones opened a bookstore in a moment we needed it most, her love of learning stretches back to her childhood, when she would spend days reading books that gave her a better understanding of the Black experience and “more clarity as relates to the narratives that we live today and had in the past.” Those books filled a historical gap that was and is still present in school.
Her quest for knowledge was part of her upbringing. Jones’ grandfather was a minister; her father is a minister, youth pastor, and elementary teacher; and her mother is a community leader. Faith and teaching are, Jones says, “something I’ve always lived.”
The apple didn’t fall far. Since the late ’90s, Jones has worked in ministry and as a prison chaplain, launched literacy programs, and has taught GED prep for adult learners since 2015. Her journey in education led to opening a reading room for her students that grew into a library. Now it’s a fully fledged bookstore.
Enda’s Booktique focuses on books “written by women about women for women,” though, Jones adds, “we read books written by men as well.” She noticed a dearth of female-focused narratives despite knowing “we’ve done a lot in this world.” At Enda’s, you’ll see titles from Toni Morrison, Michelle Obama’s autobiography, and self-help books on how to be actively anti-racist.
You can learn something from a book, but, as Jones reminds us, people teach you about yourself. It’s a reciprocal exchange of information—and also of humanity. And she is still a teacher.
“You think when you’re helping people, you’re teaching them everything that you learned, because sometimes we could give without connecting,” she says. “And I don’t want to do that. It’s not that they’re helpless. They’re needing a little bit more light.”