Mind Altering

This dealer will happily feed your habit. Be warned, though: Her stash may make your heart race, tweak your perception of reality, cause you to laugh or cry uncontrollably, and keep you up well into the night.

LaShawn Kinder opened Book Addiction this past June on Grand Avenue in Coconut Grove. "Usually when you think of the word 'addiction' you think of it in a negative connotation, but it doesn't always have to be that way," she says. The good fix you'll find here is books, plus CDs and magazines, all primarily by and/or about African Americans.

Whether it's The Murder of Biggie Smalls or Vernon Can Read!, a memoir about Vernon Jordan, or Thulani Davis's novel Maker of Saints, Book Addiction's shelves of 200 or so carefully selected publications are organized neatly by genre and contain everything from best sellers to obscure authors. Try finding works by African scholar Cheikh Anta Diop at your average megastore.

Following in the footsteps of Miami's pioneering Afro-In Books and Things, founded in 1977, Kinder, an elementary school teacher in Homestead, wants to create a "cultural meeting place" for the community, not just a bookstore. To that end she offers movies (Soul Cinema), a book group, and readings. Plans for live jazz are in the works.

Authors Nelson George, Lorna Owens, and Atlanta's Travis Hunter have already read at the store. Tananarive Due and Edwidge Danticat are on her shortlist too.

"The minute I walked in here I fell in love with the vibe," said Rebecca "Butterfly" Vaughns, a spoken-word artist who hosts the Release Yourself Friday poetry and music event there. Chanteuse Nicole Henry and soulster Big Brooklyn Red are among those who have hit the mike at Release Yourself.

Kinder felt the Grove was an ideal spot to reach residents from both north and south in the county. And though Grand Avenue could be considered something of a misnomer for the traditionally underserved area, she's not deterred. "Certain areas are blighted because no one takes the risk to put something in to turn the area around," she said.

Positive feedback has come in from everyone from the Coconut Grove Local Development Corporation to her family (her mother, Mary, and brother Edward are working closely with her in the store).

Book Addiction is her answer to the question Langston Hughes asked: "What happens to a dream deferred?" Truth be told, Kinder has been planning for this dream for about ten years. And her obsession with books and reading and the worlds they open came to her as a child: "I wasn't antisocial," she said, "but if I had a good book I wasn't going outside."

Book Addiction is located at 3805 Grand Ave, Coconut Grove. Hours are Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.; Friday until midnight. Events: Release Yourself Friday at 9:00 p.m. ($3 to watch; $1 to read); Soul Cinema Saturday, old-school movies screen in-store all day, free. Call 305-476-8191 or see www.bookaddiction.com