Nikki High is opening “Octavia’s Bookshelf” in her community, where she’ll highlight BIPOC authors and creators.
Azusa Pacific alumna and Pasadena resident Nikki High has always aspired to own a bookstore and fill it with the stories she loves. Now, she is getting that opportunity by opening Octavia’s Bookshelf this Saturday, Feb. 18, where she hopes to cultivate a place for people to engage in different cultures and worlds.
High graduated from APU in 2005, majoring in organizational leadership. While in college, High worked as an operations manager for a culinary school. During her time there, she learned valuable skills that would eventually help her run a bookstore one day.
Opening-up a bookshop has always been a dream of High’s, and she recalls discussing this aspiration with her family. The book-lover said her grandmother was her biggest cheerleader and supported her endeavors of owning a bookstore someday. However, it wasn’t until her grandmother passed that High realized she needed to put her dreams into action.
“I didn’t want to waste anymore time. I wanted to do this now,” she said.
High believes that her grandma would be pleased to see what she has accomplished so far.
High’s grandmother wasn’t her only inspiration for the store. Octavia Butler also played a pivotal role in High’s journey, hence the name “Octavia’s Bookshelf.”
High discussed her love for science fiction, but she noticed how most of the books in this genre didn’t highlight people of color in their stories. However, in high school, the avid reader devoured her first science fiction book written by an African-American woman: Octavia Butler.
“I instantly fell in love with her writing, and I was able to identify with her stories,” High said.
This led to High realizing that a bookstore that showcased BIPOC writers and creators was missing in Pasadena.
“I think it’s important that people from all ethnic backgrounds read materials that help diversify the way they think,” she said.
Not only does High want to cultivate a space for BIPOC creators, but she wants people from all kinds of backgrounds to congregate in her store to engage in conversation about what they read.
Another goal that High has for the bookstore is to promote reading. Many people quit reading after high school because they got tired of all the required course material in the past, but Nikki hopes to reignite people’s love for literature through her bookstore.
The store owner has already been in contact with local middle schools, and she is planning on hosting field trips at her bookshop. She would also love to organize book fairs for students and have them shadow her for a day. High believes that this could spark a love of reading for elementary and middle school students.
“I’m a firm believer that you can’t be what you can’t see,” High said. By starting her own business, she hopes to show young people of color what they could one day accomplish.
The APU alumna said that so many people on social media have been reaching out to her about the store. She is thrilled that her idea has resonated with so many people. She is even more excited about opening her store in Pasadena, a city she’s lived in for 45 years now.
“I’m just trying to honor a city that was so supportive of me throughout my life, so it feels like it’s my turn to give back,” High said.
The Grand opening of Octavia’s Bookshelf will take place on Feb. 18 at 10 a.m. at 1361 North Hill Avenue in Pasadena, California. There will be music, coffee and finger foods. It’s going to be an enjoyable time for everyone that attends. If you can’t attend but would still like to support High, she has also set up a GoFundMe.
Lastly, High said, “I just know the path that was created for me was written by God.”