Mary Taris, 60, aims to change the literary landscape to a more inclusive one through her Strive Publishing & Bookstore.Mary Taris path from reader to educational reformer is shaped by her commitment to diverse cultural portrayals in literature.Shaping her PassionIn her youth, she noticed that the books she read had a glaring omission: no characters who mirrored her own life and experiences.Her passion for diversity, intensified as she encountered the limitations prevalent in school curricula during her years as an elementary school teacher.How did your passion for books and the arts begin?I used to think that books saved me, but Ive realized they let me down in some ways.Once I started teaching later in life, I recognized how crucial it is for kids to see themselves in booksthey need to be affirmed and to understand that they have a place in the world too.

I never saw myself as being great just as I am; I always envisioned being someone else.Once I got into publishing, I realized this disappointment stemmed from the lack of representation in the industry.What was it like transitioning from elementary school teacher to bookstore/publisher?Im truly grateful for transitioning from teaching to book publishing.Its allowed me to establish numerous connections, not only within the publishing industry but the local literary community here in the Twin Cities.

These connections are ones I never knew existed.Growing up in North Minneapolis, a predominantly Black neighborhood, I was unaware of the rich literary scene.Ive met remarkable individuals and gained valuable insights into my culture and history.

While I appreciate my time as an educator, I now realize the gaps in my education, particularly regarding representation and available resources.In hindsight, I wish I had been exposed to this knowledge during my teaching career.It would have greatly enhanced my ability to provide diverse perspectives in the classroom.

Its been an enlightening journey.What did you teach when you were a teacher?I was licensed for K-8, with a concentration in middle grades language arts or English.In the school system, teachers often get moved around a lot.This frustrated me because I wanted to specialize and become a master teacher for one grade level.

I particularly loved teaching seventh and eighth graders because theyre so lively and eager to express themselves.I always tried to incorporate projects that allowed them to showcase their voices in front of the class.However, the curriculum wasnt designed for this kind of engagement, so I made a special effort to include it in my classroom.Why did you name your business Strive Publishing? Were you hoping that readers and your supporters always strive for greater?Yes, and it also reflects my personal struggle to push toward my vision of a world where Black stories are not only seen but valued.

For example, I just got my first business loan this year, after six years of being in business.How did you end up starting Strive Publishing?I had always dreamed of teaching but didnt pursue it initially because I didnt see many teachers who looked like me.After becoming a mother and eventually going to college in my thirties, I realized how important it was to provide a platform for stories about our culture.This led to publishing.

I started by writing grants to get the funding needed to bring these books into existence, focusing on stories that inspire our children and highlight our culture.(To see and buy books published by Strive, visit here.)In my first year of teaching, I pursued a grant to implement a curriculum I saw on The Oprah Winfrey Show, focusing on forensic speechan entirely new concept to me.My journey into education was unconventional; it took me eight years to obtain my teaching license.

When I finally began teaching at forty, I was often older than the mothers, and sometimes grandmothers, of my students.Yet, I approached it with the determination of a mamba! While publishing wasnt on my radar initially, stories always were.Is there anyone that inspires you or are you your own inspiration?There are many inspiring people in my life, such as Dr.Artika Tyner, the founder of Planting People, Growing Justice.

Despite being younger than me, she exudes wisdom, intelligence, and ambition, having authored over 40 books showcased in a dedicated section of our bookstore.Shes a lawyer with boundless energy, and her commitment to uplifting overlooked stories, like those in Justice Makes a Difference, has been a guiding light for me in my publishing journey.Our partnership at the bookstore has been immensely inspiring, as she continues to achieve remarkable feats.What does aging with attitude mean to you?At 60, aging with attitude means more than just surviving; its about thriving.

For the first five decades, I was trying to survive as a single mother and in the education field.Now, running my own business, Im thriving and doing things my way, free from systemic restrictions.To order books online from Strive Publishing and Bookstore, visit here.To make a donation to fund future efforts, visit here.Photos Courtesy of Strive publishingTop: Mary Taris (Left) Dusty Dembly (right) at a local book fair.Inset: Mary Taris at her Strive Bookstore.NaBeela Washington, an emerging Black writer, holds a Masters in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University and Bachelors in Visual Advertising from The University of Alabama at Birmingham.

She has been published in Eater, The Cincinnati Review, and others.Learn more at

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