Liz Moy, a 29-year-old programmer based in Brooklyn, wanted to help people educate themselves about anti-racism by reading more books by authors of color.
Last week, she created a free bot that you can text for a recommendation of a book written by a Black author based on a genre of your choosing. The bot also links you to a Black-owned bookstore that is selling the title. It’s simple – just text (409) 404-0403 to try it.
Immediately, Moy’s creation blew up on Twitter, with almost 20,000 retweets and over 41,000 likes.
“I was so happy that people actually found it useful,” Moy said in an interview with CNN. “With everything going on, it can feel hard to feel like you’re helping anyone. But this made me feel like, even behind my computer screen, I could be.”
Following the protests after the death of George Floyd, sales of books by Black authors skyrocketed online. Amazon’s list of best sellers is dominated by books on race right now.
Moy said it was important for her bot to include resources to independent bookstores.
“I try and support Indie bookstores anyway, and the idea of supporting Black owned businesses is hugely important right now,” she said.
She added that she made her bot SMS-based because “I know there are people who don’t have access to solid internet connection and SMS is really accessible.”
Moy is an experienced programmer in SMS; she works for Twilio, a cloud-based communications platform that helps programmers make and receive phone calls, send and receive text messages and perform other communications functions using its web service APIs (application program interfaces).
Although she works in a world of code and software, Moy remains a devout book lover, with a special affinity for science fiction. When asked why sharing book resources felt so important, Moy explained that “fiction allows people to experience empathy in a way that I think is really crucial right now. As humans, we need to be feeling for other people and trying to really understand more deeply.”
She is planning to update the free bot in the coming weeks and adding more genres for users to try.