Coconut Grove

Books & Books pulls travel guide over ‘racist’ description of Coconut Grove

Gibson Plaza, a new multi-family housing development in West Coconut Grove, opened its doors on Jan. 20, 2016.
Gibson Plaza, a new multi-family housing development in West Coconut Grove, opened its doors on Jan. 20, 2016. FOR THE MIAMI HERALD

Books & Books employee Eden Sherman was stocking shelves at the Coral Gables store in December when she flipped through the new edition of the DK Eyewitness Top 10 Miami and the Keys travel guide to see what it said about Coconut Grove, where she lives.

She found the following passage on Page 106:

“Coconut Grove is a more variegated mosaic. Historically the focus of Miami’s intellectual, bohemian community it also incorporates the blighted ‘Black Grove,’ an area plagued by high crime rates, drugs and deprivation, where many of the descendants of Bahamian workers have settled.”

Sherman was startled.

“It’s blatantly racist, disgusting wording,” she said. “I was absolutely appalled.”


Sherman showed the book to fellow employees, who agreed with her. She also checked other travel guides to see if they used similar language to describe the West Grove, one of Miami’s oldest neighborhoods, which was founded in the 1880s by Bahamian settlers.

Because of forced legal segregation, the West Grove fell into disrepair in the 1960s and ‘70s, overrun by poverty and crime while developers focused on the neighborhood’s glitzier east side, which is on the waterfront.

The West Grove has been on the path to gentrification for the past several years. A new $22 million housing project for seniors opened in 2016. Another developer has announced a $74 million project that would bring new apartments, stores and offices to the area.

And although the neighborhood’s population was once all black due to forced legal segregation, the area today is more racially and ethnically diverse. The term “Black Grove” has not been widely used to describe the neighborhood in at least 20 years.

The dated wording in the travel guide’s Grove blurb led Books & Books owner Mitchell Kaplan to yank the book from his stores.

“DK guides are one of the premier travel guides out there, and I’ve used them extensively myself,” Kaplan said. “But we do not want to carry a guide to Miami that so misrepresents one of the communities within Miami.”

In an email statement to the Miami Herald, DK publishing director of travel Georgina Dee explained the offending blurb was a holdover from a previous edition of the guide, which was first published in 2003. The new 2018 edition is the seventh revision of the book.

“At DK Travel we make every effort to ensure that the information in our guides is an accurate reflection of the destination,” she wrote. “In this instance, however, our text introducing Coconut Grove does not give the full picture and is outdated. We will correct this at the next available opportunity, and we apologize if our content has caused offense.”

Founded in 1974, DK publishes illustrated reference books in 60 languages in more than 100 countries. The London-based company distributes its books through Penguin Random House.

A spokesman for DK said the Miami travel guide was only published in English in the U.S. and the U.K.

Kaplan said Books & Books will restock the guide when an updated edition is released.

Rene Rodriguez has worked at the Miami Herald in a variety of roles since 1989. He currently writes for the business desk covering real estate and the city’s affordability crisis.