Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, May 31, 2023

William Morrow & Company: The List by Yomi Adegoke

St. Martin's Press: The Last Outlaws: The Desperate Final Days of the Dalton Gang by Tom Clavin

Page Street Kids: Payden's Pronoun Party by Blue Jaryn, illustrated by Xochitl Cornejo

Annick Press: Dragging Mason County by Curtis Campbell

Flatiron Books: Where There Was Fire by John Manuel Arias

Peachtree Publishers: Buddy and Bea series by Jan Carr, illustrated by Kris Mukai

Tor Teen: The Hunting Moon (The Luminaries #2) by Susan Dennard


ABA, ALA, AAP, and 14 Others Sue Arkansas over 'Obscenity' Law

A group of 17 plaintiffs, including the American Booksellers Association, the American Library Association, the Association of American Publishers, other book world organizations, local bookstores and libraries, parents, and students, are suing the state of Arkansas over Arkansas Act 372, which limits minors' access to books and other materials deemed "obscene."

The law, which passed in March and goes into effect August 1, states that anyone will be allowed to "challenge the appropriateness" of public libraries' offerings, but it does not define "appropriateness" or provide any "standard that we're expected to use" to determine this, John Adams, an attorney for the Central Arkansas Library System, told the Arkansas Advocate. The newspaper continued: "Proponents of the law have said no one under 18 should be able to access content pertaining to racism, sexual activity and LGBTQ+ topics, calling it 'indoctrination.' Opponents of the law say this content reflects the community and that restricting access amounts to censorship."

Pearl's Books in Fayetteville, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

The ABA and ABFE pointed out that under the new law, "Arkansas booksellers can be prosecuted for 'making available' or 'displaying' books that are 'harmful to minors.' This means booksellers have to choose to either limit all the books on their shelves to materials acceptable for the youngest readers or exclude all minors from the shop."

Thus, booksellers could be charged with a misdemeanor for the first offense or a felony on the second offense for "selling, displaying, or marketing legal materials in their own bookstores. It is impossible for a bookseller to know the contents of every book in their store and impossible to define 'harmful' for everyone."

The law also makes it easy for individuals, "especially those that belong to censorship groups, to enter a bookstore for the express purpose of finding a book that they believe is offensive simply to get a bookseller into legal trouble for selling a book that they don’t like. This could understandably force some bookstores to not display a diverse array of literary works for fear that they could run afoul of the law."

ABA CEO Allison Hill said that the law "denies residents of Arkansas their constitutional right to decide for themselves and their children what they read, and criminalizes the important work of librarians and booksellers to connect readers with books--a bookseller could go to jail for displaying a book in the fiction section of their store! This bill is vague, impractical, and unconstitutional.

WordsWorth Books in Little Rock, also a plaintiff in the suit.

"ABA is committed to protecting and supporting booksellers' First Amendment rights in Arkansas and every other state, and we're in good company with our coalition of authors, publishers, bookstores, and librarians as we file this suit on behalf of our members and in support of democracy."

Plaintiffs include two Arkansas independent bookstores: Pearl's Books, Fayetteville, and WordsWorth Books, Little Rock.

The law being challenged in the Arkansas suit is "virtually identical" to a 2003 state law that banned displays of reading material deemed "harmful to minors," according to John Adams, lawyer for the Central Arkansas Library System. The state Supreme Court struck down that law, signed by then-Governor Mike Huckabee, in 2004. The new law was signed by his daughter, current Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

The Arkansas suit is the second major lawsuit against the wave of book bannings in many parts of the country. It follows by two weeks the lawsuit filed by PEN America, Penguin Random House, authors, and parents against the Escambia County School District and School Board in Florida over book bannings and access restriction in the area's public school libraries.

Spiderline: An Ordinary Violence by Adriana Chartrand

Grand Opening for the Book Bird in Avondale Estates, Ga.

The Book Bird hosted its grand opening last weekend at 32 North Avondale Road., Suite C, Avondale Estates, Ga. Rough Draft Atlanta reported that the indie pop-up bookshop created by owner Brittany Smith and Banjo Coffee CEO Chasidy Atchison occupies a 600-square-foot space in a small building also known as the Banjo Lounge just across the street from the coffee shop.

A lifelong bibliophile, Smith moved with her family to Avondale Estates in 2019. After launching the Avondale Book Club with Daphne Godfrey, Smith said the bookshop idea was hatched during a conversation with her husband. "I was just talking to him one day and I said, 'Avondale Estates really needs an independent bookstore, how cool would that be? Someone should open an independent bookstore,' " she noted. "Lo and behold, here we are.... This whole thing happened like five weeks ago

Atchison recalled how Smith alluded to this concept: "I have a vision--it involves bookshelves." 

Smith had initially reached out to Atchison, a fellow book club member, asking only for business advice, but "it didn't take much conversation before Atchison suggested that Smith try a pop-up in Banjo Coffee's space just across the street. It was a perfect fit, and the two have been hard at work alongside a team of employees, friends, and volunteers to bring the dream to reality," Rough Draft Atlanta wrote.

Atchison launched Banjo Coffee with her husband in 2015, beginning with a mobile-only coffee truck that soon found a home base for the business. "After schlepping stuff to five farmers markets a week we decided we needed space," she said. They landed in the current location at the end of 2016.

"That's the story of Avondale Estates, it's supportive," said Atchison. "Supportive from the inside. We want the community to flourish and we want to fill the holes, so if we need an independent bookshop let's make it happen. Let's make it specialty, quality, but also fun and approachable. As we grow more into it it will develop an even more defined vibe."

Smith noted: "We have all new releases on the first shelf, mostly from May and some from April. We are a bookshop, a general book store, but we are more than that," Smith said. The Book Bird will host a Books & Brews event every Thursday night, live music on Friday and Saturday nights, Avondale Book Club meetings, and more.

She also plans to host author events, storytime, food pop-ups, and craft nights with local arts organizations such as Fiber Parts. "We are big supporters of the arts, and we want to incorporate that into this space."

G.P. Putnam's Sons: The Hike by Lucy Clarke

Grump & Sunshine Comes to Belfast, Maine

Cassidy Gintz cuts the ribbon at the opening for Grump & Sunshine.

A romance-focused bookstore called Grump & Sunshine has opened in Belfast, Maine, WABI5 reported.

Owner Cassidy Gintz stocks a wide range of romance sub-genres, including sports, paranormal, and LGBTQ+, and the bookstore carries both traditionally published titles along with books from independent authors.

"I feel I'm somewhat indie as well, I'm doing this 100% on my own," Gintz told WABI. "And there’s a lot of authors that do their own publishing and writing completely by themselves, and I feel like we are kindred spirits in that and we can really collaborate and help each other."

She's aimed to make Grump & Sunshine a welcoming, safe space for all, where shoppers can browse without any judgment, and Gintz added that the store is already feeling the love from the community.

Franklin Books Opens in Plano, Tex.

Franklin Edwards

Franklin Books children's bookstore opened last month in Willow Bend Mall, Plano, Tex. Local Profile reported that author Franklin Edwards is continuing to expand his writing and publishing business, Franklin the Helper Children's Books LLC, with the bookshop, which has a mission "to encourage children to have positive social behaviors and increase self-confidence."

In addition to retail offerings, the bookstore will host writing workshops for children and adults. The four-hour workshops are designed to "help writers to build confidence and motivation and are open to fifth-grade students to adults," Local Profile noted. 

Workshop participants will have a chance to publish their books through Edwards's publishing company, which was launched in 2021 after Edwards wrote and published his first book. His Franklin the Helper series encourages kids to overcome social obstacles such as bullying and racism.

Bookstore customers can also join the store's Book Chats, held in person or online. "Our tone throughout these chats is always encouraging, with a focus on helping parents unlock the full potential of our books," Edwards said. "By joining our Book Chats, customers will gain valuable insights and feel more confident in their ability to use our books as a tool to improve their children's lives."

Tracey West's Dragon Wagon Coming to New York State

Tracey West

Children's author Tracey West (the Dragon Masters series) and her husband, Bill Hancock, are creating a mobile bookstore called the Dragon Wagon that will bring children's and YA books to communities in the western Catskills in New York State, the Times Union reported.

Built out of a renovated school bus, the Dragon Wagon will carry thousands of titles, from board books to YA novels, in a variety of genres. And in response to the ongoing wave of book bans throughout the country, there will be an emphasis on books pertaining to Black history and LGBTQ communities.

"It's so disturbing," West said of the book bans. "It's preventing kids from seeing themselves in books or learning about others who are different. And both of those things are important."

Hancock and West are still refurbishing and redecorating the school bus but hope to be on the road early this summer. The idea, West told the Times Union, came from a conversation she had with a librarian in Delaware County, N.Y., who reported that some children lived upward of an hour away from a bookstore. West and Hancock wanted to help address this problem, and they conveniently already happened to own a 1979 Dodge school bus.

"I want every kid who visits us to find a book they love," said West. "I want them to see themselves in the books they read, and I want them to know that books can be an escape and a powerful tool for learning and for making the world a better place."

"It's heartwarming," Hancock added. "It's really a labor of love to keep this vehicle on the road and for it to be doing what it's doing, bringing books to kids in the area."

The Dragon Wagon's first official stop will be at the Cannon Free Library in Delhi, N.Y., on June 20.

Zibby Owens Offers Matching Gift for Binc's Do Good All Year Campaign

Writer, podcast host, and publisher Zibby Owens, who opened Zibby's Bookshop in Santa Monica, Calif., earlier this year, will make a $50 gift on behalf of the next 140 new donors who make a monthly commitment to the Book Industry Charitable Foundation before June 23. A monthly donation of any amount will help unlock Owens's $7,000 gift and ensure Binc can continue to Do Good All Year
"I couldn't be happier to support Binc in this effort," said Owens. "As a bookseller, a publisher, and an author, I'm well aware of how essential booksellers are and am honored to support them."
Binc's Do Good All Year spring fundraising campaign also inspired a friendly competition among members of the country's regional independent booksellers' associations to increase the number of recurring monthly donors to the foundation, bringing in 63 new commitments. The New England Independent Booksellers Association won an ice cream party at its fall trade show, and the Southern, New Atlantic, and California associations tied for second.

"We are so grateful to the members of the regional independent booksellers association and to Zibby," said Pam French, executive director of Binc. "Our monthly donors currently provide funding to help three book or comic sellers every month, all year long. Their support is essential, and increasing the number of donors who make a monthly donation to Binc ensures we can help more booksellers and comic shop employees in their time of need."


Bookseller Dog: RIP Lavinia at Parnassus Books

"Friends, we are so, so sad to report that shop dog Lavinia left us this weekend," Parnassus Books, Nashville, Tenn., posted on Facebook. "You may not have seen Lavinia much in the store; she preferred to stay in the back office, napping and watching over the other shop dogs. She was the unofficial 'mom dog' of the store, always keeping the other pups in line (especially her sister, Marlee). Her love for Martin's BBQ and deli meat was unmatched, and she rocked a diaper like nobody's business. She may not have joined the pack until her retirement years, but her dignified and magnetic presence quickly became an essential part of our bookstore family. We'll miss you, sweet Lavinia."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Constance Wu on Drew Barrymore

MSNBC's Ari Melber: James Comey, author of Central Park West: A Crime Novel (Mysterious Press, $30, 9781613164037).

Drew Barrymore Show repeat: Constance Wu, author of Making a Scene (Scribner, $29, 9781982188542).

Movies: Best Served Cold

Rebecca Ferguson (Mission: Impossible franchise, Silo) "is in final talks" to star in Best Served Cold, based on Joe Abercrombie's book, Deadline reported, adding that the book, which was originally published as part of Abercrombie's First Law World series in 2009, "tells the story of the legendary mercenary Monza Murcatto (Ferguson), the betrayal that ostracizes her, and her ensuing quest for revenge that will forever change a nation."

Tim Miller (Deadpool) will direct for Skydance. Abercrombie adapted his novel for the screen. Producers on the film will include Skydance's David Ellison, Dana Goldberg, and Don Granger, Aaron Ryder, Miller for Blur Studios, and Abercrombie. Aimee Rivera will oversee the project for Skydance.

Books & Authors

Awards: Danuta Gleed Literary Winners

The Writers' Union of Canada named Kim Fu's Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century as this year's recipient of the C$10,000 (about US$7,345) Danuta Gleed Literary Award, recognizing the best first collection of short fiction by a Canadian author published in 2022 in English.

The jury said: "Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century presents a mesmerizing array of characters whose encounters with the world are alternately mythical and monstrous, technological and disturbing. There are surreal insect infestations, sea monsters, and winged youth--but also futuristic body printers, memory simulators, and time-altering cubes. Navigating these metaphorical and psychological worlds with dexterous turns of phrase and evocative prose, Kim Fu is masterful at telling stories that engage and astound the reader."

Runners-up Bad Thoughts by Nada Alic and Her First Palestinian by Saeed Teebi each receive C$1,000 (about US$735).

Reading with... Dorothee Elmiger

photo: Maurice Haas

Dorothee Elmiger, a Swiss writer living in New York City, is the author of Shift Sleepers and Invitation to the Bold of Heart. Out of the Sugar Factory, translated from the German by Megan Ewing (Two Lines Press)--part essay, part fiction--is an investigation into the life of a lottery winner, the history of sugar, and strange dreams about food, Marx, and mothers.

On your nightstand now:

I am again reading Claude Lévi-Strauss's Tristes Tropiques after having attempted to read it in French on a journey through France a couple of years ago--only now am I realizing how little I understood then. At the same time, I am reading Werner Herzog's diary Conquest of the Useless, which he wrote between 1979 and 1981 when he was filming Fitzcarraldo. I don't read much that's not related to something I am working on, and this is true for these two books, too.

Favorite book when you were a child:

I learned reading one summer when my dad was driving through Italy with my sister and me, and I read my very first sentences in a so-called Lustiges Taschenbuch, which is what the big Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse comic books are called in German: Funny Pocket Books. I was a comic-book reader first, and I still read them today whenever I can get my hands on one. Those pocket books--the quality of the colors, the feel of the paper--they're really irresistible to me.

Your top five authors:

I am an omnivorous reader, and I'm not so much interested in reading books as single thoughts in competition with each other. Instead, I see books as communicating entities that cannot be understood in isolation. In that sense, I hope to never have a top five authors, but a top million. Some authors I have only recently read for the first time: Ann Quin, the British novelist whose work from the 1960s and '70s has been reprinted in the last years; Gwendoline Riley, an English novelist who wrote My Phantoms and First Love; and the Swedish author Johanne Lykke Holm and her recently translated novel, Strega.

There is one author I do keep returning to again and again, but unfortunately his work is not translated--a German writer called Peter Kurzeck, who wrote many of his books by speaking them on tape, by narrating them, books full of loops and repetitions. They are accounts taken from his own life and, reading them, I often feel a certain longing for the places and people Kurzeck describes, places and people I have never known in real life.

Book you've faked reading:

Infinite Jest. I own many books that I somehow believe to have read just by being in their presence for a long time and by discussing them with my writer friends. Ask me any question about Infinite Jest, and I will answer it.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Two or three years ago I read Kathryn Yusoff's A Billion Black Anthropocenes or None. She is critical of the universality implied by the term anthropocene and examines geology and geological transformation historically and in the context of race. A small book that I found very illuminating.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Acid Virga by Gabriel Kruis. It's a small book of poetry published by Archway Editions, and the cover is a painting called Golden Showers by Nicole Eisenman. I did read the book and found the writing just as interesting as the cover.

Book that changed your life:

Karl Marx's Capital. It taught me to always ask the question cui bono?--a question that usually proves helpful when trying to figure out what's going on in the world. Aside from his ideas, I enjoy reading him. I find him pretty witty. He was also a great writer of letters, by the way.

Favorite line from a book:

In 1973, Marie Luise Kaschnitz published a book of writings called Orte (Places). Each page contains a different memory connected to a specific geographic place. I was reading it when I was trying to find a way to begin my own book Out of the Sugar Factory, and I instantly recognized a place that I had also been thinking about: an old sanatorium called Bellevue on Lake Constance in Switzerland. Apparently, Kaschnitz had once danced in its garden at night while fireworks rose above her, and a child, the son of the sanatorium's director, "approached a thick tree with two lighted candles and held those little flames to the bark, convinced that he would succeed in making the mighty tree catch fire." I was captivated by this scene, and in a way, Kaschnitz's sentence was the portal through which I was able to enter my own book.

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

W.G. Sebald's The Emigrants. I have read Sebald extensively and have grown rather tired of the coincidences and chance encounters that link the strands and episodes in his books. But it is exactly what I admired when I first read The Emigrants. I have eaten too much of it.

Five books you'll never part with:

Peter Weiss's The Aesthetics of Resistance. Hubert Fichte's Forschungsbericht. Marie Luise Kaschnitz's Orte. Wolfram Lotz's Heilige Schrift I. And Fleur Jaeggy's S.S. Proleterka. These are the books I look to when I am stuck. As a writer, I learn from them stylistically and politically. I find their work so electrifying that I often just need to read a single line in order to feel like everything is charged again and I can't wait to return to my desk.

Book Review

YA Review: All Alone with You

All Alone with You by Amelia Diane Coombs (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, $19.99 hardcover, 352p., ages 12-up, 9781534493575, July 25, 2023)

Amelia Diane Coombs's fourth contemporary YA romance portrays with precision the exhilaration of a close friendship budding into first love.

High school senior Eloise Deane needs extracurricular hours to perfect her application for the University of Southern California, her dream university. She begrudgingly volunteers at LifeCare, a nonprofit dedicated to reducing loneliness in the elderly, but worries her anxiety disorder will interfere ("When it comes to social situations, I'm a Human Disaster"). Her assigned partner, Austin Yang, is her opposite: a "walking, talking sunshine emoji" with "golden retriever energy." But their charge, 73-year-old Marianne Landis, former lead singer of the Laundromats, a popular band active in the '70s and '80s, instantly disarms Eloise ("Why don't you remove the stick from your ass and take a seat? I'm making tea"). Together with Austin, Eloise bats back Marianne's snark and helps organize her memorabilia... which spills into the teens getting tacos and playing Eloise's favorite MMORPG together. Eloise wonders if Austin pities her--she is "awesome at being a loner" and convinced he will ditch her like her former friends did if she experiences another depressive episode. Still, being with Austin becomes effortless. She misses him when separated for mere hours, accidental touches feel magnified, her insides hum to think of him, and seeing him with his ex-girlfriend induces nausea. "I have feelings for Austin," she realizes. "And I'm freaking out."

Coombs (Exactly Where You Need to Be) beautifully encapsulates the transformation of a friendship into something more in All Alone with You, highlighting especially the behind-the-scenes effort that teens put into elevating such relationships. Austin pays double for a custom shirt to tease Eloise and keeps an "Embarrassing Eloise Album" of photos on his phone; Eloise bookmarks a website of cities to rename Austin in lieu of his Texan one (calling him Memphis, Boston, Eugene) and brings him soup when he is sick. Their amusing conversations overflow with irresistible banter: "What's that on your face?" "Probably guacamole." "Yeah, that's not guac... that's a smile."

Coombs, by keeping the book in Eloise's point of view, simultaneously demonstrates how social anxiety can prevent fully embracing or believing the affections of another person. "Social anxiety is assuming everyone hates you," Eloise narrates, aware she pushes people away. Marianne's unfiltered character adds remarkable charm, her burns, sarcasm, and advice a hugely satisfying boon to the story. Additionally, each chapter begins with a fictional song lyric, always fitting and at times soul-crushing. An unendingly fun love story. --Samantha Zaboski, freelance editor and reviewer

Shelf Talker: A teen with depression and anxiety accustomed to being alone forges bonds with a sunny peer volunteer and a cantankerous septuagenarian in this hilarious, banter-filled contemporary YA love story.

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