Shelf Awareness for Thursday, March 28, 2019


Disney-Hyperion: Frozen: Conceal, Don't Feel: A Twisted Tale by Jen Calonita

Sourcebooks Explore: Survivors of the Holocaust: True Stories of Six Extraordinary Children by Kath Shackleton, illustrated by Zane Wittingham

Sleeping Bear Press: Santa's Secret by Denise Brennan-Nelson, illustrated by Deborah Melmon

Abrams Books for Young Readers: Harry Houdini (First Names) by Kjartan Poskitt, illustrated by Geraint Ford and Amelia Earhart (First Names) by Mike Smith, illustrated by Andrew Prentice

Balzer & Bray: The Best At It by Maulik Pancholy

Rick Riordan Presents: Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky (Tristan Strong #1) by Kwame Mbalia

Magination Press: Trans+: Love, Sex, Romance, and Being You by Kathryn Gonzales and Karen Rayne

News

B&N Moving Rockville, Md., Store Next Year

Next year, Barnes & Noble will move its store in Rockville, Md., to the Congressional Plaza shopping center from the Montrose Crossing Shopping Center, Bethesda magazine reported. The shopping centers are less than a mile apart on the Rockville Pike and both are owned by Federal Realty Investment Trust (FRIT).

B&N had no comment. An executive at FRIT said it was the company's "priority to provide our communities with modern experiences that will enhance their lifestyle and local conveniences. We are looking forward to continuing our long-term relationship with Barnes & Noble at Congressional Plaza."

Congressional Plaza is across from a Metro station and was renovated in 2017. It includes several restaurants and boutiques, the magazine wrote.

A B&N in nearby Bethesda closed in January 2018 after lease negotiations with the same landlord--FRIT--ended without an agreement.


imon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books: Max & Ruby and Twin Trouble (Max and Ruby Adventure) BY Rosemary Wells


PRH Acquires Little Tiger Group

Penguin Random House is acquiring Little Tiger Group, the London publisher and packager of children's books, and Liontree Publishing, the U.K. packager. Little Tiger Group will operate as a stand-alone company within PRH, and Liontree will be brought under the Little Tiger Group umbrella.

Little Tiger Group is headed by CEO and co-founder Monty Bhatia, who will now report to Barbara Marcus, president and publisher of Random House Children's Books, who initiated and led the acquisition. Noting that Marcus and Bhatia have had "a long-standing, mutually productive publishing relationship," a joint announcement said that "Little Tiger will be aligned closely with the Random House Children's Books division that Marcus oversees, and will leverage and benefit from shared resources and support services from Penguin Random House U.S., such as distribution and fulfillment."

Liontree founder Nik Bhatia will take a newly created role as group business development director of Little Tiger Group.

Little Tiger Group publishes more than 200 titles annually and has a backlist of nearly 1,000 titles. It was founded by Monty and Kuki Bhatia in London in 1987.

PRH CEO Markus Dohle said Little Tiger's "unique, nimble and international approach to children's publishing fits perfectly with our business at Penguin Random House, and we look forward to growing together around the world."

Little Tiger will "maintain the editorial profile" of its five imprints, led by publishers Jude Evans and Thomas Truong, and will continue to sell books directly to publishers, retailers and distributors.


GLOW: Farrar, Straus and Giroux BFYR: The Midnight Lie by Marie Rutkoski


First Hoboken Literary Weekend Set for April 5-7

The first annual Hoboken Literary Weekend takes place April 5-7 and features events with a range of adult and children's authors, including Daniel Pink, Colm Tóibín, Veronica Chambers and more. Friday evening's event includes opening remarks by Mayor Ravi Bhalla and an appearance by Anna Quindlen, who will be in conversation with local resident, publisher and author David Levithan. After the conversation, q&a and signing, a whisky tasting will be hosted by spirits author Clay Risen. The closing event, Sunday evening, features Pulitzer Prize-winning Irish poet Paul Muldoon and his band, Rogue Oliphant.

Hoboken Literary Weekend's sponsor is Little City Books, which will host some events; others will be held at the Hoboken Public Library.


Mango: The Restaurant Diet: How to Eat Out Every Night and Still Lose Weight by Fred Bollaci


Obituary Note: Lilla Weinberger

Lila Weinberger

Very sad news from California. Lilla Weinberger, co-owner of Readers' Books in Sonoma died suddenly on Sunday. She was 78 and had fallen down a flight of stairs.

Weinberger and her husband, Andy, founded Readers' Books in 1991 and built it into a local institution. Andy remembered that during a visit to Sonoma in 1990, she was walking around the Plaza and noticed there were no literary bookstores. Her sister-in-law said that the one that had been there closed, which "started Lilla to thinking." The Weinbergers soon moved back to her native California and opened Readers' Books.

Weinberger was deeply involved in independent bookselling. She served on the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association board and was a board member of the American Booksellers Association from 1997 to 2003.

She also was involved in other causes: she worked on Barack Obama's campaigns, volunteering to work in Nevada and running the Reno office. She became the Northern California regional head of Organizing for Action. In 2012, she was tapped to be OFA's state field director of Maryland, which meant she was responsible for sending volunteers into purple states like Virginia to turn them blue. She worked on the Ed Markey for Senate campaign in 2014, then took a position as the executive director of the National Foster Youth Institute in Los Angeles. When that job ended in 2017, she and Andy moved back to Sonoma where she worked on the capital campaign of the Sebastiani Theatre Foundation.

Her husband, who will "grieve her loss forever," said she "leaves behind a fierce legacy of love and dedication." He suggested that those wishing to contribute in Lilla's name may send money to Sonoma Overnight Support, the Sebastiani Theatre Foundation or the National Democratic Redistricting PAC, adding, "And if you can't give money, remember to vote!"


Charlesbridge Publishing: Baby Loves the Five Senses by Ruth Spiro, illustrated by Irene Chan


Sidelines Snapshot: Cards, Journals, Games and Toys

At East Bay Booksellers in Oakland, Calif., owner Brad Johnson and his staff have been selling an increasing amount of non-book items, particularly greeting cards, stationery, journals and writing utensils. Johnson reported that all of those categories are selling "exceptionally well," and that he and his staff have purposefully refrained from carrying sidelines and non-book items that are not book- or writing-related. Part of that, he explained, is because there are plenty of great gift stores already on their street. Another reason is that they very much want to focus on books and writing, and don't want to give up too much floor space to non-book items.

Johnson said he typically sources cards from independent, relatively local artisans, and usually discovers them on Etsy or through local vendor and trade shows. For journals, Johnson said he began with Moleskine and Shinola, before gradually exploring some lesser-known brands. In an effort to bring in stationery that is "a little off the beaten path," Johnson has started looking into international wholesalers and suppliers and has found success with stationery from Germany and Japan. East Bay's first foray into writing utensils, meanwhile, was with Blackwing pencils. Since then he has begun carrying pens--from a brand called Horizon, which he sourced from a Japanese wholesaler in Southern California called JPT, and from Troika, which has a U.S. branch in Portland, Ore.

From Sacred Bee

In Hardwick, Vt., Galaxy Bookshop has been doing "really, really well" with cards lately, according to owner Andrea Jones. One of the store's bestselling card lines comes from local artist Shawn Bailey, while another popular line is the relatively local Sacred Bee, which is located in Connecticut. Another one of the store's bestselling non-book items, the dice game Tenzi, is also from Connecticut and is produced by the company Good Karma. Jones also mentioned Found Image Press, which is not local but has localized items. Currently Jones carries a selection of its vintage Vermont postcards, and in the past she's stocked journals with some of their images.

Jones reported that she recently brought in a knitted toy line from Pebble, which is moving well at the moment. Another interesting new addition is a game from Laurence King Publishing called Who Pooped?, in which players match 27 animals with their droppings. In the past Jones has had success with Decomposition notebooks, which she used to order individually from Baker & Taylor. This spring, she said, she's going to buy a full display of Decomposition notebooks. And when asked about perennial favorites, Jones mentioned Out of Print socks, tote bags and T-shirts, along with literary tattoos from Litograph.

Brian Lampkin, owner of Scuppernong Books in Greensboro, N.C., reported that his store does very well with greeting cards, and Scuppernong-branded T-shirts and mugs have always been steady sellers. Lampkin said that he's been with Fresh Frances Greeting Cards "from the start," and lately has done extremely well with Sacred Bee cards. The store has also recently created its own postcard series, which Lampkin said works better "as a kind of brand opportunity than a great sales item." When asked about surprises, Lampkin said that there weren't any, although he did eventually decide to get rid of the store's booklights because of slow sales and thievery.

Along with greeting cards, stuffed animals are one of the store's bestselling non-book categories. Lampkin explained that there is a fox in the store's logo, which plays off of Aesop's fable of Fox and Grape, so fox toys sell well. Otherwise, the store carries plenty of unusual stuffed animals, such as aardvarks, anteaters and narwhals. On the subject of local items, Lampkin said he carries some bracelets from a handful of local artists, but otherwise not much. Lampkin added while he has always been careful to make sure the emphasis remains on the books in his store, he is unsure of how his sideline offerings will change over the next year and beyond, as Greensboro recently became the fifth city to partner with EBay for its Retail Revival program. --Alex Mutter

If you are interested in having your store appear in a future Sidelines Snapshot article, please e-mail alex@shelf-awareness.com.


Atheneum Books: Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks by Jason Reynolds, illustrated by Alexander Nabaum


Notes

Image of the Day: Post-Book Event Yoga

Valley Bookseller, Stillwater, Minn., hosted Literature Lover's Night Out for the launch of local author Lorna Landvik's 12th novel, Chronicles of a Radical Hag (with Recipes) (University of Minnesota Press). Lorna de-stressed with a little yoga lesson for the staff after entertaining the crowd of 200 fans. Pictured, l.-r.: (back row) Valley staffers Rachael Shaw Johnson and Bronwen Crenshaw; (front row) Pamela Klinger-Horn, host of Literature Lovers' Night Out; staffers Carol Tollefsrud, manager Gretchen West and Julie Korsgren; (center) author Lorna Landvik.
Photo: Rachael Shaw Johnson


Child, Stuffed Llama Reunited at Hub City Bookshop

A missing stuffed llama proved to be newsworthy in Spartanburg, S.C., where Hub City Bookshop "used the power of social media to reunite a young child with her stuffed animal," 7News reported.

Last weekend, the bookstore posted a photo of the stuffed llama on its Facebook page, noting: "This poor llama was separated from her owner at the bookshop on Saturday. Please call the bookshop on 577-9349 if you have any information to help us return to her home!"

The child's father returned to the bookshop with his daughter and rescued the llama.

"She ran around, very excited," said Hub City's floor manager Linda Prince. "I wish I'd gotten the name of the stuffed animal because she seemed very excited to be reunited with it. And she even bought a book, The Cat in the Hat Comes Back."


Cool Idea of the Day: Cooking Demo Center

photo: Linda-Marie Barrett

On Facebook, the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance showcased the new Cooking Demonstration Center at the Eagle Eye Book Shop in Decatur, Ga., which is "a counter they built for cookbook authors to use when they appear at the store for a book signing. It has a cooking unit, will have a small sink, and tilted mirrors so the audience can see what's cooking. They're calling it 'Cooking the Books.' Pictured here are Charles and Doug Robinson, proud builders and bookstore co-owners with Diane Robinson, and father and son duo!"


PRHPS to Distribute Blue Star Press

Effective in September, Penguin Random House Publisher Services will sell and distribute all frontlist and backlist titles of Blue Star Press across all sales channels worldwide.

Founded in 2015, Blue Star Press, Bend, Ore., focuses on creative how-to, lifestyle and wellness titles under three imprints: Blue Star Press, Paige Tate & Co., and Blue Star Coloring. Its notable titles include Hand Lettering 101, As You Grow, Millennial Loteria, Strong, How to Draw Modern Florals, and Transplants.

Peter Licalzi, co-founder and COO of Blue Star Press, said, "We are eager to build on the solid foundation we established in our first three years. In PRHPS, we have found a partner to help us scale with best-in-industry sales and distribution, and as importantly, a common commitment with us to constantly learn and improve, along with a shared culture that values hard work to create exceptional books."

Jeff Abraham, president of PRHPS, said that Blue Star Press's "ability to consistently see opportunity in the marketplace and to publish to that with impactful and quality-designed books has brought them well-deserved success. We believe our partnership will help grow their program in new and exciting ways."


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Pete Buttigieg on Real Time with Bill Maher

Today:
Fresh Air: Lori Gottlieb, author of Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, HER Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28, 9781328662057).

Tomorrow:
HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher: Pete Buttigieg, author of Shortest Way Home: One Mayor's Challenge and a Model for America's Future (Liveright, $27.95, 9781631494369).


This Weekend on Book TV: The Virginia Festival of the Book

Book TV airs on C-Span 2 this weekend from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Monday and focuses on political and historical books as well as the book industry. The following are highlights for this coming weekend. For more information, go to Book TV's website.

Saturday, March 30
1 p.m. to 7 p.m. Coverage of the Virginia Festival of the Book in Charlottesville, Va. (Re-airs Sunday at 2 a.m.) Highlights include:

  • 1 p.m. Hal Crowther, author of Freedom Fighters and Hell Raisers: A Gallery of Memorable Southerners (Blair, $21.95, 9780932112774), and Charles Marsh, co-author of Can I Get a Witness?: Thirteen Peacemakers, Community-Builders, and Agitators for Faith and Justice (Eerdmans, $26.99, 9780802875730).
  • 2:15 p.m. Melanie Hatter, author of Malawi's Sisters (Four Way Books, $19.95, 9781945588303).
  • 3:16 p.m. Jesse Jarnow, author of Wasn't That a Time: The Weavers, the Blacklist, and the Battle for the Soul of America (Da Capo, $27, 9780306902079), and Tim Mohr, author of Burning Down the Haus: Punk Rock, Revolution, and the Fall of the Berlin Wall (Algonquin, $28.95, 9781616208431).
  • 4:26 p.m. Raymond Arsenault, author of Arthur Ashe: A Life (Simon & Schuster, $37.50, 9781439189047), and David Blight, author of Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom (Simon & Schuster, $37.50, 9781416590316).
  • 5:44 p.m. Laurie Halse Anderson, author of SHOUT (Viking, $17.99, 9780670012107), and Jason Reynolds, author of For Every One (Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy, $14.99, 9781481486248).

7 p.m. Joseph Celeski, author of The Green Berets in the Land of a Million Elephants: U.S. Army Special Warfare and the Secret War in Laos 1959-74 (Casemate, $32.95, 9781612006659). (Re-airs Monday at 6 a.m.)

8 p.m. David McCraw, author of Truth in Our Times: Inside the Fight for Press Freedom in the Age of Alternative Facts (All Points, $28.99, 9781250184429), at Politics and Prose in Washington, D.C.

9 p.m. Steffanie Strathdee and Thomas Patterson, authors of The Perfect Predator: A Scientist's Race to Save Her Husband from a Deadly Superbug: A Memoir (Hachette, $28, 9780316418089), at Warwick's Books in San Diego, Calif. (Re-airs Monday at 2 a.m.)

10 p.m. George Papadopoulos, author of Deep State Target: How I Got Caught in the Crosshairs of the Plot to Bring Down President Trump (Diversion Books, $28.99, 9781635764932). (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m. and Monday at 12 a.m. and 3 a.m.)

11 p.m. Tony Platt, author of Beyond These Walls: Rethinking Crime and Punishment in the United States (St. Martin's Press, $29.99, 9781250085115).

Sunday, March 31
12:25 a.m. Eric Topol, author of Deep Medicine: How Artificial Intelligence Can Make Healthcare Human Again (Basic Books, $32, 9781541644632).

1:20 a.m. Allen Lynch, author of Zero to Hero: From Bullied Kid to Warrior (Pritzker Military Museum & Library, $25, 9780998968926). (Re-airs Sunday at 6:50 p.m.)

3:50 p.m. Mitchell Jackson, author of Survival Math: Notes on an All-American Family (Scribner, $26, 9781501131707).

7:30 p.m. Devin Fergus, author of Land of the Fee: Hidden Costs and the Decline of the American Middle Class (Oxford University Press, $27.95, 9780199970162).

10 p.m. Samantha Allen, author of Real Queer America: LGBT Stories from Red States (Little, Brown, $27, 9780316516037).

11 p.m. Carolyn Forché, author of What You Have Heard Is True: A Memoir of Witness and Resistance (Penguin Press, $28, 9780525560371).



Books & Authors

Awards: Paretsky Winner; RSL Ondaatje Longlist

Scott Turow has won the Paretsky Award, given during the Murder and Mayhem conference in Chicago last weekend and honoring "mysteries set in the Midwest." He is the author of 11 novels, including Presumed Innocent, The Burden of Proof, Pleading Guilty and Personal Injuries, as well One L, about his experience as a law student. His books have been translated into more than 40 languages and sold more than 30 million copies. He is also former president of the Authors Guild.

---

For the first time, a longlist has been announced for the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize, which is awarded annually to a "book of the highest literary merit--fiction, nonfiction or poetry--which best evokes the spirit of a place." The shortlist will be unveiled April 16 and a winner named May 13. The 2019 RSL Ondaatje Prize longlisted titles are:

No Turning Back by Rania Abouzeid
Perfidious Albion by Sam Byers
Little by Edward Carey
Middle England by Jonathan Coe    
The Wife's Tale by Aida Edemariam
Happiness by Aminatta Forna
Where the Road Runs Out by Gaia Holmes 
The Café de Move-on Blues by Christopher Hope   
A Stranger's Pose by Emmanuel Iduma
Mary Ann Sate, Imbecile by Alice Jolly
Arkady by Patrick Langley   
A Line in the River by Jamal Mahjoub
Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss
Let Me Be Like Water by S.K. Perry
From a Low and Quiet Sea by Donal Ryan
The Dictionary of Animal Languages by Heidi Sopinka
The Crossway by Guy Stagg
The Valley at the Centre of the World by Malachy Tallack
Wilding by Isabella Tree
Kings of the Yukon by Adam Weymouth


Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, April 2:

Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir by Ruth Reichl (Random House, $27, 9781400069996) is a memoir by the former editor in chief of Gourmet magazine.

Lessons From Lucy: The Simple Joys of an Old, Happy Dog by Dave Barry (Simon & Schuster, $26, 9781501161155) shares life wisdom gleaned from an elderly dog.

The Editor by Steven Rowley (Putnam, $27, 9780525537960) follows a writer in the early 1990s in New York who sells a novel to Jackie Onassis.

American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race by Douglas Brinkley (Harper, $35, 9780062655066) explores the early years of the U.S. space program.

Lights All Night Long: A Novel by Lydia Fitzpatrick (Penguin Press, $27, 9780525558736) follows a Russian exchange student in the U.S. with family troubles back home.

The Girl He Used to Know: A Novel by Tracey Garvis Graves (St. Martin's Press, $26.99, 9781250200358) tracks the romantic life of a shy woman.

Infinite Powers: How Calculus Reveals the Secrets of the Universe by Steven Strogatz (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28, 9781328879981) assesses the many uses of calculus.

The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander, illus. by Kadir Nelson (Versify/HMH, $17.99, 9781328780966) turns Alexander's poem for ESPN's The Undefeated into a picture book tribute to black life in the U.S.

Descendant of the Crane by Joan He (Albert Whitman & Company, $17.99, 9780807515518) features a young woman stepping unhappily into a royal role.

Paperbacks:
The Favorite Sister by Jessica Knoll (Simon & Schuster, $16.99, 9781501153204).

Grave Destiny (An Alex Craft Novel) by Kalayna Price (Ace, $7.99, 9780451416599).

Movies:
Pet Sematary, based on the novel by Stephen King, opens April 5. Jason Clarke and John Lithgow star in this story of a rural family with a mysterious burial ground behind their house.

The Best of Enemies, based on the book by Osha Gray, opens April 5. Sam Rockwell and Taraji P. Henson star in this true story of a KKK member and civil rights activist clashing over school integration in 1971 North Carolina. A movie tie-in edition (University of North Carolina Press, $18, 9781469646602) is available.


IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites

From last week's Indie bestseller lists, available at IndieBound.org, here are the recommended titles, which are also Indie Next Great Reads:

Hardcover
Aerialists: Stories by Mark Mayer (Bloomsbury, $26, 9781635572179). "This might very well be my favorite short story collection of all time. More than that, Aerialists is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and emotionally resonant books I have ever read, a poignant collection of stories that are at once heartbreaking and life-affirming but always profoundly human. Debut author Mark Mayer is a genuine revelation. He writes with dizzying insight and uncanny grace, his prose sparkling brilliantly in the light. Like a great ringmaster, he captivates the attention of his audience and shows us the rich weirdness hiding beneath the surface of everyday life. Aerialists subverts expectations, pushes boundaries, and dares to be different, all while whispering of more wonders to come." --Jason Foose, Changing Hands, Tempe, Ariz.

Beautiful Bad: A Novel by Annie Ward (Park Row, $26.99, 9780778369103). "In her dark and atmospheric thriller, Ward has created characters that seep under your skin and take you on a suspense-filled, unforgettable ride. We follow Ian and Maddie from their first meeting in the war-torn Balkans to New York City and end up in suburban Kansas, witnessing their story unfold, twisting and turning along the way, until it ultimately implodes. What really happened and who can you believe?" --Maxwell Gregory, Lake Forest Book Store, Lake Forest, Ill.

Paperback
The Italian Teacher: A Novel by Tom Rachman (Penguin Books, $16, 9780735222700). "The same kinds of beautifully drawn, charming-but-flawed characters that made The Imperfectionists so wonderful also fill this novel, which follows Pinch (aka Charles), the son of famed painter Bear Bavinsky, as he grows up and struggles to make a name for himself. The book begins with Pinch and his mother, a failed potter, living in Rome in the 1950s in the shadow of Bear's celebrity and forceful personality. With evocative descriptions of the various cities in which it's set, The Italian Teacher is perfect for readers who want to be drawn into the lives of vivid characters and explore the meaning of art, family, and one's personal legacy." --Laura Tischler, Solid State Books, Washington, D.C.

For Ages 4 to 8
The Book Hog by Greg Pizzoli (Disney-Hyperion, $16.99, 9781368036894). "I absolutely adore Greg Pizzoli! His signature bright and bold style brings this heartfelt tale about an illiterate book-lovin' hog to life! The Book Hog is a beautiful love letter to librarians, who work so hard to put books into children's hands, encourage and inspire readers, and open their doors to the world. A delightful read, perfect for story time!" --Eugenia Vela, BookPeople, Austin, Tex.

For Ages 9 to 12
The Lost Girl by Anne Ursu (Walden Pond Press, $16.99, 9780062275097). "Iris has always defined herself by how she's different from her twin sister, Lark. Lark is bursting with imagination, and Iris is the one who anchors her sister to the real world. But when the two girls are assigned different teachers for the first time, Iris is lost--what's an anchor without the thing it anchors? How can she protect her sister if people won't let them stay together? In a world that seems to be falling to pieces, Iris fights to figure out who she wants to be and who she can count on to fight at her side. This is the kind of book you'll want to hug when you're done reading it." --Lillian Tschudi-Campbell, Red Balloon Bookshop, St. Paul, Minn.

For Teen Readers
We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia (Katherine Tegen, $17.99, 9780062691316). "There are only two outcomes when you finish at the Media School for Girls: a Primara, or First Wife, who is to act as the partner to her husband and run his household, or a Segunda, or Second Wife, who is in charge of being beautiful and bearing his children. Each man gets one of each. Dani is the school's best student and the top Primara pick, so it's no surprise when she's chosen by the candidate favored to become their country's next president. But Dani has a past that she will do everything in her power to protect. If you enjoy The Handmaid's Tale, but are looking for a YA twist, this is the book for you. I definitely recommend this one." --Jennifer Jones, Bookmiser, Roswell, Ga.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]


Book Review

Review: The House of the Pain of Others: Chronicle of a Small Genocide

The House of the Pain of Others: Chronicle of a Small Genocide by Julián Herbert, trans. by Christina MacSweeney (Graywolf Press, $16 paperback, 304p., 9781555978372, April 16, 2019)

The House of the Pain of Others: Chronicle of a Small Genocide examines a nearly forgotten tragedy: the 1911 massacre of some 300 Chinese immigrants in the city of Torreón, near the start of the Mexican Revolution. The House of the Pain of Others is a work of history, but an unusual one, coming at the massacre from a multitude of angles and freely skipping through time. Writer, musician and teacher Julián Herbert (Tomb Song) frequently returns to the present day, to his reporting and reflections on what he uncovers. This gives the work a personal dimension, as does the discursive, lyrical writing. The House of the Pain of Others proves that truth does not come from a mere recitation of facts, but from the messy byways of memory and other more unexpected sources.

Despite the many tangents, Herbert's book does have a central argument, one that disagrees with the "general consensus" on the massacre at Torreón. According to the general view, "the events of May 15 were an unplanned tragedy: a spontaneous reaction by the mass of common folk, taking out their frustrations on a particular group of immigrants because they thought they were too different. What happened had little or nothing to do with an act of xenophobia carried out by the people of La Laguna." Herbert argues that "the largest mass slaughter of Asians on the American continent" had everything to do with longstanding Sinophobia fostered by the wealthy and middle class as well as the "common folk."

The House of the Pain of Others is as much about the memory of the "small genocide" as it is about the massacre itself. Herbert seems to ask everyone he sees "And what do you know about the Chinese people who were killed here?" This question receives an astounding variety of answers, including a fair number who lay the blame on Pancho Villa (who wasn't there). No one seems to remember the "hatred based on fantasy" that became an "editorial niche" well before Chinese immigrants arrived, or "the fantasy of annihilation" that permeated "coffeehouse conversations, jokes, laws, segregation, public demonstrations, and vituperation until things came to blows." These memories were shaped by official investigations that doubled as cover-ups and often happen to coincide with whichever result places the blame on as narrow a group as possible.

Through making this historical argument, Herbert touches on some contemporary issues, including the violence meted out by the cartels and federal police and the United States' rhetoric toward Mexican immigrants--"over a hundred years have gone by, and the arguments for excluding the other haven't changed one bit." The House of the Pain of Others is partially about how the past haunts the present, especially if the root issues go unaddressed. The book is about Mexico, and Torreón, but its lessons are not limited to those localities. Herbert claims that "this is not the story you were expecting," but in many ways it is achingly familiar. --Hank Stephenson, bookseller, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, N.C.

Shelf Talker: The House of the Pain of Others deftly combines history, journalism and essay to investigate the massacre of 300 Chinese immigrants during the Mexican Revolution.


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