Shelf Awareness for Monday, December 2, 2019

Henry Holt & Company: Warrior Girl Unearthed by Angeline Boulley

Henry Holt & Company: Warrior Girl Unearthed by Angeline Boulley

Little, Brown Ink: The Princess and the Grilled Cheese Sandwich (a Graphic Novel) by Deya Muniz

Flatiron Books: Once Upon a Prime: The Wondrous Connections Between Mathematics and Literature by Sarah Hart

Dundurn Press: Chasing the Black Eagle by Bruce Geddes

Amulet Books: Batcat: Volume 1 by Meggie Ramm

Berkley Books: The Comeback Summer by Ali Brady

Quotation of the Day

'Thank You for Making this Dream Come True'


"I wanted to share a personal note with you today. If you've followed Avid on social media for a while, you know we love to express our gratitude to our customers who keep us in business, allowing us the opportunity to bring joy and comfort in the form of books and conversation to our corner of the world. I want this post to serve as a reminder that we are only here because you consciously choose to spend your money with us. Because of you (yes, you!), we have enhanced the lives of readers near and far. We've provided fulfilling jobs to people who've chosen to make their homes here in Athens instead of moving elsewhere. We've introduced thousands of kids in virtually every local school to authors and illustrators. We've donated thousands of books to nonprofits and fundraisers. We've produced hundreds upon hundreds of events, most of them free! And we've made meaningful connections with you. We love you. <3 While I cope with the frequent burdens (financial, emotional, and otherwise) of small business ownership every day, the blessings make me choose this life again and again. Thank you for making this dream come true. Hope to see you this holiday season."

--Janet Geddis, owner of Avid Bookshop, Athens, Ga., in a Small Business Saturday message on the store's Facebook page

G.P. Putnam's Sons: The Three of Us by Ore Agbaje-Williams


Indies First/SBS Celebrates Buying Local

Saturday was the seventh annual Indies First celebration and 10th annual Small Business Saturday, marked across the country by many independent bookstores with events ranging from authors working as booksellers and author signings to raffles, snacks and beverages and passport programs that rewarded readers who traveled to participating bookstores in their area.

N.K. Jemisin

On Saturday, science fiction and fantasy author N.K. Jemisin, the 2019 spokesperson for Indies First, left signed copies of her books at Greenlight Bookstore, WORD Bookstore and Café con Libros in Brooklyn, N.Y. Jemisin also tweeted regularly leading up to the event and made a video promoting Indies First.

Stores around the country reported enthusiastic crowds and solid business.

Books & Books in south Florida had "a wonderful Small Business Saturday," social media coordinator Caroline McGregor reported. "In addition to SBS swag and unveiling recently signed books from the Miami Book Fair, we held a book themed scavenger hunt that resulted in some very happy #ShopSmall customers."

Katherine Wakefield, manager of Books & Books' Coconut Grove store, shares a message.

The Bookworm in Omaha, Neb., celebrated just about every possible indie-related event of the holiday weekend, beginning with Plaid Friday, "the relaxing and enjoyable alternative to the big box Black Friday." Customers who came in on Friday and wearing plaid received 10% discounts on regularly priced items, and those who donated canned food for the Food Bank for the Heartland received 10% discounts on one item--up to five cans and five items. In addition, purchases for two book and toy drives were discounted 10%.

Indies First and Small Business Saturday events included two storytimes and raffles for $50 gift certificates based on purchases and posting pictures taken at the store on social media. Today, Cider Monday, customers at the Bookworm can get a free cup of warm cider.

At Literati Bookstore, Ann Arbor, Mich., customers left #indie love notes.

The store reported that "we had a blast" on Saturday and thanked customers for their "love & support--from buying every book here to stopping in when you're home for the holidays once every other year, and every way in between--we have felt it and we are grateful."

Created by Willard Williams of the Toadstool Bookshops, Keene, Peterborough and Nashua, N.H., Cider Monday is "an antidote to Cyber Monday." As Williams puts it: "Stop in for a free cup, maybe a snack, see some real people and have a good time checking out what's in our stores. It's sure to be a heartwarming experience. We can promise no crashing websites, our 'servers' won't be overloaded and we bet they will even smile at you!" The event has attracted some 15 bookstores across the country as well as other small businesses.

Eight Cousins, Falmouth, Mass., is celebrating Cider Monday in two ways: customers who visit the store can sample hot cider from Maison Villatte while shoppers online can receive an Eight Cousins sticker with their orders. On Small Business Saturday, local author Christina Laurie signed copies of The Lobsters' Night Before Christmas.

After opening in late spring, Reads & Company, Phoenixville, Pa., celebrated its first Indies First/SBS, reporting "big shopping going on at PXV's beautiful first-class independent bookstore... on our way to our best day ever!" The store stayed open later than usual, until 9 p.m., and continued with extra hours on Sunday.

Another relatively new bookstore, Run for Cover, San Diego, Calif., which opened about a year ago, wrote Saturday night on Facebook, "What a day this Small Business Saturday was! You came, you shopped, you brought your smiles, your kindness, your adorable children and cute dogs and you showed us once again that when we all band together to support an indie bookseller this bookstore can have a chance. You all are part of this indie's story. Let's keep writing it together."

The Poetry Fox (aka author Chris Vitiello) visited Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, N.C.

At Skylight Books in Los Angeles, Calif., five local authors, including Liska Jacobs (The Worst Kind of Want), Sarah Gailey (Magic for Liars), Brandy Colbert (The Revolution of Birdie Randolph), AJ Dungo (In Waves) and Steph Cha (Your House Will Pay), volunteered as guest booksellers for the day. General manager Mary Williams reported a busy Indies First and, somewhat unusually, a busy Black Friday as well. Williams added that a book of the season has yet to emerge, but Jia Tolentino's Trick Mirror continues to sell extremely well.

In Chicago, Ill., Unabridged Bookstore had its biggest Small Business Saturday ever and the third busiest day in store history, dating back to the store's opening in 1980. Co-owner Patrick Garnett reported that local artist David Lee Csicsko was on hand for more than three hours to greet customers and sign copies of his book The Skin You Live In and the new tote bags he designed for the store. is offering several specials today, which the digital audiobook platform is calling Real People Monday. New members can get four audiobooks for the price of one and current members can receive two free audiobooks for each friend beginning a membership via the Real People Monday offer. Throughout the day, is highlighting partner booksellers and will "share what they love about selling books, their bookstore, and their audiobook must-listens."

Blink: Come Home Safe by Brian G. Buckmire

#IndiesFirst/#SBS Lights Up Social Media

Independent booksellers lit up social media with #Indies First and #Small Business Saturday posts over the weekend. Here's a sampling:

At Inkwood Books

Inkwood Books, Haddonfield, N.J.: "Small Business Saturday is hopping!... And the best deal of all--our commitment to doing our very best to continue to be your community bookstore, to contributing to your schools, teams, churches, and nonprofits, and to work hard to add value to your purchases every day, year round. Thank you for shopping small business today, and every day!"

Lion's Mouth Bookstore, Green Bay, Wis.: "The day has started off with a flurry of happiness here at the store.... Join us & happy Small Business Saturday!

Kramerbooks & Afterwords Café
, Washington, D.C.: "You can't shop and drink wine at chain stores."

Whitelam Books, Reading, Mass.: "Small Business Tidings to all!"

Bookshop Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, Calif.: "Thank you to everyone who stopped by Bookshop to say hi and take a picture with the Grinch today!..."

At Yardstick Books

Yardstick Books, Algoma, Wis.: "Yardstick invites you to shop small or shop big or what have you...."

The Bookshop, Nashville, Tenn.: "Whew! Thanks for all of the #shopsmall love today, y’all! Feeling mighty grateful and thankful...."

SubText: A Bookstore, St. Paul, Minn.: "Today is #smallbusinesssaturday and all of us here at Subtext want to take this opportunity to say that we are so very thankful for the wonderful community of Downtown St. Paul that continues to find new stories, new adventures, and new friends...."

Run for Cover Bookstore, San Diego, Calif.: "Small Business Saturday is off to a great start!... Thank you to our wonderful customers today and every day."

Watermark Books & Café, Wichita, Kan.: "Time to happy dance, #SmallBusinessSaturday is finally here!"

At Penguin Bookshop

Penguin Bookshop, Sewickley, Pa.: "It's such a great feeling to have a full, vibrant store. Thank you all for supporting us today and every day throughout the year!"

Story on the Square, McDonough, Ga.: "Good morning, McDonough! Are you ready to #shopsmall? We are! Come on in for swag and giveaways!"

Loyalty Books-Upshur Street, Washington D.C.: "Thanks for shopping with us this #smallbusinesssaturday @mayor_bowser and @brandonttodd! We’re honored to be a local, black owned business in DC every day but especially today!"

At Books & Mortar

Books & Mortar, Grand Rapids, Mich.: "It’s Small Business Saturday, and we hope you all have time to come visit us! Thank you for supporting local."

Foggy Pine Books, Boone, N.C.: "The support & love we received this Small Business Saturday far & away exceeded our expectations. Thank you so much, from the bottom of our hearts...."

Boulder Book Store, Boulder, Colo.: "The cookies only lasted an hour, but we're grateful for our customers all day, every day! We hope that if you shop today, you Shop Small!"

Greedy Reads, Baltimore, Md.: "Hey Baltimore, let's get out there and support all the small businesses that keep our neighborhoods and city creative, fulfilling, and exciting places to live!"

Subterranean Books, St. Louis, Mo.: "Selfie station all day today!"

Downtown Books, Manteo, N.C.: "Thanks to everyone who made this our best #smallbusinesssaturday ever including this awesome family from #norfolk VA. everybody gets a book!!"

Next Page Books, Cedar Rapids, Iowa: "There were plenty of fireworks in the store today but now calm has descended and it’s time to put the books to bed. Thank you to everyone who made Small Business Saturday a resounding success...."

Books and Crannies, Martinsville, Va.: "Despite today's weather, this year we made more on Small Business Saturday than we did for the last two years COMBINED! I’m so grateful to all my customers, you guys keep my doors open."

Atomic Books, Baltimore, Md.: "Thanks to everyone who came out today!! It was awesome!"

Two Sisters Bookery, Wilmington, N.C.: "My heart is overflowing with gratitude this evening!!! We had our Best Small Business Saturday EVER!!!... My heart is full and our bookshelves are a lot lighter because of YOU. Katie and I are tired, the good kind of tired. That is a Happy Ending!"

Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books: Welcome to the World by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury

Indies First/SBS: Customer Service

Indies First and Small Business Saturday celebrations featured events, treats, giveaways, readings and, of course, booksellers--both professional and volunteer--eager to assist customers.
At the Red Balloon Bookshop in Saint Paul, Minn., author John Coy was on hand to offer advice.
Authors and illustrators from the Writers' Loft writing community signed books at An Unlikely Story, Plainville, Mass.

At Octavia Books, New Orleans, guest bookseller/author Maurice Ruffin discussed his book, We Cast a Shadow, with a customer.

Booksellers and cats at The Raven Bookstore, Lawrence, Kan., welcomed customers.

New York Times on Amazon's Powerful, Unnerving Effect on One City

Yesterday on its front page, the New York Times ran a feature article that is one of the most comprehensive looks we've seen at the effects of Amazon on commerce and life in general in the U.S. The story offers a fresh take on what is familiar about Amazon's history in the past 25 years--its growing dominance of online retailing; its aggressive approach to competitors, suppliers, government and others; its brutal warehouse conditions; its anti-labor and anti-union policies; its push to avoid paying or collecting taxes, among other things. But in focusing on Amazon's presence and effect on one area--Baltimore, Md.--the Times story expands into new and unnerving territory, going into depth about Amazon's role in police surveillance; data collection; sports metrics; aggressive courting of government and school purchasing; the use of its cloud services by more and more companies, organizations, schools and governments; and its expansion of airplane and truck deliveries, causing more and more traffic congestion and pollution.

Called "Amazon Everywhere: Prime Mover: How Amazon Wove Itself into the Life of an American City," the story ends on a positive note--citing the role of independent bookstores in fighting back against the Amazonization of the country and quoting a local bookseller, Emma Snyder, owner of the Ivy Bookshop and Bird in Hand. The Times observed with surprise that Snyder's stores sell books at full retail price. She responded: "There's much more consciousness of supporting a bookstore and specifically not using Amazon. Part of what people don't like is that Amazon debases the value of things. We're commercial spaces, but we fundamentally exist to feed and nurture people's souls."

Among the story's many observations and facts:

Amazon warehouse entrance

In Baltimore, Amazon has two "mammoth warehouses, built with heavy government subsidies, operating on the sites of shuttered General Motors and Bethlehem Steel plants." The non-union jobs here pay less than half what the union jobs in those plants paid, and some 600 Amazon employees, most of whom are part-timers at the warehouses, receive food stamps from the state (although nowhere near the amount of "aid" that what may be the richest corporation in the world receives). Workers are tracked by computers and let go if they don't meet strict numbers. So far this year, one of the warehouses counted "40 head injuries and 109 foot injuries."

Amazon's own jet fleet ships more in and out of Baltimore-Washington International Airport than FedEx and UPS combined. And there's more to come, the Times wrote: "Workers are putting the final touches on a $36 million 200,000-square-foot building, financed with tax-exempt bonds, that will dwarf Amazon's current airport operations. There are bays for 93 tractor-trailers to load and unload at once." (The company's poor labor relations apparently extend to the pilots of its contractor planes; some pilots complain that their pay is below industry average and they're being forced to fly more than pilots at other airlines, jeopardizing safety.)

The related parts of Amazon's transportation network--which continues to expand in the push for the fastest deliveries possible--show signs of fraying and an anti-worker approach. Much delivery work is subcontracted or given piecemeal to independent drivers. At one package delivery station, "There are new SUVs, compacts with rooftop carriers and banged-up sedans. The drivers use the Amazon Flex app to sign up for 'blocks'--$54 for delivering a certain number of packages between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. on one recent day, or $72 between 5:15 p.m. and 8:15 p.m."

Local professional football and baseball players' moves are tracked by microchips in their uniforms--in the case of the Ravens--and radar--for the Orioles, data that's sent to Amazon's cloud service for instant analysis using artificial intelligence.

Programs are moving forward to install Amazon Ring video cameras on homes in high-crime areas, whose images can be shared with the police instantly.

City government and Johns Hopkins University procurement officials are using Amazon Business to buy from local suppliers and others.

A year ago, Baltimore bid some $3.8 billion in subsidies to be chosen as a site for Amazon's "second headquarters." Though it didn't make the second round of bidding, the city turned over "reams of valuable work force and work site data to Amazon in elaborate applications--and got nothing in return."

More and more governments, businesses and organizations in the area are relying on Amazon Web Services, leading to "the steady conquest of the computing infrastructure that underlies commerce, government and communications, something like an electric utility--except without the regulation imposed on utilities," the Times wrote.

And, of course, at the same time, more and more bricks-and-mortar businesses have either contracted or closed because of Amazon. "As in other cities, many Baltimore shopping districts are anemic and pocked with vacancies," the Times noted. "The waterfront Harborplace shopping pavilions, once a symbol of urban revival, are in receivership." The article also shows how a variety of jobs and industries have been frayed by Amazon, cutting local employment and funneling money out of the area.

The Times quoted one tech entrepreneur, once a vocal fan of Amazon, who now "worries about Amazon's invasive data collection, the influence exercised by its algorithms, the heat generated by its enormous computer centers and the exploitation of its workers. 'It's a U.S. company that's hyperdominant and rich and has incredible market power, and they're not in it for social good,' he said."

He added: "'For my generation, the internet was the equivalent of landing on the moon. But the internet seems to have made some things so much worse. I'm not sure this is the world I want my kids to be growing up in."

Obituary Note: Clive James

Clive James, "who mined such a rich vein of wit in his writing--poems, memoirs, translations, novels, song lyrics, intellectual journalism and a deep body of criticism--that he was, to his admirers, almost endlessly quotable," died November 24, the New York Times reported. He was 80. "A sense of humor is just common sense, dancing," he wrote. "Those who lack humor are without judgment and should be trusted with nothing."

One of his best-known poems begins:

The book of my enemy has been remaindered
And I am pleased.
In vast quantities it has been remaindered
Like a van-load of counterfeit that has been seized
And sits in piles in a police warehouse,
My enemy's much-prized effort sits in piles
In the kind of bookshop where remaindering occurs.

Born in Australia, James moved to England in 1962. The Times noted that he "attended Cambridge University but wrote on his own wildcat autodidact frequency. He wasn't the sort of critic who arrives like a crossing guard wearing an orange sash. 'This is where I come to think, cafes all over the world,' he wrote. 'A cafe table stacked with books has been my university now for 40 years.' His combinatory intelligence radiated in multiple directions."

In the Observer, John Naughton noted: "Looking back, his career can be seen as one long attempt to bridge chasms that are traditionally regarded as unbridgeable. How to combine being a performer on television and a detached critic of it. How to make the guys in the saloon bar laugh while reading Russian poets in the original. How to be both a poet (and, towards the end of his life, a rather good one) as well as a formidable essayist."

His many books included Somewhere Becoming Rain: Collected Writings on Philip Larkin (2019), Poetry Notebook 2006–2014 (2014), Latest Readings (2015), Play All (2016), Opal Sunset: Selected Poems 1958–2009 (2009), Sentenced to Life (2015), Collected Poems 1958–2015 (2016) and Injury Time (2017). In addition to five volumes of memoirs, he had planned a sixth and last volume, " 'the final chapter of which,' he told one interviewer, 'will be dictated while I have an oxygen tent over my head. I wouldn’t like to spare the public my conclusions,' " the Guardian wrote.

Don Paterson, his poetry editor at Picador, said, "Although it was hardly unexpected, it was still a shock to hear of Clive’s passing; despite his frailty in his later years, his life-force seemed almost indestructible... he was unfailingly warm, kind and hilarious company right to the end, and we’ll miss him terribly."

James spent the spring and summer of 2019 writing and editing an autobiographical anthology called The Fire of Joy, which was finished a month ago and will be published in 2020. Paterson described it as "pretty typical of his generosity that the last book Clive finished was a work of straightforward enthusiasm, a reader’s guide to his favorite poems."

He was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 1992, a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2010 and an Officer in the Order of Australia (AO) in 2013.

In his last stage appearance, at London's inaugural Australia & New Zealand Festival of Literature & Arts in 2014, James said, "The poetry I write now, I think, is quite a lot more penetrating and sensitive than my earlier work--because it needs to be. Inevitably you start saying goodbye. I like to think that I hit a sort of plangent tone of threnody, a sort of Last Post, a recessional tone."


Pre-Snowstorm Checklist: Hickory Stick Bookshop

"Are you prepared?" asked Hickory Stick Bookshop, Washington Depot, Conn., which shared a photo of its sidewalk chalkboard featuring a helpful "Pre-Snow Checklist":

  1. Lots of blankets to build a fort
  2. Supplies for copious amounts of hot chocolate
  3. Plenty of logs for a roaring fire
  4. Toast (can never have too much)

Holiday Window Display: The Ripped Bodice

Posted by the Ripped Bodice, Culver City, Calif.: " 'Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents!' An oversized copy of Little Women stands open in our window, with peeks into Massachusetts villages and homey living rooms. Stop by and see it shining all holiday season!" And: "Thank you everyone for the love for our holiday window. It is one of our favorites. But I (bea) wanted to say that Leah designs and executes every window by herself. The ingenuity and heart that goes into every window is all her."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Ronan Farrow on the View

Good Morning America: Danielle Steel, author of Spy: A Novel (Delacorte, $28.99, 9780399179440).

Also on GMA: Kellyann Petrucci, author of Dr. Kellyann's Cleanse and Reset: Detoxify, Nourish, and Restore Your Body for Sustained Weight Loss (Rodale, $27, 9781984826671).

Rachael Ray: Julie Andrews, co-author of Home Work: A Memoir of My Hollywood Years (Hachette Books, $30, 9780316349253).

Ellen: Jimmy Kimmel, author of The Serious Goose (Random House, $18.99, 9780525707752).

The View: Ronan Farrow, author of Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators (Little, Brown, $30, 9780316486637).

Jimmy Kimmel Live: Chris Shepherd, co-author of Cook Like a Local: Flavors That Can Change How You Cook and See the World: A Cookbook (Clarkson Potter, $35, 9781524761264).

Tonight Show: Tomi Adeyemi, author of Children of Virtue and Vengeance (Holt, $19.99, 9781250170996).

TV: Never Tell; A Higher Loyalty

CBS has put in development Never Tell, based on the book by Selena Montgomery, the pseudonym for Stacey Abrams, former Georgia House Minority leader, the first African American to lead in the House of Representatives and former Georgia gubernatorial candidate, Deadline reported.

The project is from writer Talicia Raggs (NCIS: New Orleans), Abrams and Pat Ma Productions, in which CBS has an ownership stake and PatMa has a first-look deal. Abrams and Raggs executive produce along with Nina Tassler and Denise Di Novi for Pat Ma Productions, in which CBS has an ownership stake and PatMa a first-look deal.


Amy Seimetz has joined the cast of A Higher Loyalty, the CBS Studios miniseries based on the James Comey's bestselling book. Seimetz, co-creator and executive producer of the Starz series The Girlfriend Experience, will play the role of Trisha Anderson, the No. 2 lawyer at the FBI's Office of General Counsel amidst the Trump and Clinton investigations. Written and directed by Billy Ray, the mini is underway and will air next year.

The cast also includes Jeff Daniels (playng Comey), Brendan Gleeson (Donald Trump), Holly Hunter (Acting Attorney General Sally Yates), Michael Kelly (Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe), Jennifer Ehle (Patrice Comey), Peter Coyote (Robert Mueller), Steven Pasquale (Peter Strzok), Oona Chaplin (Lisa Page), Kingsley Ben-Adir (Barack Obama), Brian d'Arcy James (Mark Giuliano), Steve Zissis (Jim Baker), Shawn Doyle (Bill Priestap), Jonathan Banks (James Clapper), Richard Thomas (Chuck Rosenberg) and Seann Gallagher (Jim Rybicki).

Books & Authors

Awards: Waterstones Book & Author of the Year; RSL Giles St. Aubyn Winners

Waterstones has named The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy, published in the U.S. by HarperOne, as its 2019 Book of the Year and Greta Thunberg, author of No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference, published in the U.S. by Penguin Books, as its 2019 Author of the Year.

The company said that the winners "had made an unparalleled impression" on Waterstones booksellers, who nominated titles for the awards. "Amidst a wide-ranging and immensely strong shortlist they stood out to us as the books we most need now: reading to bring people together, inspiring us to act now to save our planet and to affirm the importance of bravery and compassion in a time of uncertainty."

Concerning The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse, Waterstones wrote: "An online phenomenon, Charlie Mackesy's inspirational paintings and delicate calligraphic text have now been gathered together in this beautifully produced volume. Adored by Nia at our Cardiff shop as a 'delicately illustrated tale that shows love towards yourself and others is the only thing that truly matters,' The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse is a moving study in friendship in a troubled world, and the perfect gift for those people that you hold closest in your heart."

As for Greta Thunberg, who has become a worldwide advocate to take action against climate change, Waterstones commented: "No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference documents a seismic political and cultural moment, and frames the defining debate of the twenty-first century so far. Collecting Greta Thunberg's speeches together in one volume, this timely book lays bare the eloquence and fury that drive a global environmental movement. 'The definition of essential reading,' states Ellie at Waterstones--The Economists' Bookshop, and we couldn't agree more."


The winners of the 2019 Royal Society of Literature Giles St. Aubyn Awards for Nonfiction are:

£10,000 (about $12,930), to Harry Davies for Operation Information, which will be published in 2021. Judges called the book "a modern history of covert British propaganda, revealing Britain's long but little-known tradition of waging information warfare from the Second World War to the present day. Using recently declassified and previously untapped archives, the book investigates how the British government, often in league with the U.S., has used secret propaganda to interfere in political affairs."

£5,000 ($6,465), to Olive Heffernan for The High Seas: The Race to Save the Earth's Last Wilderness, to be published in 2021. The book "explores the two-thirds of our ocean that lie beyond national waters, which have, for most of history, been out of sight. Despite their isolation, the High Seas have long been the backdrop of unending battles over territory and resources. The ocean produces half of the oxygen we breathe. That's every second breath you take and unless we protect the High Seas, we'll be facing a mass extinction of marine life in just over a decade."

The Judges' Special Commendation went to Rebecca Fogg for Beautiful Trauma, to be published in 2022. The book "describes how [Fogg] saved her own life following the partial amputation of her hand and navigated through the resulting emotional trauma by studying her injury and its treatment."

Book Review

Review: The Myth of the Perfect Pregnancy: A History of Miscarriage in America

The Myth of the Perfect Pregnancy: A History of Miscarriage in America by Lara Freidenfelds (Oxford University Press, $29.95 hardcover, 256p., 9780190869816, January 2, 2020)

Americans appear to have more control over their pregnancies than ever before. Changing social norms, the availability of birth control and major technological advances empower people to plan their pregnancies, monitor them extensively and learn about them months earlier than their forebears of even a generation ago. Many people celebrate their pregnancies earlier and more publicly than ever before, as a quick scroll through Facebook or Instagram is likely to demonstrate.

And yet, despite these confident expectations, about 30% of detected pregnancies are lost--making miscarriage a very common, and even likely, fact of reproductive life.

In The Myth of the Perfect Pregnancy: A History of Miscarriage in America, historian Lara Freidenfelds describes how social, medical and technological forces over the past 250 years have conspired to create "a cultural consensus that fertility should be subject to individual control and planning, and that parenting should primarily be a matter of affection and attachment." This consensus, while not without its upsides, leads to heartbreak, guilt and stigma when it clashes with the biological reality of miscarriage.

It has also, Freidenfelds argues, has created a new, modern experience of pregnancy loss.

This "new experience," she shows, is partly temporal: discovering pregnancies very early also means experiencing miscarriages that would have been indistinguishable from normal menstrual periods in earlier eras. But prospective parents in the 21st century expect to have near-perfect control over their pregnancies and are therefore likely to view miscarriage as a tragic personal failure. Freidenfelds traces this modern experience of miscarriage to its origins in colonial America, showing how it resulted directly from changing attitudes toward fertility and parenting, the rise of the medical management of pregnancy and--insidiously--a booming capitalist culture around pregnancy and babies.

Evidenced throughout, and made explicit in the final chapter, Freidenfelds provides not just a fascinating, well-researched history, but also uses that history to dismantle unrealistic expectations of perfection and to argue for a more humane understanding of miscarriage. That understanding, she says, must make room for miscarriage as a normal part of fertility and childbearing.

Parents and aspiring parents may have the most immediate interest in this book, but the scope of its impact should not be limited to that group. Given how common miscarriage is, a broad range of readers have much to gain from Freidenfelds's call for a more compassionate and realistic approach to the subject. --Hannah Calkins, writer and editor in Indianapolis

Shelf Talker: Fascinating and expertly researched, this book traces the social, medical and technological forces that have shaped modern experiences of fertility, parenting and pregnancy loss.

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