Shelf Awareness for Friday, September 4, 2020


Flatiron Books: The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation by Anna Nti-Asare-Tubbs

Candlewick Press: In the Half Room by Carson Ellis

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: Kondo & Kezumi Visit Giant Island by David Goodner, illustrated by Andrea Tsurumi

Candlewick Press: A Polar Bear in the Snow by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Shawn Harris

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: Hollowpox: The Hunt for Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

Shadow Mountain: The Paper Daughters of Chinatown by Heather B Moore

Editors' Note

News

Book Jewel Opens in Los Angeles

The Book Jewel opened last Saturday, Independent Bookstore Day, in the Westchester area of Los Angeles, Calif. Karen Dial, who owns the store with her brother, Jim Drollinger, told the Argonaut, "This is a dream come true for me!" The siblings also own Drollinger Properties, a property management and commercial real estate brokerage firm.

"The community has been waiting," continued Dial, who has been a champion of public art and president of the business improvement district. "They've been watching for about four years while the construction was taking place. So every time someone drove by, they were like, 'When is that going to open?' So there's been a lot of interesting conversations. But we've also been cooped up in our homes for so many months now. It's been a delight to hear people say, as they walk through the door, 'Oh my gosh, we're finally out of the house! We've been reading but we're sick of ordering on Amazon. We want a real bookstore!' "

The store has 3,000 square feet of space and housed a toy store as well as a grocery store and dollar store before being extensively renovated to create the Book Jewel, named after the owners' mother, who was an avid reader.

The store manager is Sean Moor, who for 10 years has owned and operated Gatsby Books in Long Beach, which he described as "a self-sufficient store now," allowing him to work full time at the Book Jewel, where he's "basically building the store of Karen's dreams and fortunately, our dreams are the same," he said.

The Argonaut described the store as a "stylish, modern space, accented with crimson fan-like lighting fixtures... designed to magically transform into an event space."

Next door, Dial's daughter Natalie and her fiancé, Harry Posner, plan to open Tomat, a restaurant with its own event space and rooftop deck and garden, sometime next year.


University of Minnesota Press: My Life in the Purple Kingdom by Brownmark and Cynthia M Uhrich


Beyond Borders, Kokomo, Ind., Moving

Beyond Borders, Kokomo, Ind., which includes the Beyond Barcodes Bookstore, Beyond Borders Language Learning Center, and Bind Café, is moving this month.

Owner DeAndra Beard had hoped to buy the building in which her family venture has been located since 2015, but has decided instead to buy a different location, as well as a food bus, which "will make it easier to bring her delicious foods, coffees, teas, books and fresh produce to the community in a safe way during the pandemic." Beard will host a "First Friday Farewell" to the location tonight, for which Bind Café will serve fan favorites, including street tacos.

Beard had launched a GoFundMe campaign late last year hoping to raise $40,000 for a down payment on the current building. As of June 8, she had raised $1,315, mostly from local family and friends.

But then, as Beyond Borders recounted, "Amidst the racial upheaval following George Floyd's killing at hands of police, the business was featured on an Instagram post encouraging people to buy from black-owned bookstores. The post went viral and was picked up by Entertainment Weekly. In a surge of momentum, Beard was featured in the New York Times, CNN Headline News and most recently in Oprah Magazine. She received an outpouring of support and overwhelming influx of book orders from customers from all 50 states!"

The GoFundMe campaign is nearing the goal of $40,000.


Storey Publishing: Wake Up Grateful: The Transformative Practice of Taking Nothing for Granted by Kristi Nelson


DIESEL, A Bookstore Launches Fundraiser

DIESEL, A Bookstore, which operates locations in Brentwood and Del Mar, Calif., has launched a GoFundMe campaign with a goal of raising $400,000. Co-owners Alison Reid and John Evans noted: "We have always seen our bookselling as an ecology of people, ideas, experiences, places and conversation. We are subject to vicissitudes, ups and downs, as part of the wider society and culture, as all of us are. But Covid-19 has had consequences like no other."

Although DIESEL has tried to weather the storm "with creative reinvention, hard work and perseverance, as we always have," keeping its booksellers afloat financially and with necessary health care, "at this point, our stores are foundering," the owners wrote, adding that although they have had "wonderful customer support," it is not enough to sustain rent, operating expenses and publisher debt.

"So we are asking for your support to restore us to a sustainable level, to make it through this taxing time," they wrote. "We know we are not alone in struggling to survive. Many independent businesses lack the resources and financial support to make it through this extended challenge. Many aren't making it, and we hope not to be one of them."

Noting that they have resisted appealing to the wider community for help, Reid and Evans stressed that they are running out of time. "It is either this, or ending our run as a quality independent bookstore.... We hope to be able to pay our debts, and to keep providing great books and great conversations to our communities for many years to come. We cherish, and desperately need, your support at this time. Thanks for all of your support these many years. May there be many more!"


KidsBuzz for the Week of 09.28.20


International Update: Canadian Book Sales, Bottled Wigtown Bookshop Air

Canadian print sales for the first six months of 2020 showed a decrease of at least three million units and C$63 million (about US$48.3 million) year-over-year, BookNet Canada reported, citing sudden closures and restrictions due to Covid-19 as factors that are "still having a significant impact on the industry--not only in sales but also in purchasing behavior."

Because the pandemic forced retail closures across the country during spring and early summer, book sales were down a total of 24%, with some weeks dropping as much as 44% year-over-year, BNC wrote, noting that in "a bit of good news, as stores began to open, sales began to bounce back significantly. In fact, weekly sales in June, July, and August (so far) have generally been trending above the corresponding weeks from 2019."

Offering a sneak peek at the results of the Canadian Book Consumer Survey of readers' book purchasing behavior, BNC said respondents to the March-April survey increased their purchasing of e-books to 24% of all book purchases (print, e-book and audiobooks), up from 18% during the same quarter in 2019 and representing a 33% increase year-over-year. In the second quarter of 2020, e-book sales declined to 20% of purchases.

---

Noting that "there's nothing quite like the smell of an old bookshop," the Herald reported that organizers of this year's online Wigtown Book Festival in Scotland "are selling bottled Wigtown bookshop air for £10 [about $13.40] a pop, with 'special edition' bottles selling for £15 [about $20].... While a bit tongue in cheek, it is hoped the sale will help to raise funds for the festival which has been forced online due to the Covid-19 crisis." The festival runs September 24 to October 4.

---

Although business confidence "has taken a hammering since the return of Covid-19 to New Zealand," Niki Ward, manager at Unity Books in Auckland has kept a positive outlook, crediting "being an independent store, with a base of loyal customers, for keeping her bookshop bustling, NewsHub reported.

"I'm positive because I've seen what effect books have for different people in different situations," she said. "It is an essential service. We bring laughter and life into people's homes. I think we're going to have a great Christmas--it feels like we're going to have a great Christmas." --Robert Gray


California Bookstores: Opt-into CALIBA's Fall Email Marketing Campaign - Free to You!


Abrams Acquires Cameron + Company

Abrams has acquired Cameron + Company, Petaluma, Calif., the family-owned publisher known for publishing high-quality books with a focus on photography, art, food and wine, children's books and topics of regional interest. Its imprints include Cameron Books, Cameron Kids, and Cameron Studio, the book packaging and design division. It publishes 25-30 titles a year.

Cameron + Company will operate as a separate division of Abrams, and Chris Gruener, v-p & publisher of Cameron + Company, will report to Abrams president and CEO Michael Jacobs. Nina Gruener, publishing director of Cameron Kids, Iain Morris, creative director of Cameron + Company, and the current staff will continue to work from California.

Abrams will handle all aspects of sales, distribution, production, foreign rights, human resources, IT and business operations for Cameron + Company. Abrams & Chronicle Books, London, will take on the U.K. market and European export sales, along with Thames and Hudson Australia, which currently distributes Abrams in Australia and New Zealand.

Chris Gruener commented: "We have long admired the publishing program and reputation of Abrams and have enjoyed our strategic collaboration as a distribution client. To now become a part of the Abrams family is an honor for all of us here at Cameron + Company. We are very excited to expand our list and continue the legacy that Nina's grandfather, Robert Cameron, began 56 years ago in San Francisco when he started Cameron + Company."

Michael Jacobs added: "Abrams and Cameron + Company share a love and passion for publishing beautiful, well-curated, and well-made books for both adults and children. This acquisition is a natural next step between our companies. We have been working together successfully for the past few years as the distributor of Cameron + Company in North America and are thrilled to welcome the terrific people at Cameron + Company and the opportunity to help them grow. The acquisition gives Abrams a new West Coast perspective that is exciting for us as well."


Rick Riordan Presents: City of the Plague God by Sarwat Chadda


ABA Seeks Nominations for Board Election in 2021

The American Booksellers Association's nominating committee is seeking candidates to run for the board in 2021, Bookselling This Week reported. Any ABA member may nominate a qualified candidate, and members may nominate themselves.

A nominee for election to the board must be the owner or employee of an ABA member indie bookstore with a storefront location; have at least three years of recent bookselling experience; and ideally have at least two years of experience as a volunteer in ABA or a regional booksellers association or other constituency organization.

Nominations can be made online here and should be submitted before October 30. The slate for the 2021 board elections will be announced approximately 120 days before the next ABA annual membership meeting, which will be held in May 2021.

The nominating board is chaired by board member Jenny Cohen of Waucoma Bookstore, Hood River, Ore. Members are: Tegan Tigani of Queen Anne Book Company, Seattle, Wash.; Kathy Burnette of Brain Lair Books, South Bend, Ind.; Hannah Oliver Depp of Loyalty Bookstores in Washington, D.C., and Silver Spring, Md.; and Michael Herrmann of Gibson's Bookstore, Concord, N.H.

For a summary of the election process, click here.


Obituary Note: Elaine Moss

Elaine Moss, who "spent her working life immersed in the world of children's books, not only advising publishers on which stories to print, but also writing books herself," has died, the Guardian reported. She was 96. In the early 1950s, Moss worked as personal assistant to the publisher Grace Hogarth at Constable Young Books, which "led her into a freelance role, first at Constable and then with other publishers, in which she read and reviewed children's books on their behalf, advising them on whether they should be brought into print."

In 1961, she edited Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels to make it accessible for a younger audience and, having begun to write, had her first children's story, Wait and See Book, published three years later, followed in 1965 by Twirly.

Moss became the selector for the National Book League's Children's Books of the Year awards in 1970, the same year she began to contribute articles and interviews to Signal, a journal about children's literature. Her children's book Polar was published in 1975. She was honored with the Eleanor Farjeon award for outstanding contribution to the world of children's books in 1977, and in 1986 she brought out her memoirs, Part of the Pattern.

Her nephew, Martin Levy, wrote that "throughout the 1980s she was also a volunteer at Fleet Primary school in Hampstead, working in the library and reading to children. She also sold children's books from a street barrow in north London. Her last couple of years became more difficult as her health declined, but she continued to enjoy the company of her family and friends, and her interest in literature and the world at large remained."


G.L.O.W. - Galley Love of the Week
Be the first to have an advance copy!
Do Right by Me
by Valerie I. Harrison and
Kathryn Peach D'Angelo

GLOW: Temple University Press: Do Right by Me: Learning to Raise Black Children in White Spaces by Valerie I. Harrison and Kathryn Peach D'AngeloAn essential guide for non-Black parents and caregivers by authors with authority and first-hand experience, Do Right by Me: Learning to Raise Black Children in White Spaces arrived at a fortuitous time for Ryan Mulligan, editor at Temple University Press: "I couldn't find the book I was looking for: an orientation to raising a Black child in America for someone who hadn't grown up with the experiences, networks and knowledge that most Black parents bring to the task. And then Val and Katie reached out." Mulligan and his publishing team were "blown away by the authors' honesty, friendship and message." Presenting a brutally honest assessment of the ways in which the justice and education systems often work against Black children, Do Right by Me offers bold, uplifting strategies for helping them develop the awareness, resources and resilience to thrive. --Shahina Piyarali

(Temple University Press, $20 paperback, 9781439919958,
November 27, 2020)

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#ShelfGLOW
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Notes

Image of the Day: Found in Transition Signing at Book Soup

Author Paria Hassouri, M.D., and her daughter Ava visited Book Soup in West Hollywood, Calif., and signed copies of Found in Transition: A Mother's Evolution During Her Child's Gender Change (New World Library) in advance of the book's virtual launch event, a conversation with Tembi Locke, on Thursday, September 10,  at 6 p.m. Pacific.


Happy 50th Birthday, Eagle Harbor Book Co.!

Congratulations to Eagle Harbor Book Co., Bainbridge Island, Wash., which is turning 50 this month. The store is celebrating with prizes and discounts all month, and has a scrapbook in the store to which it is inviting customers to contribute "Come in and share your memories, or create new memories together," the store wrote.

In 2016, Jane and Dave Danielson bought the store from Morley Horder, René Kirkpatrick and Tim Hunter. At the time, Jane Danielson was the events manager and had worked at Eagle Harbor for almost a decade.


Grace Slick Masks Up at the Golden Notebook

Earlier this week, the social media platforms for Jefferson Starship's legendary Grace Slick spread the word about using face masks to fight novel coronavirus, posting: "Peace, love, music and masks! For the last year, an iconic photo of Grace at Woodstock has hung outside of @goldennotebookbookstore in Woodstock, New York. Originally put up to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the legendary music festival, the banner has been redesigned and become something of a PSA. Grace now wears a mask to remind locals to also wear a mask to protect themselves and others from the spread of Covid-19."

Bookstore co-owners James Conrad and Jacqueline Kellachan said they have had very few problems enforcing mandatory masks in the store, but now feel even more secure in their policy: "If anyone objects, we'll just tell them to take it up with Grace Slick. Wear your mask and show respect to the queen of rock!"


Former U.S. Poet Laureate Models Indie Bookstore T-Shirt

"We gotta say, the cutest thing in the world is Ted Kooser modeling our T-shirt!" Chapters Books & Gifts, Seward, Neb, posted on Facebook. "Don't be jealous that you don't have a former U.S. Poet Laureate to rep you. P.S. Have you ordered your signed copy of Ted's newest book, Red Stilts, yet? It comes out in less than a week and of course it's transcendent."


'The Most Charming Bookstores in America'

Sharing its picks for the "most charming bookstores in America," MSN noted: "Sometimes the best way to understand a town is to visit its best bookstores. These are communal places that offer ideas in a tangible form and a venue for sharing a love of literature. They add substance to shopping districts and reflect the literary passions and history of their communities, making each unique and worth exploring even while on a tight vacation schedule. Whether the books are new or used, rarities or classics, it's hard to beat the rush of discovering a good book at a great price at these best places for bibliophiles across the country."



Media and Movies

Media Heat: Bryant Terry on the Today Show

Monday:
Today Show: Bryant Terry, author of Vegetable Kingdom: The Abundant World of Vegan Recipes (Ten Speed Press, $30, 9780399581045).


Emma Roberts Signs Hulu Deal Focused on Book Adaptations

Actress and producer Emma Roberts (The American Horror Story, Scream Queens) signed a first-look deal at Hulu to focus on adapting books for television, Deadline reported. Her Belletrist TV production company was initially set up as a book club between Roberts, the niece of Julia Roberts, and Karah Preiss.

Belletrist has set an adaptation of Carola Lovering's Tell Me Lies as the company's first project. Meaghan Oppenheimer is writing the pilot. Rebelle Media is also exec producing with Vice-owned Refinery29. Lovering will serve as consulting producer.


Books & Authors

Awards: International Dublin Literary Shortlist

The shortlist has been released for the €100,000 (about $119,545) International Dublin Literary Award, which is sponsored by Dublin City Council to honor a single work of fiction published in English. The winner will be announced October 22, as part of this year's "reimagined" International Literature Festival Dublin. The shortlisted titles are:

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker (British)
Milkman by Anna Burns (Irish)
Disoriental by Négar Djavadi (Iranian-French), translated from the French by Tina Kover
Washington Black by Esi Edugyan (Canadian)
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (American)
History of Violence by Édouard Louis (French), translated from the French by Lorin Stein
The Friend by Sigrid Nunez (American)
There There by Tommy Orange (Native American)
All the Lives We Never Lived by Anuradha Roy (Indian)
Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk (Polish), translated from the Polish by Antonia Lloyd-Jones


Reading with... Jennie Fields

photo: Anthony Scarlati

Jennie Fields is the author of Atomic Love (Putnam, August 18, 2020), a novel about a former Manhattan Project scientist asked to spy on her ex-colleague and lover during the Red Scare. She's written four other novels, including The Age of Desire, a New York Times Editor's Choice. Fields is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and spent decades as a creative director in advertising in New York City. She now lives in Nashville, Tenn., with her husband, Russ, and their dog, Violet Jane.

On your nightstand now:

Voices of Freedom: An Oral History of the Civil Rights Movement from the 1950s Through the 1980s by Henry Hampton, Steve Fayer and Sarah Flynn.

My new novel features a character who's caught up in the Civil Rights movement in the '60s. I love oral histories because they share the details that people remember most. Those clarion moments that changed the way they felt, that impacted them. They're always both surprising and moving.

I'm also reading Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan. I love good literary historic fiction. It's set in the '30s and '40s in Brooklyn, a place I lived for 25 years. I love her sensory details and sense of place.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Twig by Elizabeth Orton Jones.

I was six when I found this book in the school library. It tells the tale of a little girl who lives in a tenement. Her clothes are torn, and she has no toys, but in the alley by her house, she finds a tin can cut up the side and decides it's the perfect little house for an elf. She sets it out in the backyard of the tenement and waits for one to move in. Needless to say, joy ensues. I loved that a needy little girl who had a wonderful imagination ended up flying on the wings of a sparrow. This book made me want to be a writer. I promptly sat down and wrote three pages about a needy little girl named "Emmy" who finds adventure. I know this because I still have those pages, chewed along the edge by my childhood dog.

Your top five authors:

Edith Wharton is by far my favorite author, which is why I wrote The Age of Desire about her life. Wharton never fails to inform me anew. Donna Tartt's books are long and rambling yet hold my attention through every page. The language of John Updike's stories is gorgeous. Few of his novels measure up though, and I'm finding it harder and harder to read him, as he's unbearably sexist. Still, his language, his language! Daphne du Maurier is a master storyteller. How I admire her for that! And Kate Atkinson always breaks the norms. Her masterpiece, Life After Life, and its message about the vagaries of fate still shakes me years after reading it.

Book you've faked reading:

I'm ashamed to say Melville's Moby-Dick. I've tried. I should try again.

Book you're an evangelist for:

The Custom of the Country. One of Edith Wharton's lesser-known novels features one of the most odious main characters ever written, Undine Spragg, and yet you'll find yourself glued to the page, wondering what will happen to her next. It's a masterpiece.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Possession: A Romance by A.S. Byatt. I'm a sucker for the pre-Raphaelites, and Burne-Jones's painting The Beguiling of Merlin beguiled me. The novel lives up to its cover. It's one of my favorites.

Book you hid from your parents:

Candy by Terry Southern. A classmate slipped it to me in eighth grade. I didn't know much about sex and it certainly was a kinky introduction!

Book that changed your life:

I guess I'd have to say The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway. The tight clarity of that book opened my eyes to a more modern style of writing at a time when I was very impressionable and had been reading Jane Austen and the Brontës.

Favorite line from a book:

"Isn't it pretty to think so?" from The Sun Also Rises fits myriad hopeless situations. What other line is equally sarcastic and heartbreaking? I find myself using it often these days.

Five books you'll never part with:

The House of Mirth and Custom of the Country (both by Edith Wharton), The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, The Magus by John Fowles.

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

I've read Jane Eyre three times, first when I was nine, then about 20 years ago and again last year. I loved it every single time. And I hope to read it again. What is it about that book that's so compelling? Maybe it's the shy, untested, maltreated girl who finds her own strength and, ultimately, happiness, though it's not as she once imagined it would be.

Books you read under the covers with a flashlight:

In my early teens, I became obsessed with Mary Stewart. I hadn't thought of her in years, then this year, I needed some comfort reading and decided to pick up one of her books. Within a few weeks, I'd reread everything she's penned. Her books were far better written than I expected, with main characters--always women--who displayed unusual grit for the era. But what surprised me most was how poetically Stewart captures the wonders of nature. I was instantly hooked, just as I had been when I was a girl.


Book Review

Review: Leave the World Behind

Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam (Ecco, $27.99 hardcover, 256p., 9780062667632, October 6, 2020)

Rumaan Alam (Rich and Pretty; That Kind of Mother) thrills and unsettles with Leave the World Behind, a novel about family and other relationships, getting what's desired and reactions in the face of crisis.

The story begins mid-road trip, a white family of four on their way from the city to their vacation rental. Amanda is an account director in advertising, Clay an English professor; Archie is 15, Rose 13. They have an apartment in Brooklyn ("really Cobble Hill") and a mid-range sedan somewhere between luxurious and bohemian. "The life they had was perfect," Amanda frequently reflects, and yet they are jealous of their well-appointed Airbnb, its idealized decor and the imagined lives of its owners. The four of them enjoy the house, the pool, the beach. Their vacation is perfect if a little boring, like the family. Alam's narrative and descriptions are gorgeously detailed and impeccably paced, so that this is a story for readers to sink into, effortless and comfortable, even sumptuous. Until a knock comes at the door.

Ruth and G.H. are the owners of the vacation home, and the arrival of the older couple in the middle of the night is disturbing enough, but their story is stranger: a blackout in New York City, fear driving them out into the country, invading the family's perfect getaway. Amanda is suspicious. Unexpectedly, Ruth and G.H. are Black. Amanda wonders if it wouldn't make more sense for them to clean this beautiful house, rather than own it.

The almost entirely undefined external situation--the reported blackout, loss of cell and Internet services, televisions reduced to blank blue screens--forces the four adults and two teenagers together and holds them there, a delicious narrative device that leaves them simmering. The resulting tension touches on generational differences, gender dynamics, class and race--Clay and Amanda are self-conscious of their faux-benign racism, and the story serves subtly as a criticism of social norms. There is a note of the locked-room mystery and heaps of foreboding. Readers gets meticulous details of Amanda's grocery shopping and the vacation home's furnishings, but the extent and nature of the outside threat is delivered in mere hints. "Some people got sick, because that was their constitution. Others listened and realized how little they understood about the world."

Leave the World Behind is pitch-perfect in atmosphere, easy to read and deceptive in the high polish of its setting. Alam has crafted a deeply bewitching and disquieting masterpiece. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Shelf Talker: Ominous events throw two families together and off-balance in this captivating, thought-provoking novel.


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Sincerely, Erik--A Bookseller in Pandemic Time

Sincerely, Erik, a poignant and enchanting new short film written and directed by Naz Riahi, opens quietly. A man enters his apartment's small kitchen, turns on some music (Mozart) and pours a cup of his morning beverage. He sips, breathes deeply. Who is this guy? Soon we see him at his front door, masked and gloved, shouldering a large tote bag. Then there's an exterior shot of a sun-drenched tree, followed by one of the man leaving his building. We hear a voice-over, assume it's him:

Dear Suzanne, I hope this note finds you well. Seeing your name on the order form, I couldn't help but think of the Leonard Cohen song. I see that like his Suzanne you live on the Hudson, too. Sorry, I know that sounds weird. I didn't look you up. I mean to be honest, sometimes I'm inclined to when someone orders a book I particularly like, especially these days. But, then again, I like all the books I carry, so the inclination kind of died right out of the gate knowing that I'd never be able to look up every single customer.

So, a New York City bookseller in the time of Covid-19 pandemic.

I hope you like this book [Ernest Hemingway's The Garden of Eden] as much as I do.... I don't actually trust anything published posthumously, but this novel is good. I think it's great. Maybe, when the store opens up again, you can come down and let me know what you think. Sincerely, Erik.

Last week, I discovered the perfect film for this strange and unprecedented summer. My affection and respect for Sincerely, Erik has only deepened with subsequent viewings. For book people--particularly those of us in the book trade right now--this film captures the essence of a tenuous balance between isolation and community that defines our work and personal lives, in or out of the city. Moments of grace are hard won. We find them where we can. And this beautiful film found me somehow. Where did it come from, I wondered. So I asked.

In the real world, "the man" is actually Erik DuRon, owner of Left Bank Books on Perry St. in the West Village. His shop specializes in used, vintage and rare books in literature and the arts. DuRon observed that "it's important for us to create a small but immersive environment where people can spend time encountering books as cultural artifacts, where they can learn about and appreciate not just the content of a book, but also its material history. Most of our stock is pre-digital, which means that while the objects themselves are by no means one-of-a-kind, all the design elements within, from typeface to layout to illustration art was more or less done by hand."

He added that Sincerely, Erik "partakes of the same spirit, and hopefully that gets communicated. While the story is fiction, and 'Erik' is a character, working with Naz was remarkable in that all we did was talk a few times late at night in the midst of the pandemic, and the next thing I knew I was reading this script that so clearly expressed things I felt and thought. We knew making the actual film during quarantine posed risks, but we were careful, respectful, and worked quickly with an almost instinctive sense that this was a moment that needed to be captured."

Naz Riahi

Riahi recalled that when she first met DuRon, "it felt like I'd met a kindred spirit. We both have MFAs in creative writing and we both tell stories in our own ways--I write and make films and he does through his bookstore and its spectacular curation. So, it was a natural fit for us to work together, for me to write a script set in his world, which is actually my own fantasy world. The character he plays is based on a combination of the both of us."

She described bookstores and libraries as her "happy place. They have been since childhood. I grew up in Iran, in my grandfather's study, surrounded by books. He was a very notable and venerated poet and lyricist--Rahim Moeini Kermanshahi. When I was a very small child, I'd sit on the floor of his study and watch him work. Occasionally I would pull a book off the shelf. That was my introduction to Verne, Balzac, Tolstoy and the many Iranian writers he read and referenced."

When her short film was released a couple of weeks ago, Riahi posted on Instagram: "I can't even begin to tell you how much love went into making this, from our tiny cast and crew. I wrote and directed in June (or, early Pandemic) hoping to capture a specifically strange time of isolation. I hope you love this film as much as we loved making it." 

I do.

Dear Anna, I love this book's cover [Lucia Berlin's Where I Live Now] almost as much as I love the stories within.... I love what I do. I hope you love this book. You have great taste. I mean it. From your first order to this one, and everything in between. I wish I knew who you were, what other books lined your bookshelves. For now, I'll just have to imagine. As is, though, I'm grateful to have you as a customer. Take care. Sincerely, Erik.

--Robert Gray, editor

KidsBuzz: Vesuvian Books: 7th Grade Revolution by Liana Gardner
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