Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Atria Books:  Spirit Crossing (Cork O'Connor Mystery #20) by William Kent Krueger

Ballantine Books: Gather Me: A Memoir in Praise of the Books That Saved Me by Glory Edim

Ace Books: Rewitched by Lucy Jane Wood

Graywolf Press: We're Alone: Essays by Edwidge Danticat

St. Martin's Press: Runaway Train: Or, the Story of My Life So Far by Erin Roberts with Sam Kashner

Other Press (NY): Hotline by Dimitri Nasrallah

Delacorte Press: The Midnight Game by Cynthia Murphy


New Voices, New Rooms: Centering Inclusion and Respect

On the first afternoon of the virtual New Rooms, New Voices conference, being held this week in partnership between the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association and the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance, speaker Jerod Grant, who conducts workshops on topics like race, identity, equity and toxic masculinity as part of Cultures Connecting LLC, led a discussion on how booksellers can help make their stores more welcoming spaces by centering inclusion and respect.

Grant, who worked in higher education for more than a decade and was the director of diversity and equity at Everett Community College, explained some frequently used terminology and gave advice on how booksellers can navigate difficult conversations.

Throughout the discussion, Grant emphasized that equity ideology is a "way of being, not just a checklist," and that it has no easy fixes. It is a lens through which one views the world and an "ideological commitment." He explained that centering the conversation on race does not mean it is more important than any other identity, and added that while race may be a social construct, the implications and impacts of race are "absolutely real." He noted, too, that racism includes not only racial prejudice, which "we all have," but also social and institutional power and control.

He also discussed the term BIPOC--Black, Indigenous and People of Color. The term is meant to acknowledge the different histories and unique experiences of various groups. In particular, he noted, the term is used in the U.S. to "speak to the original sins of this country"--the dispossesion of Indigenous peoples and the chattel enslavement of Black folks.

Jerod Grant

Grant brought up some of the most common ways that people try to derail conversations about race, such as saying "All Lives Matter" in response to "Black Lives Matter," or saying things like "I don't notice skin color" or "I don't see color." While some of these things may not sound bad in a vacuum, he continued, "going universal" dismisses the very real, very specific struggles that people of color experience.

When it comes to having "courageous conversations," Grant offered some general pointers. People should be willing to experience discomfort, to stay engaged during difficult conversations, to take risks and to "expect and accept non-closure." On the point of taking risks, Grant said that for a bookstore that might include something like creating a social media post about a commitment to inclusion and equity, which could put off some people within the store's customer base. He also stressed that taking risks can look very different for white people and for POC. For the latter, he said, the risks might be losing their job or facing retaliation in the workplace.

One of the most important things to remember, he said, is to "hold space" in these conversations. It is not always about immediate solutions or commitments--there needs to be space for "hearing and understanding."

Grant drew on his time in higher education to talk about diversifying staff. If an employer's plans to diversify an institution don't "confront institutional inequities," hiring staff members from diverse backgrounds will not suddenly create a more diverse, inclusive space. In many cases, he said, it will lead to high turnover as a culture of institutional racism is still present.

He pointed out that trust needs to be built with communities of color, which comes from "consistency over time," and the work someone does in New York will "look completely different" from the work done in Pennsylvania or Virginia. --Alex Mutter

Watkins Publishing: Fall Into Folklore! ARCS Available On Request

Bridgeside Books in Waterbury, Vt., Has New Owners

Katya d'Angelo and Chris Triolo are purchasing Bridgeside Books, an 11-year-old independent bookstore in Waterbury, Vt., Waterbury Roundabout reported. D'Angelo is the owner of The Udder Guys, a summertime ice cream cart that she tows by tricycle and sets up at various spots in downtown Waterbury.

Original owner Hiata Corduan put the store up for sale earlier this summer. Corduan told the Roundabout that she had no desire to close the store and was prepared to wait a year or more to find the right buyer. It was not long before inquiries came streaming in, some of them from buyers as far away as Alaska and Colorado. Said Corduan: "I found somebody local."

Corduan, d'Angelo and Triolo are still working on the terms of the sale and anticipate closing the deal by the end of next month. Corduan will stay for a time to help Triolo and d'Angelo learn the ropes; to that end, d'Angelo is already spending a few hours per week in the shop to see how things are done.

Bridgeside Books was closed for 10 weeks during the early months of the pandemic before reopening this summer with a slimmer inventory and smaller profile. Looking ahead, d'Angelo plans to keep things leaner during the early fall in the hopes that business accelerates during the holidays. D'Angelo and Triolo hope to add a few things like tabletop games and board games and are considering stocking a selection of teas.

"It's easy to be involved here, to know your neighbors," said d'Angelo. "Waterbury is a place full of lovely people."

Corduan said she began thinking about moving on from the store last summer and was thrilled to find buyers who lived around the corner from the bookshop. "It was my dream to open a bookstore and it became above and beyond what I could have ever imagined."

GLOW: Blue Box Press: In the Air Tonight by Marie Force

NYC's Kitchen Arts & Letters Bookstore Surpasses Fundraising Goal

Kitchen Arts & Letters bookstore in New York City surpassed its initial $75,000 GoFundMe goal less than 48 hours after launching the fundraising campaign last Friday. As of this morning, more than $90,000 has been raised.

"This has been amazing and heartwarming and we're stunned," managing partner Matt Sartwell wrote in an update, noting "how overwhelmed" he and founding partner Nach Waxman "are at this enthusiasm for the store and what we do. Thank you all so much! When I set the original goal, I thought that it might take weeks or months to reach it. I was also, frankly, unsure of what the response would be. So I settled on the minimum we needed to get through. Boy, did I underestimate how generous people are.

"If this wonderful burst of support continues, we're determined to put every penny to use in ways that will make us more relevant and more helpful to the people all over the world who have reached out to help us. The money that you have given us is, in our view, like a sacred trust and we will not fail the faith you have shown in us."

In the store's original GoFundMe post, Sartwell had written that the 37-year-old bookstore's "survival is at risk, and we have to turn to you for help. Our usual sources of income--everyday customers, major food conferences, restaurant chefs--have all been dealt staggering blows. Without them, we're not coming close to paying our bills. We want to keep Kitchen Arts & Letters open. We want to keep bringing you the important, groundbreaking, and unusual books from home and abroad, and the personal service that tells you we love what we do here.

"We have a vision for going forward that builds on all we've been to our community through the decades. We want to become even more useful to food and drink people by making our website faster, easier to use, and a more complete reflection of our full inventory. We want to expand our searches for books you won't find elsewhere. And we will continue to tightly control our costs. But to be brutally honest, without outside support we'll have to close our doors in the near future."

On Saturday, Kitchen Arts & Letters tweeted: "Thank you to the wonderful people here who supported our GFM and passed the word. We're blown away by all the contributions, by the orders that caused our website to strain mightily, and by how uplifting everyone has been. We're not going anywhere now."

Carolrhoda Lab (R): They Thought They Buried Us by Nonieqa Ramos

New Imprints: Penn State's Graphic Mundi; Blackstone's bigbaldhead

Penn State University Press has founded the trade imprint Graphic Mundi, which will publish comics for adults and young adults. Starting in spring 2021 Graphic Mundi will publish fiction and nonfiction narratives on subjects including health and human rights, politics, the environment, science and technology. Kendra Boileau, assistant director and editor-in-chief of Penn State University Press, is the publisher.

Graphic Mundi expands on the current list of graphic novels published by the press, in particular its Graphic Medicine series, which launched in 2015 with Graphic Medicine Manifesto and has 22 titles concerning personal and public health.

Boileau said, "Graphic Mundi will represent a broad range of voices and experiences, including those of marginalized individuals and groups, or those whose works have not been previously accessible to anglophone readers. These graphic novels will address serious topics, but they’ll do so in engaging, provocative, and sometimes humorous ways. They'll have the potential to transform how we see ourselves, others, and the world. The imprint is thus an excellent fit for our mission as a university press."

Spring 2021 titles are:

COVID Chronicles: A Comics Anthology, edited by Boileau and Rich Johnson, collects more than 40 short works about the pandemic.

Three graphic narratives of personal trauma: a sudden diagnosis of quadriplegia in Twister by Roland Burkart; an overwhelming eating disorder in Fat by Regina Hofer; and a child's account of living with a mother with bipolar disorder in The Parakeet by Espé.

Crude: A Memoir by Pablo Fajardo, Sophie Tardy-Joubert and Damian Roudeau recounts the fight for social and environmental justice in the Amazonian oil fields.

Two humor titles: Dirty Biology: The X-Rated Story of the Science of Sex by Léo and Colas Grasset and The Body Factory: From the First Prosthetics to the Augmented Human by Héloïse Chochois.


Norman Reedus

In partnership with actor/voice actor/model/photographer/director Norman Reedus, Blackstone Publishing has formed bigbaldhead, an imprint that will focus on Reedus's new Unknown Man series, as well as other titles curated by Reedus that will feature "distinct, diverse, and provocative voices." The first title will appear in fall 2021. Reedus will be involved in every stage of the books' publication, including acquisition, design, production and promotion.

Reedus commented: "It has been a dream of mine for so long to be able to share and tell progressive stories that shine a light where others don't. I feel incredibly privileged for the opportunity to amplify innovative voices in storytelling that are visionary in fostering change in culture."

Blackstone president and CEO Josh Stanton added that the partnership with Reedus is "bringing to life his visionary line of diverse books and creating a new, innovative imprint full of exciting possibilities."

Obituary Note: Sam McBratney

Sam McBratney, author of Guess How Much I Love You, died last Friday, September 18. He was 77.

McBratney wrote more than 50 books, but as Candlewick Press said, "he achieved international acclaim with the 1994 publication of Guess How Much I Love You, which features a spirited yet tender bedtime competition between two nutbrown hares and the now iconic illustrations of Anita Jeram. Now considered a children's book classic, Guess How Much I Love You has sold over 50 million copies worldwide, been translated into 57 languages, and serves as the cornerstone of a global licensing program." It also popularized the phrase "I love you to the moon and back." McBratney himself described it as "a lighthearted little story designed to help a big one and a wee one enjoy the pleasure of being together."

McBratney's companion to Guess How Much I Love You, titled Will You Be My Friend?, has a global publishing date of September 29. The author had said about the sequel: "When writing about the hares, I aim to describe moments of emotional significance but with loads of humor and the lightest of touches. This story is about one of those moments. Little Nutbrown Hare's world suddenly glows with the discovery of friendship."

Karen Lotz, group managing director of the Walker Books Group, which includes Candlewick Press, said: "Sam McBratney was a profoundly lovely human being. You could recognize his voice in a moment--he was an exceptionally talented wordsmith and always knew exactly what children would enjoy hearing the most. Amazingly humble, he also was a hilarious storyteller and convivial companion. We never had better days than when he would come down from Ireland to visit the offices in London. Our world dims with his passing, but his legacy of kindness and humor will burn bright and carry on across time and distance through his stories, which have touched the hearts of readers around the globe.


'Both Sides of the Pond--A Tale of Two Booksellers Weathering the Storm'

"Since I may be the biggest promoter of the Wigtown Book Festival in the U.S., I wanted to send along the transatlantic book session I did with a Wigtown bookseller to talk of many things bookstore related but mainly to promote the upcoming virtual festival," Fred Powell, owner of Main Street Books, Frostburg, Md., told us. This year's online Wigtown Book Festival runs September 24 to October 4.

Along with his wife, Kathy, Powell volunteered to work at last year's Wigtown Book Festival. They had stayed with Ian and Joyce Cochrane, co-owners of the Old Bank Bookshop. Recently, Fred and Joyce had a great conversation they called "Both Sides of the Pond--A Tale of Two Booksellers Weathering the Storm."

"I thought you may want to give it a 'wee' listen as they would say in Wigtown," he said

Cool Idea: 'Six Foot Love' Live Music Series

Patio at Wild Detectives

The Wild Detectives bookstore, Dallas, Tex., which before the Covid-19 pandemic "hosted a regular roster of literary events, performances such as Shakespeare in the Bar and live music on its large patio," is launching the "Six Foot Love" live music series, the Dallas Observer reported.

Co-owner Javier Garcia del Moral described the series as "a way to bring back live performances in a safe environment while supporting local talent."

Set to begin tomorrow, the Six Foot Love events will have a capacity limited to 42 people, with all tickets numbered and seating assigned. Tables are set six feet apart with full service provided, eliminating the need for parties to approach the bar. The venue is accessible through the outdoor gates, and the indoor bookstore is still open for patrons wearing a face mask. Individual tickets are not being sold to ensure groups stay separated.

"It works pretty much like a reservation restaurant on a patio," Garcia del Moral said. "One of the main things of this initiative is to support the artists and the people that need live performances to make ends meet." Proceeds from all shows go to the artists, sound engineers and bookers.

The Wild Detectives reopened at the end of June. "All in all, we can't complain considering the difficult times we are all going through," Garcia del Moral noted. "We are now very excited to have found a way to do live events without compromising safety, and we hope this can be a sustainable way until we can go back to pre-pandemic formats."

Bookseller Moment: 'HELLO FALL!'

"And all at once, summer collapsed into FALL." The Little BOHO Bookshop, Bayonne, N.J., shared Oscar Wilde's words on Facebook yesterday, along with a photo of the store, noting: "HELLO FALL! Today, Sept. 22, marks the very first official day of fall, have a wonderful day everybody! Much love and light to all of you!"

Window Display: BookBar

BookBar, Denver, Colo., shared a photo of the shop's front window display, noting: "Our window on 43rd is looking nice with displays for Latinx Heritage Month, RBG books, Banned Books and National Book Awards Longlist! Come browse the window, sit on the patio and enjoy a Pumpkin Spice coffee drink!"

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Bola Sokunbi on Live with Kelly and Ryan

Live with Kelly and Ryan: Bola Sokunbi, author of Clever Girl Finance: Learn How Investing Works, Grow Your Money (Wiley, $19.95, 9781119696735).

TV: Florida Man; Mr. Mercedes

Anonymous Content has put in development a limited series adaptation of Tom Cooper's novel Florida Man, with Joel Edgerton set to star and executive produce via his Five Henrys production company, Deadline reported. Quarry co-creator/exec producer Graham Gordy will write the adaptation and executive produce, along with Matt DeRoss on behalf of Anonymous Content and Cooper.


Peacock has acquired David E. Kelley's TV series Mr. Mercedes, based on Stephen King's Bill Hodges trilogy. The first two seasons will premiere exclusively on the NBCUniversal streaming service October 15, with a premiere date for Season 3 to be determined. Deadline reported that the "fate of the series, which previously aired on AT&T Audience Network, had been in limbo, since Audience announced in the spring that it was ceasing operations and transitioning into a preview channel for the WarnerMedia streaming service HBO Max, which is also owned by AT&T."

Books & Authors

Awards: Cundill History Shortlist

An extended 10-title shortlist has been released for the 2020 Cundill History Prize, administered by McGill University in Montreal to honor a book "that embodies historical scholarship, originality, literary quality and broad appeal." The award is open to works from anywhere in the world, regardless of the author's nationality, as well as works translated into English.

This year, jurors "decided to let books on similar themes or regions stand next to each other--shortlisting two titles on India and two different accounts of the Middle East--consciously making room for different historical approaches and sensitivities," prize organizers noted. "To facilitate this approach, and spotlight history that matters in an extraordinary year, the jury decided to nominate 10 instead of the customary 8 titles for their shortlist."

Finalists will be announced October 20 and a winner named in late November. The winning author receives $75,000 and the two runners up $10,000 each. The shortlisted titles are:

Greece: Biography of a Modern Nation by Roderick Beaton (University of Chicago Press)
Tacky's Revolt: The Story of an Atlantic Slave War by Vincent Brown (Belknap Press of Harvard University Press)
The Anarchy: The Relentless Rise of the East India Company by William Dalrymple (Bloomsbury)
India in the Persianate Age: 1000-1765 by Richard M. Eaton (University of California Press) |
Black Wave: Saudi Arabia, Iran and the Rivalry that Unravelled the Middle East by Kim Ghattas (Wildfire/Holt)
Black Radical: The Life and Times of William Monroe Trotter by Kerri Greenidge (Liveright)
The Hundred Years' War on Palestine: a History of Settler Colonialism and Resistance, 1917-2017 by Rashid Khalidi (Metropolitan Books/Profile Books)
Providence Lost: The Rise and Fall of Cromwell's Protectorate by Paul Lay (Head of Zeus)
Unworthy Republic: The Dispossession of Native Americans and the Road to Indian Territory by Claudio Saunt (Norton)
Fifth Sun: A New History of the Aztecs by Camilla Townsend (Oxford University Press USA)

Reading with… Simon Stephenson

photo: N Zubia

Simon Stephenson is a former Pixar screenwriter and an author living in Los Angeles. Set My Heart to Five (Hanover Square Press, September 1, 2020) is his second book.

On your nightstand now:

Sophie Heawood's The Hungover Games, a hilarious and moving account of accidental single motherhood between Los Angeles and London. Highly recommended.

There's also a perennially rotating cast of books I have loved and am digging back into. The current occupant of that spot is F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Crack-Up.

Favorite book when you were a child:

I was that kid who had read my way through the children's section of the library by the time I was seven, so the honest answer is that it changed just about every day. But when I began to sneak into the adult section, To Kill a Mockingbird was the book I could not stop reading.

Your top five authors:

The two modern writers I am most in awe of are Jennifer Egan and Colson Whitehead. They are both so consistently inventive and erudite, yet simultaneously readable to the point of being impossible to put down. I think that is a high-wire trick that very few writers can pull off.

Living in Los Angeles, I am forever dipping back into Joan Didion. Los Angeles is her city and California her state. The rest of us just live in it.

John Steinbeck has always been incredibly important to me. A lot of my American friends seem to get turned off him by dint of being force-fed The Grapes of Wrath in high school English class, but I started with Cannery Row--which seemed hopelessly exotic in suburban Scotland--and never looked back. If anything, I have grown to like his journalism even more than his fiction, and his piece on the death of his beloved friend Ed Ricketts--the model for the character of Doc in Cannery Row--is one of the most moving pieces of writing I have ever read.

Growing up in Edinburgh as a Stephenson, Robert Louis Stevenson was always going to be important to me, but I could not have predicted just how important. His range was spectacular, and now that I live in California, I find myself retracing his footsteps yet again. (Case in point: when I went to Monterey to search out the ghost of John Steinbeck, I also happened upon a Robert Louis Stevenson museum I wasn't expecting.

If I ever need motivation to work harder, I only have to remind myself that Stevenson wrote The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in six days and in fact wrote it twice in that time, having burned the first manuscript after receiving somewhat middling feedback from his wife.

Book you've faked reading:

Anything and everything by Virginia Woolf. I mean, I've tried. How I have tried. I got about halfway through Orlando, and that remains my record.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Ring Lardner's collection You Know Me Al is some of the funniest writing you will ever read. Styled as letters from a journeyman baseball player to his long-suffering friend back home, they were once incredibly popular, but history has somehow forgotten them. No less an authority than Virginia Woolf called Ring Lardner the best prose writer in America, and on this--and this alone--she was right.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Anything designed by Jon Gray, aka Gray318. I am biased because Jon designed the cover for my 2011 memoir, Let Not the Waves of the Sea, but his typographical designs are so powerful, they can pull you into the bookshop from across the street. Fortunately, the books themselves tend to be worth buying too: he was responsible for things like Zadie Smith's Swing Time and the iconic black-and-white cover of Jonathan Safran Foer's Everything Is Illuminated.

Book you hid from your parents:

So You Want to Become an Emancipated Minor? by the Scottish Government Department of Social Work.

Book that changed your life:

On the Road. But only accidentally. Like everyone else, I adored it as a teenager and was convinced that by the time I was 25 I'd be a beatnik writer living in San Francisco. Somehow by my mid-30s, I was a medical doctor living in London and had never even visited San Francisco. So I wrote a movie script about an unhappy doctor who went on a life-changing pilgrimage to San Francisco to search out the haunts of the beats. People liked the script, somehow one thing lead to another and a couple of years later, I was a writer living in San Francisco. So, thank you, Jack Kerouac!

Favorite line from a book:

But he was dead enough, for all that, being both shot and drowned, and was food for fish in the very place where he had designed my slaughter.

This line from Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island really has it: the vanquishing of a murderous villain, Stevenson's hilariously black sense of humor, alliteration, irony and a cadence to die for.

Five books you'll never part with:

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson is my perfect escape-for-the-afternoon book.  

Adventures in the Screen Trade by the maestro William Goldman keeps me sane in my day job as a screenwriter.

The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran is a book I relied on after my brother died. It even provided me with title of my memoir about those events, Let Not the Waves of the Sea.  

Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion is great to dip in and out of and each time I do I feel I come a little closer to understanding this California.

A New Path to the Waterfall by Raymond Carver. Everybody loves Carver's short stories, but this collection of poems--his last--is sublime.  

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

Treasure Island. I can't remember a time not knowing it by heart, and I would love to experience the thrills of the plot without knowing what will happen.

Book Review

Children's Review: One Real American

One Real American: The Life of Ely S. Parker, Seneca Sachem and Civil War General by Joseph Bruchac (Abrams Books for Young Readers, $18.99 hardcover, 248p., ages 10-14, 9781419746574, October 27, 2020)

While pregnant with him, Ha-sa-no-an-da's mother dreamt that "heavy snow was falling, but suddenly the sky opened and even though it was winter, a rainbow appeared.... it was broken at its highest point in the sky. On the lower side of that rainbow were suspended signs likes those over the stores of white men... in the English alphabet." In the revealing biography One Real American, Nulhegan Abenaki citizen and prolific author Joseph Bruchac explores how this prophetic dream foretold the life of the extraordinary Seneca who would be best known by his English name, Ely Samuel Parker.

Parker's rainbow started its ascent when his father sent him to a Baptist boarding school. He learned to read, write and speak English and earned a scholarship enabling him to attend Yates Academy, where he was the first and only person of color in a student body of more than 200. Bruchac takes his readers further up Parker's metaphoric rainbow, showing Parker's efforts to help save the Seneca Tonawanda lands. This led to new helpful connections with white people, including President James Polk. Parker practiced law but turned to engineering when he was unable to sit for the bar exam; citizenship was required and "no Indian could be an American citizen." With one foot planted firmly in the white man's world, he was able to join the Masons, engineer the Galena customhouse--which is still in use today as a post office--and spark a friendship with Ulysses S. Grant. Meanwhile, he kept his other foot in the Seneca world, where he was chosen as the new Donehogawa, or Grand Sachem of the Haudenosaunee. Bruchac's admiration for his subject is abundantly clear as he relates Parker's astounding accomplishments--made even more amazing by the obstacles he overcame and the racism he endured.

Bruchac scales further up Parker's colorful life arc, recounting military life in the Civil War--where General Parker, serving as Grant's personal secretary, saved Grant from capture and wrote the Confederate terms of surrender--his wedding (rumored to have been held in secret due to a plot to assassinate him); and his tenure as the commissioner of Indian Affairs. Like the prescient dream, Parker's stunning arc of success did break and, while Bruchac faithfully recounts this period as well, the focus of the biography stays on Parker's trailblazing progress and astounding achievements.

Despite a slow start, One Real American is an illuminating look at one of the first Indigenous men in the United States to force down racial barriers. Accompanied by photographs and fascinating quotes from Parker himself, Bruchac narrates this life story with reverence and respect. --Jen Forbus, freelancer

Shelf Talker: In a comprehensive middle-grade biography, the trailblazing life of a Seneca grand sachem winds through the white man's world that was the 19th century United States.

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