Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, October 7, 2020


Overlook Press: Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi

Grand Central Publishing: What's Mine and Yours by Naima Coster

Columbia Global Reports: The Socialist Awakening: What's Different Now about the Left by John B Judis

Mira Books: Her Dark Lies by J T Ellison

Shadow Mountain: Ming's Christmas Wishes by Susan L Gong, illustrated by Masahiro Tateishi

Quotation of the Day

'Create the Post-Covid-19 World We Want to Live In'

"The Covid-19 crisis has been heartbreaking on so many levels. People have lost loved ones, jobs and businesses. People have lost hope. On a good day I contemplate all the things I'm grateful for, but like all of us there is so much that I miss from my pre-Covid-19 life, particularly browsing the bustling aisles of my favorite bookstores. The Vroman's announcement was a jolting reminder that on the other side of the crisis we will have lost many of the things we take for granted.

"With this realization comes an opportunity for action: Now is the time to create the post-Covid-19 world we want to live in. In the same way that our votes in the upcoming election will shape our country's future, where we spend our money in these final days of 2020 will determine the communities we find ourselves in come 2021.

"Shopping local now will ensure that the places you love, like the corner bookstore where you met your partner, taught your child to read or discovered the book that changed your life, will still be there in the new year."

--Allison Hill, CEO of the American Booksellers Association and former CEO of Vroman's Bookstore, Pasadena and Book Soup, West Hollywood, Calif., in a Los Angeles Times op-ed


Britannica Books: Britannica All New Kids' Encyclopedia: What We Know & What We Don't by Britannica Group, edited by Christopher Lloyd


News

Lunar & Lake Book Market Opens in Fond du Lac, Wis.

Lunar & Lake Book Market has opened at 74 S. Main St. in Fond du Lac, Wis. In a Facebook post last week, the indie bookseller announced: "Thank you all for your patience while we were getting our store put together! We are so excited to be a part of the Fond du Lac downtown community.... We are working to stock our store and will have a full Grand Opening in October."

In July, owner Margaux Mich had participated in the city's Pop-Up Fond du Lac program by opening Book Boutique, the FDL Reporter wrote, adding that the new space offers "a larger selection of books across all genres, as well as more toys and gifts, including candles, mugs and bookmarks." In addition, Mich's own elastic bookmarks--called "artmarks"--from her online and Etsy store, Book Art Bookmarks, will be available.

The bookshop's name "comes from Mich's love for nature that has stemmed from Fond du Lac, and one of her favorite pastimes with her husband and kids: watching the moon over Lake Winnebago," the FDL Reporter noted.

"I really wanted to tie in a piece of Fond du Lac," she said, adding that once it is safe to have gatherings following the Covid-19 pandemic, Mich will be featuring local authors and starting book clubs for both children and adults. "We've had such an outpouring of love and support. We'd really like to be a joy for Fond du Lac."


GLOW: Flatiron Press: Tokyo Ever After by Emiko Jean


PNBA's (Cross) Continental Breakfast & Distance Dinner

 

Grace Rajendran, event host for Seattle's University Book Store, welcomed everyone to the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association's keynote breakfast on Friday morning, pointing out that, despite the disappointment of having to meet "virtually" rather than in person this year, an upside was that five authors from all around the world--literally--could join the festivities.

Sarah McCraw Crow

Sarah McCraw Crow (The Wrong Kind of Woman, Harlequin, October 6) kicked things off, describing herself as a "late-blooming debut novelist." She's been working on The Wrong Kind of Woman for 13 years. It grew out of her interest in her mother's generation--who are all in their 80s and 90s today--and the all-male colleges that did not go co-ed until the late '60s and early '70s. It revolves around three characters: Virginia, the widow of a Clarendon professor; Rebecca, her 14-year-old daughter; and Sam, a Clarendon student. Crow said the book "explores casual racism and misogyny," which she experienced at Dartmouth College, on which Clarendon is loosely based: "The struggle for gender equality has not yet been won."

Rania Abouzeid

Speaking from her home in Beirut, Rania Abouzeid delivered a video message about her book Sisters of the War: Two Remarkable True Stories of Survival and Hope in Syria (Scholastic Focus). In this book for young people, she delves more deeply into the lives of two sisters: Sunni Muslim Ruha, who appeared in her book for adults No Turning Back (W.W. Norton), and Ruha's younger sister Alaa.

Abouzeid told a harrowing story of entering Syria illegally in February 2011. She was branded a "foreign spy" and blacklisted. But it didn't stop her from reporting on Syria: "I snuck across the border so many times I lost count." Her book describes the period's intense shellings, displacement, living as refugees, being kidnapped and held for ransom, "but also love of family, the ties that bind us to a place, hope, determination, dignity, the fight for freedom, resilience." Abouzeid said she wanted the protagonists to be the same age as its readers, much as The Diary of Anne Frank had brought alive the events of World War II for her as a young woman: "Anne showed us the horrors of war as a lived experience." Abouzeid's home is less than a mile from the blast that devastated Beirut in August, but thankfully no one was home when it hit. "For weeks, there were small razor-sharp shards of glass in our walls. I took great strength from the people I knew in Syria." She then read from lines near the close of the book: "We can't let what happened to us stop us. We must go on and we will."

Bethany C. Morrow

Bethany C. Morrow used the cover of her fantasy A Song Below Water (Tor Teen) to talk about its story elements: sisters-by-choice Tavia and Effie are growing up in Portland, Ore., a primarily white city, "one that has a distinct mythology." Tavia knows she's a siren. Only Black women can be sirens, and there's a collar to silence them if they are discovered. Effie is a mermaid in cosplay at a Renaissance Fair.

Morrow explores misogynoir, the specific misogynistic attitude toward Black women. "My book is a love letter to Black girls," she said. "When your history has been erased, your pain, your joy seems fantastical."

T.J. Klune

T.J. Klune called Under the Whispering Door (Tor, March 2, 2021), set in same world as his The House of the Cerulean Sea, part of his "Unofficial Kindness Trilogy." He described it as a "comedy about grief. No two people experience it the same way." Klune wanted to tell a story about two men who couldn't touch, but he had to figure out why. Were they in prison cells? No. He put the book on the back burner. Then he read A Christmas Carol. What if a man akin to Scrooge died, and was forced to see that what he'd built for himself was hollow?"Grief, while suffocating, can also be cathartic," Klune said. The book is a celebration of life, finding your way when all seems lost. We grieve for what we've lost, what we can no longer touch. The book is about faith, though not in the religious sense. You'll laugh and cry in equal measure."

Helen MacDonald

One of the challenges for Helen MacDonald has been that people expect her to be out in the English countryside during these pandemic days. On the contrary, she said--it's "mostly me lying on the sofa under a blanket eating pints of ice cream." (Though she did come on camera with a parrot on her hand.) H Is for Hawk was about MacDonald grieving for her father. With Vesper Flights (Grove Atlantic), there's "hardwon hope": "These essays feel like I'm puzzling things out in the company of the reader."

She listed the themes of her essays: mushrooms, migraines, how she climbed the Empire State Building to watch birds "in May with their darkness in the thousands on their way South," she said. "I try to capture those moments in the book." MacDonald noticed the essays started to speak to each other when she began to form them into a book: "Themes of love and fear and injustice and hope and hearth and home. They keep reappearing." The author described herself as contrary: "If you tell me to do something, I'll do the opposite. What spurs me to act is love, not fear. It's not a polemical book but it does engage with this politic moment we're in but doesn't shout at readers." She advised: "Look at an animal and write at it. Encountering animals can be serious magic." --Jennifer M. Brown

---

PNBA's Distance Dinner

Grace Rajendran opened PNBA's Distance Dinner by thanking everyone for their continued support and hard work during a particularly difficult year. And while those in attendance agreed that it would have been more enjoyable to talk, eat and laugh in person, there was still plenty of enthusiasm and good humor to go around. The evening lineup included four thoughtful writers of fiction.

Chelsea Pitcher

Oregonian author Chelsea Pitcher described her fifth novel, Lies Like Poison (Margaret K. McElderry/S&S, November 10), as "Veronica Mars meets Snow White." It tells the story of a group of teenagers who conspire to poison an abusive stepmother. When one of them backs out, the plan and their friendship falls apart. But three years later, the stepmother dies by poisoning after all, and the friends must reconnect to find the killer. While writing this mystery, she admired the film Knives Out, and its ability to make every suspect appear convincingly guilty.

Joanna Rose

Portland-based author and former Powell's reading series curator Joanna Rose began her portion of the evening by pointing out what an honor it is, having been a bookseller for 15 years, to speak. "I know that books get sold one book at a time." Her novel A Small Crowd of Strangers (Forest Avenue Press), she said, "starts with books, ends with books, and in the middle, where character Pattyanne begins her journey toward understanding, it's centered in a bookstore." In describing her story, Rose talked about its connection to this age of distraction, and how none of us know where we're going and how to get there, but it's important to pay attention along the way.

Jess Walter

Jess Walter, on his sixth PNBA now, mentioned how each event has been a great treat to meet and talk with booksellers, favorite writers, and authors he hadn't known before. His novel The Cold Millions (Harper, October 27) takes place in his hometown of Spokane, during the 1909 labor and free-speech protests, blending past events with present-day concerns. He set out to write "the most contemporary 1909 novel I could imagine," and created a rollicking western with hoboes, a vaudeville act with a live cougar, and "a pregnant 19-year-old activist demanding that the vagina be emancipated." As he wrote, he saw students demonstrating for climate change and reasonable gun laws today. "It's always the young and idealistic who drive these changes, these amazing moments in history."

The event's closer was Viet Thanh Nguyen, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author The Sympathizer, who this week became the first Asian American on the Pulitzer board. The Committed (Grove Atlantic, March 2, 2021) is a sequel to the earlier novel, although the two don't need to be read in order. "But for those of you who haven't read The Sympathizer," Nguyen playfully added, "shame on you." He hadn't intended to write a sequel, but soon realized he wasn't finished with the characters or the themes. So, The Committed picks up in Paris as a sendup of leftist politics, a counterbalance to the satire of right-wing politics in the earlier book. "I'm bipartisan," he explained, rounding out an altogether engaging night with lively facetiousness. --Dave Wheeler


BINC: Help a Bookseller, Save a Bookstore - Give to BINC


How Bookstores Are Coping: Posman Stores Update

Posman Books at Ponce City Market, Atlanta

Robert Fader, vice-president of Posman Books, reported on the status of the five Posman Books locations. The store's two locations in Georgia--in Atlanta and Alpharetta--have been open since late May and are doing well, though sales are at about 50% of normal. Fader explained that the Georgia stores started slow, but there have been improvements in sales each month. There have been no issues with customers refusing to wear masks or follow social-distancing guidelines, he added.

In New York City, Posman's Chelsea Market location reopened just last week. The store was closed for nearly seven months, and Fader and the Posman Books team were told that the market would reopen just two weeks prior. What followed was a scramble to clean the store, return a "bunch of six-month-old new releases and get new books on the tables. The team also removed many fixtures to allow for more browsing space and installed screens at the registers. However, Fader noted, Google's nearby offices are still empty and Chelsea Market is seeing "a fraction of the normal tourist traffic."

Posman at Chelsea Market in NYC.

Posman's Rockefeller Center location, meanwhile, remains closed, with no reopening date. According to their landlord, Rockefeller Center office occupancy is at just 9%, and Fader doubted that the store would reopen before 2021. Fader added that the Rockefeller store is the "central bill-to" for all locations, which created an unusual problem with publishers. The New York stores had "enormous payables on the books" compared to the Georgia stores, and to get books into the Georgia stores they had to start paying down the New York accounts even though those shops were still closed.

Meanwhile, Posman's "long-planned store" on Newbury Street in Boston, Mass., is in the final strages of construction, and while Fader is hoping to open in time for Christmas, spring 2021 is more likely. Fader also thanked their Boston landlord, Asana Partners, for being generous during the construction process. --Alex Mutter


University of California Press: Beethoven, a Life (1st ed.) by Jan Caeyers, translated by Brent Annable


MacArthur 'Genius' Fellowship Writers

Authors N.K. Jemisin and Jacqueline Woodson are among the 21 recipients of this year's MacArthur Foundation "genius" grants--$625,000 paid out over five years to people "who show exceptional creativity in their work and the prospect for still more in the future." The 2020 MacArthur fellows include these writers:

N.K Jemisin

N.K. Jemisin, speculative fiction writer, for "pushing against the conventions of epic fantasy and science fiction genres while exploring deeply human questions about structural racism, environmental crises, and familial relationships."

Fred Moten, cultural theorist and poet, for "creating new conceptual spaces to accommodate emerging forms of Black aesthetics, cultural production, and social life."

Jacqueline Woodson

Jacqueline Woodson, writer, for "redefining children's and young adult literature to encompass more complex issues and reflect the lives of Black children, teenagers, and families."

Natalia Molina, American historian, for "revealing how narratives of racial difference that were constructed and applied to immigrant groups a century ago continue to shape national policy today."

Cristina Rivera Garza

Cristina Rivera Garza, fiction writer, for "exploring culturally constructed notions of language, memory, and gender from a transnational perspective."

Larissa FastHorse, playwright, for "creating space for Indigenous artists, stories, and experiences in mainstream theater and countering misrepresentation of Native American perspectives in broader society."

Tressie McMillan Cottom, sociologist, writer and public scholar, for "shaping discourse on highly topical issues at the confluence of race, gender, education, and digital technology for broad audiences."

Forrest Stuart

Forrest Stuart, sociologist, for "challenging long-held assumptions about the forces that shape urban poverty and violence and bringing to light the lived reality of those who experience it."

Mary L. Gray, anthropologist and media scholar, for "investigating the ways in which labor, identity, and human rights are transformed by the digital economy."


University of California Press: The Mwindo Epic from the Banyanga (1st ed.) edited by Daniel Biebuyck and Kahombo C Mateene


Nobel Physics Laureate's Books on the Universe

Sir Roger Penrose, one of the three recipients of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on black holes, has written extensively on physics. He and Stephen Hawking are the authors of The Nature of Space and Time, published originally in 1996, and available in paperback from Princeton University Press.

Among his other works are Fashion, Faith, and Fantasy in the New Physics of the Universe (Princeton University Press), The Road to Reality: A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe (Vintage), and Cycles of Time: An Extraordinary New View of the Universe (Vintage).

In awarding the prize yesterday, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said, "Roger Penrose used ingenious mathematical methods in his proof that black holes are a direct consequence of Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity... ten years after Einstein's death, Roger Penrose proved that black holes really can form and described them in detail; at their heart, black holes hide a singularity in which all the known laws of nature cease. His groundbreaking article is still regarded as the most important contribution to the general theory of relativity since Einstein."

Penrose is the Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics Emeritus at the University of Oxford.


Obituary Note: Derek Mahon

Derek Mahon, the Belfast-born poet "who became an immense figure in Irish poetry with poems such as "A Disused Shed in Co. Wexford" and "Courtyards in Delft," died October 1, the Guardian reported. He was 78. In a poetry career that spanned a half-century, Mahon "was most often compared to W.H. Auden, Louis MacNeice and Samuel Beckett, with the critic Brendan Kennelly calling him 'a Belfast Keats with a Popean sting.' " His publisher, Gallery Press, called him a "master poet" and a "pure artist."

Poet Michael Longley said Mahon "was my oldest friend in poetry. We went to the same Belfast school, and we served our poetic apprenticeships together at Trinity College Dublin. Even then, I knew that he would be one of the great lyric poets of the past century. He was always entirely focused on writing poems, never distracted by the business of 'the poetry world.' He was a supreme craftsman. There is much darkness in his poetry, but it is set against the beauty of the world, and the formal beauty of his work. I believe that Derek's poetry will last as long as the English language lasts."

Mahon "was one of the great poets in English, one of the few whose technical brilliance was somehow adequate to the successive terrors of our age," said poet Paul Muldoon.

After publishing his book Twelve Poems in 1965, Mahon gained critical acclaim three years later for Night-Crossing. His other works include Lives (1972), The Snow Party (1975), Courtyards in Delft (1981) and Antarctica (1985). The Guardian noted that a "burst of productivity in the 2000s saw him publish four award-winning collections in five years: Harbour Lights, Somewhere the Wave, Life on Earth and An Autumn Wind; a body of work the Guardian called 'one of the most significant developments in poetry this century.' "

Last March, as Ireland locked down due to the Covid-19 pandemic, RTÉ News ended its evening news bulletin with Mahon reading his poem "Everything Is Going to Be All Right," which includes the lines: "There will be dying, there will be dying,/ but there is no need to go into that."


Notes

Cool Idea: 'Virtual Tip & Donation Jar' for Booksellers

Posted on Facebook by Foggy Pine Books, Boone, N.C.: "Some of you asked and we have delivered--we now have a virtual tip & donation jar! Want to tip your bookseller for a great recommendation? Or your delivery driver for getting books to you quickly? Or maybe you just want to make a donation to the store? You can do all that here."


Window Display: Gay's The Word

British bookseller Gay's The Word in London shared photos of its front window, noting: "Behold our special window display celebrating publication of the incredibly beautiful children's book, Julian at the Wedding, the follow up to one of our very favourites, Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love. Thank you Catherine at  #FloralEvolution for the fabulous display."



Media and Movies

Media Heat: Mariah Carey on Watch What Happens Live

Tomorrow:
Drew Barrymore Show: Eva Chen, author of Roxy the Last Unisaurus Rex (Feiwel & Friends, $18.99, 9781250619921).

The Talk: Jay Shetty, author of Think Like a Monk: Train Your Mind for Peace and Purpose Every Day (Simon & Schuster, $27, 9781982134488).

Watch What Happens Live: Mariah Carey, author of The Meaning of Mariah Carey (Andy Cohen Books, $29.99, 9781250164681).

Late Night with Seth Meyers: Yaa Gyasi, author of Transcendent Kingdom (Knopf, $27.95, 9780525658184).

Late Show with Stephen Colbert: John Brennan, author of Undaunted: My Fight Against America's Enemies, At Home and Abroad (Celadon, $30, 9781250241771).

Tonight Show: Guy Raz, author of How I Built This: The Unexpected Paths to Success from the World's Most Inspiring Entrepreneurs (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28, 9780358216766).


TV: House of the Dragon

Paddy Considine (The Outsider, The Third Day) will lead the cast of House of the Dragon, HBO's straight-to-series Game of Thrones prequel from George R.R. Martin, Ryan Condal and Miguel Sapochnik. Deadline reported that in the 10-episode first season, Considine "will play King Viserys Targaryen, chosen by the lords of Westeros to succeed the Old King, Jaehaerys Targaryen, at the Great Council at Harrenhal. A warm, kind and decent man, Viserys only wishes to carry forward his grandfather's legacy. But good men do not necessarily make for great kings."

Based on Martin's novel Fire & Blood, the pilot script was written by Condal, who serves as co-showrunner with GoT veteran Miguel Sapochnik, director of the pilot and additional episodes. Martin, Condal and Sapochnik executive produce alongside Vince Gerardis and Sara Lee Hess, who has joined Condal as a writer on the series.


Books & Authors

Awards: National Book Award Finalists

The National Book Foundation announced the finalists for this year's National Book Awards. The winning authors, who will be named November 18 at a ceremony held online because of the Covid-19 pandemic, receive $10,000, a bronze medal and a statue. Finalists get $1,000 and a bronze medal. Winners and finalists in the Translated Literature category split the prize evenly between author and translator.

Among the five categories, there are two writers who have been previously honored by the National Book Foundation: Lydia Millet, who was longlisted in 2016 and Charles Yu, a 2007 5 Under 35 honoree. Eight of the 25 finalists are debuts. This year's NBA finalists are:

Fiction
Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam (Ecco)
A Children's Bible by Lydia Millet (Norton)
The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw (West Virginia University Press)
Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart (Grove Press)
Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu (Pantheon)

Nonfiction
The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio (One World)
The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X by Les Payne and Tamara Payne (Liveright)
Unworthy Republic: The Dispossession of Native Americans and the Road to Indian Territory by Claudio Saunt (Norton)
My Autobiography of Carson McCullers by Jenn Shapland (Tin House Books)
How to Make a Slave and Other Essays by Jerald Walker (Mad Creek Books/The Ohio State University Press)

Poetry
A Treatise on Stars by Mei-mei Berssenbrugge (New Directions)
Fantasia for the Man in Blue by Tommye Blount (Four Way Books)
DMZ Colony by Don Mee Choi (Wave Books)
Borderland Apocrypha by Anthony Cody (Omnidawn Publishing)
Postcolonial Love Poem by Natalie Diaz (Graywolf Press)

Translated Literature
High as the Waters Rise by Anja Kampmann, translated from the German by Anne Posten (Catapult)
The Family Clause by Jonas Hassen Khemiri, translated from the Swedish by Alice Menzies (FSG)
Tokyo Ueno Station by Yu Miri, translated from the Japanese by Morgan Giles (Riverhead)
The Bitch by Pilar Quintana, translated from the Spanish by Lisa Dillman (World Editions)
Minor Detail by Adania Shibli, translated from the Arabic by Elisabeth Jaquette (New Directions)

Young People's Literature
King and the Dragonflies by Kacen Callender (Scholastic Press)
We Are Not Free by Traci Chee (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Every Body Looking by Candice Iloh (Dutton Books for Young Readers)
When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed (Dial Books for Young Readers)
The Way Back by Gavriel Savit (Knopf Books for Young Readers)


Reading with... Sayaka Murata

photo: Bungeishunju Ltd.

Sayaka Murata is the author of many books, including Convenience Store Woman, winner of the Akutagawa Prize, and, most recently available in English, Earthlings (Grove Press, October 6, 2020). Murata has been named a Freeman's "Future of New Writing" author and a Vogue Japan Woman of the Year.

Translator's note:
Sayaka Murata read all the books referenced below in Japanese. Where a title exists in English (either original or translation), I simply give that English title and author name. Where the original title was not English and to date there is no English translation available, I give the original language
title followed by an approximate English translation in parentheses. --Ginny Tapley Takemori

On your nightstand now:

Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, recommended to me by a dear friend; Les victorieuses (The Victorious Women) by Laetitia Colombani, which I've been wanting to read for ages but never had time; Sono sugata no keshikata (How to Make It Disappear) by Toshiyuki Horie, which I like to read over and over again before going to sleep since I love his use of words.

Favorite book when you were a child:

I loved Carrot Top by Jules Renard. When I was little, the thing I hated most was when adults used stories to lecture me, since stories were my sanctuary. This book was the furthest away from this sort of thing that I had. Beyond the novel I could feel the existence of an adult even more despairing than I was. That was a lifesaver for me.

Your top five authors:

I believe that novels are only completed once they become music within their readers. I can't judge an author simply because I was not able to properly perform their music. Books that didn't resonate with me probably provided someone else with a wonderful musical score. However, the authors who have given me wonderful music, especially when I was a college student, are Rieko Matsumura, Albert Camus, Kobo Abe, Yukio Mishima and Osamu Dazai.

Book you've faked reading:

At school I read only a bit of Murasaki Shikibu's The Tale of Genji, and the rest of what I know about it I gained only by looking at pictures and hearing people talk about it. But at an event abroad, I kind of made out that I'd read the whole thing.

Book you're an evangelist for:

I love Hiromi Kawakami's collection of stories Okina tori ni sarawarenai yo (Don't Let the Big Bird Carry You Away) and have often thought I'd like to live in this book. I always recommend The Schooldays of Jesus by J.M. Coetzee, since I want to discuss the character of Dmitri with them. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee has at last been translated into Japanese, and I was so struck by it that I tell everyone I meet about it.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Stefan Grabinski's An Eerie Tale has a gorgeous binding, and I'm entranced just by having it in my home. (It is in a box and the inside of this purple box is a beautiful red.)

Book you hid from your parents:

My parents believed that all books were a potential learning experience for children, so I was free to read whatever I liked. However, one book I simply couldn't put down despite the constant stream of terrible things happening in it was Saigo no kitsuensha (The Last Smoker) by Yasutaka Tsutsui. It was so far removed from what my parents would have considered appropriate reading for a good girl that I quietly stashed it away to avoid inadvertently giving my mother a shock.

Book that changed your life:

Kenshin (Dog's Body) by Rieko Matsuura. Ever since childhood I'd always struggled to become a proper human being, so the term "species identity disorder" came as a great relief for me. When the protagonist actually turns into a dog, I felt that I too was permitted to carry on living as a non-human, which made me really happy.

Favorite line from a book:

"If there is anything resembling sexuality within me as I am, it isn't either homosexual or heterosexual, it should be called something like--and this is a word I made up just now--dogsexual. This sexuality is the feeling of being in heaven if someone treats me affectionately, in the way a dog is treated affectionately by the human it loves. And since I'm a dog, the gender of the human doesn't bother me."

It's a bit long, but this line from Kenshin (mentioned above) liberated my soul. I could finally become, not human, but an original creature of my own.

Five books you'll never part with:

Whenever I read Chikyū ni chiribamerarete (Scattered Across the Earth) by Yoko Tawada, I feel really fond of Japanese, and feel love for the various other original languages she mentions that I don't yet know. Kohaku no matataki (The Twinkling of Amber) by Yoko Ogawa: although the world of this novel is small in size, it has unlimited breadth. Edwin Mullhouse by Steven Millhauser: when I re-read this book, I feel like my own childhood memories are being crystallized. Dance of the Happy Shades by Alice Munro: various moments in my life are shaken by this book. Ice by Anna Kavan: for some reason, being in this book makes me feel really comfortable.

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

Dove mi trovo (Where I Find Myself; Whereabouts English translation is expected in 2021) by Jhumpa Lahiri mesmerized me so much that I didn't want it to finish. The First Bad Man by Miranda July: I want to experience the same sense of exhilaration that I felt the first time I read this book. And I want to experience once again the creepiness of steadily losing track of what is "human" in Ningen sokkuri (Just Like a Real Human) by Kobo Abe.

A book that you wonder how it would turn out in English translation.

I really love Haha no hattatsu (Development of a Mother) by Yoriko Shono, but it's the sort of novel in which the author has experimented with her own unique free use of Japanese, giving the reader an unusual experience of Japanese words. A mother progressively fragments into various mothers each designated with a letter from the hiragana syllabary, and the author plays with the sounds of the syllabary to describe this process. I often ponder how this might be transposed to another language.


Book Review

Children's Review: The Sea in Winter

The Sea in Winter by Christine Day (Heartdrum/HarperCollins, $16.99 hardcover, 272p., ages 8-12, 9780062872043, January 5, 2021)

An injury tests a young dancer's resilience in this touching middle-grade slice-of-life, road-trip drama by Upper Skagit author Christine Day (I Can Make This Promise).

Maisie Cannon loves ballet, but after she tears her ACL, the 12-year-old Makah/Piscataway Seattleite trades the barre for rehabilitation exercises. As her friends text about exciting summer program auditions, Maisie begs her physical therapist to let her dance before the next school year. During family time with her mother, stepfather Jack and six-year-old half-brother, Connor, Maisie notices she feels "disconnected from myself. Like I'm not fully here." Her mood becomes volatile and, on a road trip around the Olympic Peninsula, her irritable outbursts surprise her family. While the beauty of the Washington coastline and Jack's stories of his people, the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, provide what her mom calls "heart medicine," Maisie worries over the continuing pain in her knee but hides it from her family. When the unthinkable happens, Maisie must learn that the loss of one dream can make way for others.

Day achieves a beautifully nuanced portrayal of the interconnected nature of personal emotional struggles and outside circumstances. Maisie's depression hampers her focus, but her teachers also present historical material in traditional, rigid ways. For example, she feels no connection to a dry lesson about the Treaty of Paris, but Jack's extemporaneous explanations of the Treaty of Point No Point and the rights it grants the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe hold her interest. Peer relationships turn into toxic loops as Maisie withdraws from friends and then can't find the words to bridge the gap she created. Day also offers readers assurance that joy and confidence can return after great loss. Her realistic, compassionate portrayal of trauma and healing emphasizes the importance of Maisie's family support structure. Her mother, an army widow, uses her experience with grief to help her daughter, and Jack has both firm standards and deep love for Maisie and Connor.

Readers with younger siblings may relate to Maisie's relationship with her brother, whom Day portrays as a perfect blend of adorable, aggravating and wholly attached to his sister. The family's closeness gives Maisie a safe place to regain her footing after her devastating fall, and the resolution brings hope of closer ties with her paternal relatives. This thoughtful, honest sophomore novel invites readers to reckon with life's messy complexities while reassuring them that every ending brings the seeds of new beginnings. --Jaclyn Fulwood, youth services manager at Main Branch, Dayton Metro Library

Shelf Talker: Twelve-year-old Maisie struggles with depression brought on by the possible loss of her ballet career during a road trip with her family around Washington's Olympic Peninsula.


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