Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, March 24, 2021


Bloomsbury YA: This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron

Other Press: Barcelona Dreaming by Rupert Thomson

Magination Press: Jacob's School Play: Starring He, She, and They by Ian Hoffman and Sarah Hoffman, illustrated by Chris Case

Simon & Schuster Children's Fall Preview: Join us for a virtual meetup featuring your favorite authors and illustrators!

Tordotcom: The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: Just Pretend by Tori Sharp

Mandala Publishing: Big Panda and Tiny Dragon by James Norbury and Insight Editions

Tor Books: When the Sparrow Falls by Neil Sharpson

Quotation of the Day

News

U.K. Competition and Marketing Authority Investigating PRH/S&S Deal

The U.K.'s Competition and Marketing Authority has begun an investigation of Penguin Random House's purchase of Simon & Schuster and is considering whether the deal would result in a "substantial lessening of competition within any market or markets in the United Kingdom for goods or services," the Guardian reported.

By May 19, the CMA will have to decide whether to move to a second phase of the investigation, which "would signal more serious concerns about competition," the newspaper wrote. "Financial analysts have said that the fallout of the regulatory scrutiny could result in Penguin Random House having to sell some assets in some markets; the U.S. is where most of the major competition concerns have been raised."

The Bookseller is reporting that the deal "is facing further scrutiny by the U.S. Department of Justice," which is "making a second request for information," indicating "a transaction might raise competitive problems and more information is needed to evaluate it." Second requests can involve subpoenas to obtain market share data and other information. The Bookseller said that such "second requests" were made in 1998 when Bertelsmann bought Random House and in 2013 when Random House and Penguin merged. Both transactions were approved by the U.S. government.

Among others, the American Booksellers Association, the Authors Guild and the National Writers Union have raised concerns about the PRH/S&S deal and asked the Justice Department to investigate.

Announced last November, the $2.18 billion purchase must clear a range of regulatory hurdles in multiple countries before being completed. Penguin Random House has said it expects to close the deal later this year. PRH and Simon & Schuster are the No. 1 and No. 3 trade publishers in the U.S., and the combined company would, of course, be the largest.


Harper: The Taking of Jemima Boone: The True Story of the Kidnap and Rescue That Shaped America by Matthew Pearl


International Update: Germany Extends Covid-19 Lockdown, Indian Booksellers Show Perseverance

 

Because of a rise in Covid-19 infections and a spread of more contagious varieties of the virus, Germany is extending the current lockdown through April 18 (it had been extended earlier to March 28). It is also putting into effect a particularly strict version for the Easter holiday, April 1-5, an "emergency brake" that includes shutting down even grocery stores, prohibiting public gatherings and requesting religious services be held online. In addition, the loosening of the general lockdown that began at the beginning of the month in some areas is being limited now. According to news reports, Chancellor Angela Merkel called the current growth in infections and the spread of more contagious, deadlier variants "essentially a new pandemic."

The effect on bookstores of the lockdown extension will be decided in the next few days on a state by state basis, Börsenblatt wrote. In most states as of this month, bookstores have been deemed essential, but that can be overridden depending on Covid-19 case rates in states or regions. So far, in North Rhine-Westphalia, appointment shopping will apparently be no longer allowed as of March 29 while in many of the northern states, but excluding Berlin and Brandenburg, bookstores will continue to be considered essential.

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Brick-and-mortar bookshops across India "have overcome a difficult year and have shown that perseverance always wins the day," the New Indian Express reported, adding that "while no one knows the future, the owners maintain unanimously that the future of bookshops will depend on how much the patrons really want them."

When the Covid-19 lockdown hit Pagdandi Bookstore Cafe in Pune, co-owners Neha and Vishal Pipariya launched a gift voucher campaign to help handle overhead costs for a brief period. "It is difficult financially," they conceded. "For us as well as our patrons. To be honest, we can't compete with online stores that offer massive discounts. What we can count on is the overall experience. In the eight years of our operation, it is the emotional bond that we have formed with our customers that has kept us going. And this is what keeps us going."

"When things started looking bleak during the lockdown, our patrons reached out to us," said Abhnav Bamhi, owner of Faqir Chand and Sons in Delhi, which started delivering books to some customers who requested it. Social media also helped the shop stay connected with readers.

During the pandemic, the owners of Atta Galatta in Bengaluru resisted the temptation to go digital because they felt the essence would be lost. "We decided to sit the pandemic out. I think for any independent bookstore, it is important to focus on the offline experience," said Subodh Sankar.

Diviya Kapur, who runs Literati in Calungate, Goa and is a member of the newly formed Independent Bookshops Association of India, commented: "I think that independent businesses have a future. In the bookselling business, the franchisees have not been spared from closure. There are larger issues at play, of the online monopolies that must be regulated, and of the fact that the publishing and book business is in desperate need of professionalism.... We are constantly looking for ways to survive irrespective of the circumstance."

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Peaches

"It's national puppy day!!!!" NovelTea Bookstore Café, Truro, N.S., in Canada posted on Facebook yesterday. "So much love for all the little puppers out there today."

Just so older canine booksellers don't feel left out, Massy Books, Vancouver, B.C., posted recently: "Meet our associate, Peaches. Volunteering mostly with Massy Arts Society as assistant-to-the-curator, Peaches fulfills a role critical to every arts not-for-profit: pulling us away from the screen to think creatively. From a young age, Peaches has shown a great interest in literature--literally devouring entire sections of speculative fiction novels, Indigenous political theory texts, and independent Canadian art publications like The Capilano Review and CMagazine. He's a work-from-home volunteer but you might catch him lounging by the sunny Massy Books windows from time to time!"

As the Canadian Independent Booksellers Association put it, "We love Peaches and all canine (and feline) book lovers!" --Robert Gray


Bronzeville Books: Rising and Other Stories by Gale Massey


Kimpton Hotels, Literary Hub Launch Book Club Partnership

(photo: Kimpton)

Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants and Literary Hub have launched the Kimpton X Literary Hub Book Club. Lit Hub's editorial team will curate seasonal, themed reading lists, and guests staying at selected Kimpton hotels will be able to check out the recommended books through an on-property lending program. Each season will also feature virtual q&as, readings and other events, which anyone will be able to attend.

The inaugural Kimpton X Lit Hub reading list coincides with Women's History Month and is called "Women Write Now." The featured titles are How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue, No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood and Uncanny Valley by Anna Wiener. On Monday, Lit Hub and Kimpton hosted a virtual discussion with Imbolo Mbue and Patricia Lockwood.

Twenty-nine Kimpton Hotels across the country are participating in the program. In addition to the book club, the companies are also partnering to share city-specific guides with readers and guests, including lists of local bookstores to visit.


G.P. Putnam's Sons: The Turnout by Megan Abbott


Authors Guild, HMH to Publish Covid-Era Collaborative Novel as Fundraiser

The Authors Guild Foundation will partner with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt to publish Fourteen Days: An Unauthorized Gathering, a collaborative novel set on a New York City rooftop during the opening days of the global pandemic. Edited by Margaret Atwood, the project will feature original contributions from a group of noted authors. The book will be published through HMH's Sugar23 Books imprint, with all proceeds going to the AGF. Expected publication date is spring 2022.

"At the guild, we realized that we had an opportunity in these dark times to do something positive and even transformative through the creation of this unusual literary work. Human beings have always confronted tragedy by telling stories, and this book would be our answer to Covid-19," Authors Guild president and novelist Doug Preston said, adding that proceeds from the book "will continue this vital work, ensuring that all writers are supported, especially young authors and those from underserved and overlooked communities. Revenue will also continue funding our necessary lobbying efforts in Washington to protect authors' rights and make sure freelancers get the full spectrum of pandemic relief--which, in the beginning, they were denied."

Atwood reached out to writers in all genres for contributors, and those involved in the project include Angie Cruz, Emma Donoghue, Dave Eggers, Diana Gabaldon, Tess Gerritsen, John Grisham, Maria Hinojosa, CJ Lyons, Celeste Ng, Mary Pope Osborne, Ishmael Reed, Hampton Sides, Nafissa Thompson-Spires and Monique Truong.

"Thanks to the writing of our contributors, the cast of lively fictional characters on the Manhattan rooftop in Fourteen Days have much to say to one another about life during the pandemic and even more about life in general, sometimes getting into discussions, debates or outright quarrels--and sometimes finding resolution in unexpected moments of empathy and connection," said Atwood. "To provide a narrative framework, we structured the work so that the building's super records the stories and conversations on her cellphone to create an unauthorized guerilla text."

Millicent Bennett, editorial director at HMH, acquired world rights to the project for Sugar23 Books, led by Angela Ledgerwood. "Daring storytelling has always had a home here at Sugar23, so we jumped at the opportunity to be involved in such a creative endeavor," said Sugar and Ledgerwood. "Fourteen Days grabbed us right away because it brings to life a community of people, quite literally, grappling with what it means to be a good neighbor under extenuating circumstances. We are thrilled to be working with such talented authors alongside our wonderful partners at HMH."

All contributors to Fourteen Days will receive an honorarium, courtesy of Hunger Games author Suzanne Collins, who made a donation to the Authors Guild Foundation to underwrite the project. Liz Van Hoose is the foundation's project editor, working with Preston to develop characters and weave the stories together. Dan Conaway and the Writers House literary agency waived their commission for representation of the work.


Obituary Note: Nawal El Saadawi

Nawal el Saadawi

Nawal el Saadawi, the Egyption author, physician and activist who fought for women's rights in the Arab world, died on Sunday in Cairo, Egypt, the New York Times reported. She was 89 years old.

Saadawi wrote fiction and nonfiction, and over the course of her long career published some 50 books. Her first was Women and Sex, which was banned in Egypt for decades. Her first book to be translated into English was The Hidden Face of Eve: Women in the Arab World, which was published in the United States by Beacon Press in 1982. Other notable works include God Dies by the Nile, a novel published in English in 1986, and A Daughter of Isis, a memoir discussing her early childhood that was published in English in 1999.

Born in the village of Kafr Tahla in the lower Nile Delta in 1931, Saadawi was a victim of female genital mutilation at the age of six. She fought for decades to end the practice, which was not officially outlawed in Egypt until 2008, and she "defended the rights of women against social and religious strictures for most of her adult life, fighting for changes in a deeply conservative political culture that was sometimes described as immutably pharaonic."

"Writing became a weapon with which to fight the system, which draws its authority from the autocratic power exercised by the ruler of the state, and that of the father or the husband in the family," she wrote in A Daughter of Isis. "The written word for me became an act of rebellion against injustice exercised in the name of religion, or morals, or love."

Her work frequently put her in conflict with secular and religious authorities. When her book Women and Sex began to reappear in the 1970s following a lengthy ban, she was fired from a high-ranking position in Egypt's Health Ministry.

In 1981, when Egypt was under the control of President Anwar Sadat, she was jailed as an enemy of the state. Her name later appeared on a "death list" published in Saudi Arabia, and after President Hosni Mubarak came to power she was placed under police guard, purportedly to protect her from Islamist threats.

She fled the country in the early 1990s and taught at Duke University from 1993 to 1996. Following her return to Egypt she was often and repeatedly accused of apostasy.

In 2004, she announced plans to run against Mubarak for president, but decided against it in the face of threats against her followers. In 2011, at the age of 79, she took part in the protests against Mubarak in Tahrir Square.


Notes

#BookTok Videos 'Starting to Influence Publishers and Bestseller Lists'

Noting that TikTok "is not an obvious destination for book buzz," the New York Times reported that "videos made mostly by women in their teens and 20s have come to dominate a growing niche under the hashtag #BookTok, where users recommend books, record time lapses of themselves reading, or sob openly into the camera after an emotionally crushing ending."

"I want people to feel what I feel," said Mireille Lee, 15, who started @alifeofliterature in February with her sister, Elodie, 13, and now has nearly 200,000 followers. "At school, people don't really acknowledge books, which is really annoying." The Lee sisters, who live in Brighton, England, started making BookTok videos "while bored at home during the pandemic. Many of their posts feel like tiny movie trailers, where pictures flash across the screen to a moody soundtrack," the Times noted.

Shannon DeVito, director of books at Barnes & Noble, which has set up BookTok displays in many stores, said, "These creators are unafraid to be open and emotional about the books that make them cry and sob or scream or become so angry they throw it across the room, and it becomes this very emotional 45-second video that people immediately connect with. We haven't seen these types of crazy sales--I mean tens of thousands of copies a month--with other social media formats."

For example, Madeline Miller's The Song of Achilles has 19 million views on TikTok under the hashtag #songofachilles. According to NPD BookScan, the title is selling about 10,000 copies a week, roughly nine times as much as when it won the 2012 Orange Prize. It is third on the New York Times bestseller list for paperback fiction.

"I wish I could send them all chocolates!" said Miller.

Miriam Parker, a v-p and associate publisher at Ecco, said the company saw a sales spike for The Song of Achilles on August 9 last year, but couldn't figure out why. Ecco eventually traced it to a TikTok video called "books that will make you sob," published on August 8 by @moongirlreads. The video has now been viewed nearly six million times.


'Bring Your Pooch to the Bookstore' on #NationalPuppyDay

Yesterday, Chapter One Book Store invited dog-loving readers to "bring your pooch to the bookstore" to celebrate Puppy Day in Hamilton, Mont., noting: "Come in with the doggo on Tuesday for a chance to win this basket! We'll also be collecting donations for Dog Tag Buddies, a Mont. organization that finds service dogs for Veterans!"



Media and Movies

Media Heat: Reuben Jonathan Miller on Fresh Air

Today:
Fresh Air: Reuben Jonathan Miller, author of Halfway Home: Race, Punishment, and the Afterlife of Mass Incarceration (Little, Brown, $29, 9780316451512).

Tomorrow:
Late Night with Seth Meyers: Viet Thanh Nguyen, author of The Committed (Grove Press, $27, 9780802157065).

Jimmy Kimmel Live repeat: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, author of Keep Sharp: Build a Better Brain at Any Age (Simon & Schuster, $28, 9781501166730).


TV: Joe Pickett

Spectrum Originals has given a 10-episode order to Joe Pickett, an hourlong drama series based on C.J. Box's novels, Deadline reported. Michael Dorman (PatriotFor All Mankind) will play the title role in the project from Waco creators John Erick Dowdle and Drew Dowdle, Paramount Television Studios and Doug Wick and Lucy Fisher's Red Wagon Entertainment. The series will air for a nine-month exclusive run on Spectrum. Production will begin soon in Calgary.

"C.J. Box's brilliant and beloved Joe Pickett novels draw you in with the quiet beauty of the Wyoming setting, but it's the characters that keep you riveted in their complexity, passion and unique points of view--for better or worse," said Katherine Pope, head of Spectrum Originals. "Michael has the intensity, humanity and humor that Joe Pickett demands."

The Dowdles said they fell in love with Box's Joe Pickett novels "because of their nuanced take on morality in a morally ambiguous world. We became fascinated with Joe's obsession with the ideas of truth, fairness, and the order of things, and perhaps even more fascinated with the trauma that made him that way. These days, there is so much to relate to in the Pickett family's desire for a simpler life, and also in the notion that unresolved elements of our past tend to follow us wherever we go. Spending the last few years with the Pickett family has been one of the great joys of our careers, and we couldn't be more excited to bring them to life on screen."

This is the second TV series adaptation of Box's work ordered over the past year. The other, David E. Kelley’s Big Sky, based on Box's Cassie Dewell novels, has been a hit for ABC.


Books & Authors

Awards: Publishing Triangle; Lukas; Canadian Picture Book

The Publishing Triangle has announced the finalists for the 33nd annual Triangle Awards, which honor the best LGBTQ fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and trans literature published in 2020. Winners will be announced virtually in May. See the finalists for the seven awards here.

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Winners and finalists for the 2021 J. Anthony Lukas Prize Project Awards, which honor the best in American nonfiction writing and are sponsored by the Columbia Journalism School and the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard, are:

The J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Awards:
Winner: Emily Dufton, for Addiction, Inc.: How the Corporate Takeover of America's Treatment Industry Created a Profitable Epidemic (University of Chicago Press)
Winner: Casey Parks, for Diary of a Misfit (Knopf)

The J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize:
Winner: Jessica Goudeau, for After the Last Border: Two Families and the Story of Refuge in America (Viking)
Finalist: Barton Gellman, for Dark Mirror: Edward Snowden and the American Surveillance State (Penguin Press)

The Mark Lynton History Prize:
Winner: William G. Thomas III, for A Question of Freedom: The Families Who Challenged Slavery from the Nation's Founding to the Civil War (Yale University Press)
Finalist: Martha S. Jones, for Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All (Basic Books)

The virtual awards ceremony will take place on May 4.

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Marie-Louise Gay's The Three Brothers won the C$1,000 (about US$800) Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Canadian Picture Book Award, presented by IBBY Canada in recognition of outstanding artistic talent in a Canadian picture book, Quill & Quire reported.

The jury commented: "In The Three Brothers, Finn and his brothers Leo and Ooley are inspired by the adventure stories they read every night. They embark one morning on a winter adventure that will spark their imagination. Marie-Louise Gay shows how, through the eyes of a child, a walk in the nearby woods can become a marvelous adventure with secret hiding places, shadows of animals lurking behind trees, and a feeling of discovery and wonder. The jury was delighted to see how Marie-Louise Gay used exquisite detail and colorful watercolor and pen illustrations to create a masterful ode to creativity, to brotherly connection, and to the joy of winter. Young readers will be enchanted by this gentle story that will spark their curiosity for adventure and the power of imagination."

The Paper Boat by Thao Lam and At the Pond by Geraldo Valério were selected as honor books.


Reading with... Jasmine Mans

photo: Redens Desrosiers

Jasmine Mans is a Black American poet and artist from Newark, N.J. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin Madison, with a B.A. in African American Studies. Her debut collection of poetry, Chalk Outlines of Snow Angels, was published in 2012. Mans is the resident poet at the Newark Public Library. She was a member of the Strivers Row Collective. Black Girl, Call Home (Berkley, March 9, 2021) is her second collection.

On your nightstand now:

The Bluest Eye is on my nightstand right now. I'm spending all my extra time finding themes in Ms. Morrison's work and relishing in her descriptive language. It's beautiful, and unlike most things I've ever read.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Truly, I enjoyed any civil rights book for children. I grabbed any cover with Rosa Parks and MLK on it, as they were some of the only activists and leaders we were exposed to in school. Junie B. Jones was cool when I was trying to fit in with the other girls. Later, Chicken Noodle Soup for the Soul would be a thing for me, I think I was deeply connected to the children's coming-of-age narratives.

Your top five authors:

Toni Morrison is always first for me, I find new thoughts, themes and ideas from her work. I appreciate Amiri Baraka's honesty, and sharp narratives, and the bebop-rhythm, even in his written work. His poetry was a true product of his activism. Roxane Gay is that author that you fall in love with because they know what happened to you, they speak to you. Danez Smith makes me happy to be queer, and they write within the complexities of queerness. I will never forget when I watched Fences by August Wilson, and the specific monologue he wrote about fighting the devil. Each of these authors made me feel more Black and more human.

Book you've faked reading:

The Bible. Seems like everyone has learned and memorized the Bible in a way I didn't. In a way that I am scared to. When I was younger, I'd pretend to know what people were referencing. I felt like I had to know.

Book you're an evangelist for:

The Alchemist was something that taught me so much about myself and holding near to my dreams (personal legend). As a young scholar it was something my peers and I passed to one another as a right of passage. The Alchemist was a book that we weren't allowed to purchase, you had to wait until it was gifted to you. You'd receive it with the markings of another scholar before you. I think I'll always refer to receiving that book as a ceremonial part of my life.

Book you've bought for the cover:

I think I buy a lot of self-help books for the covers, but more so the titles. Any title that sounds like it can make me smarter, or encourage new ways of building and thinking. I love books that allow me to consider new forms of creativity. I enjoy books that encourage play and thoughtfulness. The Artist's Way is for sure one of those books, speaking creatively.

Book that changed your life:

The autobiography of Assata Shakur. Reading Assata gave me a sharp awareness of my Blackness. It gave insight into how cruel America is. It deconstructs the concept of freedom. I think for so many Black girls, Assata is superwoman, or the woman who broke free.

Book you hid from your parents:

Assata. I think my parent's attempt to hide Assata was their attempt to hide the America they didn't want me to know. The America that attempted to abuse and destroy its own people. The America that existed within prisons. Most importantly, they didn't want me to know what America was like for a Black woman who fought for things.

Favorite line from a book:

My favorite line from a book has to be one of the many lines from Dr. Suess. Suess is talking about how the world will be beautiful, the people will be beautiful and that you'll do good things and you'll win! Then he says...

"Except when they don't. Because, sometimes they won't. I'm afraid that sometimes you'll play lonely games too. Games you can't win 'cause you'll play against you."

I will lose and be alone sometimes, and that, too, is a part of this wondrous make up of life.

Five books you'll never part with:

Sula, The Alchemist, Oh, The Places You'll Go, Assata, The Artist's Way. I think these books raised me in a way that has imprinted on both my love for self, and my love for art.

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

I read Sister Citizen in college and learned about so many brilliant theories and functions of Blackness, specifically the Crooked Room Theory. I want to use the lens of Sister Citizen to critique today's America. I think my mind is sharper and more prepared to receive all that Melissa Harris-Perry intended.


Book Review

Children's Review: Strollercoaster

Strollercoaster by Matt Ringler, illus. by Raúl the Third and Elaine Bay (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, $17.99 hardcover, 32p., ages 4-8, 9780316493222, May 4, 2021)

In this vibrant, energetic picture book, Matt Ringler (School Surprise!) imagines one wild ride of a parent-child outing, illustrated by three-time Pura Belpré Award winner Raúl the Third (¡Vamos! Let's Go Eat!) and artistic partner Elaine Bay in a dynamic, explosively colorful style.

"The inside feels too small for Sam," a brown-skinned little girl with ink-black pigtails and long, blunt bangs. Her dad can cure "this daily disaster" of a nascent tantrum: a ride on the strollercoaster! Sam's plush bunny wipes its forehead in relief as her dad, a rubber-limbed gentleman with a high pompadour, slight mustache and jaunty front-tooth gap, scoops Sam into her stroller. Kelly green with streamer-enhanced handlebar grips and fenders to deflect tendrils of lightning pouring off the wheels, the stroller acts as a dad-powered carnival ride through the amusement park of their bustling neighborhood. "Click clack, click clack, click clack" rattle the wheels, like a wooden coaster rising up a track, as they zoom past a building painted with the word "corre" (run). Racially diverse neighbors wave to them as they pass "fresh sneakers" in a shoe store window and "sweet smells" from a bakery. In the emerald park, the stroller surges down a hill, Sam's dad streaming from the handlebars like a flag. In a full spread closeup, Sam's face radiates elation, her arms spread like wings against a sunset-hued background. In an impressive maneuver, her dad runs up a wall with the stroller, a paleta vendor handing Sam a pale pink pop at their arc's apex. As the ride winds down, they zing around a building painted with graffiti reading "estoy cansada" (I'm tired). In a tunnel, Sam and her dad turn into something akin to scratch art, rainbow sketches against a deep black background. Back at their front door, Sam's dad carries the now-snoozing Sam inside in the stroller, then settles down with her for a much-deserved nap on the couch. 

Ringler's zippy, onomatopoeic description of a daily father-daughter ritual lays the track for a breathless thrill ride that perfectly mimics a classic coaster. Bay's peppy palette grabs the eye, and Raúl the Third's visual feast of detail-stuffed scenes and sly sight gags invites readers to linger. Strollercoaster shows that imagination and the bond between caregiver and child can transform a pedestrian routine into a joyful, unforgettable adventure. --Jaclyn Fulwood, youth services manager at Main Branch, Dayton Metro Library

Shelf Talker: A neighborhood becomes a roller-coaster track, a stroller the car, in this lively picture book about a father-daughter outing.


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