Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers: She Gets the Girl by Rachael Lippincott and Alyson Derrick

Scholastic Press: It's the End of the World and I'm in My Bathing Suit by Justin A. Reynolds

Forge: Carolina Moonset by Matt Goldman

Berkley Books: Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Hogarth Press: Acts of Service by Lillian Fishman

Flatiron Books: Ordinary Monsters (Talents) by J.M. Miro

St. Martin's Press: Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner


NVNR's Opening Keynote: 'Being Black in America: Past, Present & Future'

New Voices, New Rooms, the fall virtual conference presented by the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association and Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance, kicked off yesterday with the opening keynote, "Being Black in America: Past, Present, and Future." 

Hosted by Ramunda Young, co-owner of MahoganyBooks, Washington, D.C., the event featured authors Imani Perry (South to America: A Journey Below the Mason-Dixon to Understand the Soul of a Nation, Ecco, January 2022), Jason Reynolds (Stuntboy, in the Meantime, Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum, November) and Sesali Bowen (Bad Fat Black Girl: Notes from a Trap Feminist, Amistad, October). 

Young noted that the conversation was about seeing these authors "as people, understanding their thoughts and their feelings. And let's be clear, the onus is not on them to speak on behalf of the entirety of Black people, but to share their personal thoughts of being Black in America, from the past, present and future perspective."

From top: Ramunda Young, Jason Reynolds, Imani Perry, Sesali Bowen. 

In response to a question about the role of textbooks in teaching history, Perry observed: "Textbooks are a very particular genre. You get a textbook and you have to tell a concise history. There are all these debates over what's included in textbooks. We want them to be richer; we want them to be more robust. But really it is the other kinds of literature that can give you the deep textured history. So you have this frame story of history, and then you delve into stories that are much more complex. I love when teachers supplement textbooks with other kinds of writings because what you get a sense of is there's a way you can tell a very close, intimate story, personal stories, and you can actually find an illumination of history that's deeper than the overview. 

"For me, that's part of the reason I write the way I write. I'm trying to tell big stories, but I tell big stories through these intimate encounters because I think that's how you get moved emotionally. We put history to use for us."

Reynolds was asked what concerns him most about young Black people now. "First and foremost, I don't think about young Black people in that way," he replied. "So the question is complicated for me just a little bit because my focus on young Black people isn't one of concern. It's one of celebration. I'm always trying to figure out how to make sure that they understand that we already exist in a place of abundance; that we exist in a place of surplus; that we are more than equipped and more than adequate, more than proficient in all the ways, despite some of the physical challenges and resource challenges that we may have in some certain instances....

"I think it's just making sure they understand that when I talk about imagination, what we're truly talking about is boundlessness here first. And I think my goal in my stories specifically is to show a freedom within oneself.... If we can continue to convince them of that freedom, then perhaps their imaginations will actually know no bounds."

When Young asked what had been "the most eye-opening part of your journey where you realized, 'I'm just going to be me, no explanation needed,' " Bowen cited her transition "into what is traditionally called women's media." Born and raised on the South Side of Chicago, she had lived in Washington, D.C., and Atlanta before moving to New York City.

Noting that New York was a different kind of cultural experience, Bowen said what she "started to notice was that I was very much expected to be showing up as a person who was separated from my Blackness as I understood it as a Black girl.... For me it was very eye-opening to be in these spaces that were also run as feminist where I was feeling so much pressure to not be who I was. I am a very rebellious spirit, but also I don't know how to do that. And I knew that my writing journey was very much attached to my experiences and who I was. It was the way in which I was always unafraid to write about who I was that gave me a kind of distinct voice."

She added that "conforming is also very privileged. You have to be in a space of privilege to even do that in certain ways. Not only am I a Black girl, I'm a fat Black girl. I speak how I speak. I don't come from a lot of money. There were also a lot of ways in which I just couldn't even if I wanted to because I will always be read as kind of like other. So I think that's a really important distinction to make, too."

Something Young said about Bowen's book rang true for the other speakers' work as well: "I think people need to know when it comes to books that this is a space. You can read this in the privacy of your own home, whoever you are, whatever you look like, and learn and grow and have your eyes widened to a different experience that may not have anything to do with you, but you need to know that we exist." --Robert Gray

University of California Press: When Abortion Was a Crime: Women, Medicine, and Law in the United States, 1867-1973, with a New Preface by Leslie J. Reagan

Mass.'s Silver Unicorn Bookstore Expanding

Silver Unicorn Bookstore, Acton, Mass., is expanding in its current building, increasing its retail space by 15%, to 1,275 square feet, and more than doubling its office space, which will be moved. The store was founded in 2018 and is owned by Paul Swydan.

Much of the extra retail space will go to gift items. "We've made a sizable investment in Squishables plush toys," the store wrote. "We've ordered more stationery items from our friends down the street at Smudge Ink. We're going to be bringing in more water bottle stickers, and we've got a few more things up our sleeve. And of course, if you have suggestions for gift items you wish you could buy in town but can't, holler at us, we're open to suggestion!"

The office space will go from "tiny," with staff "constantly elbowing past each other," to a state where "at the very least, more office space will equal more peace of mind, and hopefully the extra room will give us the opportunity to be better organized, which will in turn make us happier, healthier and more creative bookstore stewards."

The store is starting to transform the space this week, and new bookshelves should arrive in November. "In the lead up to installing those, we will be hard at work, with the goal of making their installation the final touch, so that everything is done and ready by mid-November. In the interim, you made need to pardon a little dust and construction noise, but we think it'll all be worth it, and we hope you will too. To say we're excited would be an understatement."

Paraclete Press (MA): God, Grace, and Horses: Life Lessons from the Saddle by Laurie M. Brock

International Update: Margaret Busby Honored by LBF, Singapore's BooksActually Owner Resigns

Margaret Busby

Margaret Busby, who was Britain’s first Black female publisher when she co-founded Allison & Busby in the 1960s, was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the London Book Fair on September 23 at the Hurlingham Club in Fulham "in one of the first face to face industry events since the pandemic," the Bookseller reported.

"Her ongoing contribution to our literary culture, often as a lone pilot in the early days has deep roots," said Booker Prize-winning author Bernardine Evaristo, who made the presentation to Busby. "Powerful, self-contained, pragmatic and visionary, she refused to let barriers stop her from pursuing a career in literature. As a pioneer, a trailblazer, and someone who has made history, she laid the ground for subsequent generations."

In her acceptance speech, Busby "recalled her lifelong fascination with the world of books and her campaigning work to get more Black people into the publishing industry, paying tribute to those 'who challenged the status quo,' " the Bookseller wrote. In a long list of acknowledgements she said: "Nothing I have achieved would have been possible without the support and encouragement of my friends and family."

Andy Ventris, director of the London Book Fair, confirmed that the program will return to Olympia in April next year, promising that redevelopment work there will be take the fair "to a whole new level."


Internationally renowned Singapore bookseller BooksActually and its publishing arm, Math Paper Press, will now be run by five members of the current staff. Kenny Leck relinquished sole ownership of the business and transferred collective ownership of both entities to the team "after digital news site Rice Media published an explosive expose on Saturday (Sept. 25) about his past relationships with young female employees," the Straits Times reported, adding that in a Facebook post on Sunday evening, Leck "apologized to all those he had caused pain to and admitted to his personal failings before mid-2019."

BooksActually closed its bricks-and-mortar store in September 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic and has been operating as an online bookstore ever since.

In a statement Sunday, the current BooksActually team noted that since 2019, BooksActually "has put in place welfare practices including 'being paid on time, having one-hour lunch breaks and strictly regular working hours.' We understand that in the early years of BooksActually, our past employees did not work in a safe and professional workplace environment. We recognize the efforts and sacrifices of all former employees of the bookstore, and are deeply saddened to learn more of their experience. We will continue to improve our staff welfare and our HR practices. More importantly, we will strengthen anti-harassment policies to ensure that present and future employees are valued and protected."


Canadian bookseller Fireside Books, Parksville, B.C., shared a timely photo of of the shop's latest chalkboard message: "Oh, look at the time." --Robert Gray

Atheneum Books: Ain't Burned All the Bright by Jason Reynolds, illustrated by Jason Griffin

Obituary Note: Leila Meacham

Leila Meacham

Leila Meacham, a writer and former teacher who "didn't find success as a novelist until late in life, but her writing uplifted many in her final days as she detailed her fight with pancreatic cancer on social media," died September 19, the San Antonio Express-News reported. She was 83. 

Meacham wrote a series of historical romances "that captivated audiences nationwide," the Express-News noted. Roses, a New York Times bestseller, was published in 2010, when she was 70, but she felt her second book represented her best work, according to her husband, Dick Meacham: "If you asked her, I think her favorite was Tumbleweeds." Her other books include Somerset, a prequel to RosesTitansRyan's HandCrowning Design, Aly's House and her most recent work, Dragonfly.

Meacham's "passion for writing and reading initially took the form of a career in education," the Express-News wrote, adding that between the 1960s and the 1990s, she taught English at schools in multiple states, including Judson High School and Kitty Hawk Middle School in Texas.

She was working on a ninth book, tentatively titled April Storm, when she was diagnosed with her disease in August 2019. Her husband said she had nearly finished the novel when she passed away.

In one of her last Facebook posts, Meacham wrote about resuming chemotherapy after a fall: "Alas, alas. Surely there is a divine plan behind this, a reason to smile again. Regardless of mine, you all keep smiling, hold on to the faith, and prayer my stamina and strength."

AuthorBuzz for the Week of 01.17.22


Personnel Changes at Algonquin; Callisto Media

At Algonquin Books and Algonquin Young Readers:

Stephanie Mendoza has been promoted from publicity manager to senior publicity manager.

Kelly Doyle has been promoted from publicity assistant to associate publicist.


Stephanie Fidis has joined Callisto Media as the national account support specialist for the Readerlink team. She was most recently with Penguin Random House.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Anita Hill on Fresh Air, Colbert's Late Show

CBS This Morning: Stevie Van Zandt, author of Unrequited Infatuations: A Memoir (Hachette Books, $31, 9780306925429).

Fresh Air: Anita Hill, author of Believing: Our Thirty-Year Journey to End Gender Violence (Viking, $30, 9780593298299). She will also be on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert tomorrow.

Good Morning America: Tabitha Brown, author of Feeding the Soul (Because It's My Business): Finding Our Way to Joy, Love, and Freedom (Morrow, $27.99, 9780063080287).

Drew Barrymore: Padma Lakshmi, author of Tomatoes for Neela (Viking Books for Young Readers, $17.99, 9780593202708).

Kelly Clarkson Show: Tia Mowry, author of The Quick Fix Kitchen: Easy Recipes and Time-Saving Tips for a Healthier, Stress-Free Life (Rodale, $27.99, ‎9780593232828).

Movies: The Tragedy of Macbeth

A teaser trailer has been released for The Tragedy of Macbeth, Joel Coen's highly anticipated adaptation of Shakespeare's play for Apple TV+ and A24. The film, which had its world premiere at the New York Film Festival on September 24, will be released December 25.

Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand star in the movie, which "is set in a hazy black and white," Deadline reported. "There is no dialogue in the trailer beyond the spoken quote from the play, but it does show glimpses of some of the film's most important characters. It first begins with Macbeth (Washington) and his closest confidant Banquo (Bertie Carvel) approaching the three witches known as the Weird Sisters."

Books & Authors

Awards: Arthur C. Clarke Winner

The Animals in That Country by Laura Jean McKay has won the 2021 (about $2,760) Arthur C. Clarke Award for best science fiction book of the year. The book is McKay's debut novel and previously won the Victorian Prize for Literature in Australia.

"In many ways Laura's book could be considered as a first contact novel, only the multiple alien species that humanity encounters have been sharing the Earth with us all along," Award director Tom Hunter said (as quoted by the Guardian). "In this way the novel speaks for the silent victims of our real-world climate crises, but while the environmental and social themes are deeply serious, our judges also praised the book's dark humour, sense of character and place, and its active opposition to easy genre tropes."

Book Review

Review: Win Me Something

Win Me Something by Kyle Lucia Wu (Tin House Books, $16.95 paperback, 272p., 9781951142735, November 2, 2021)

Kyle Lucia Wu's first novel, Win Me Something, is a wrenching evocation of yearning in a slim, artful package. The story of Willa Chen, a young woman unmoored in New York City, is defined by liminal spaces and a wish to belong.

In the opening pages, Willa interviews to become a nanny to a wealthy family in Tribeca, even though she can't quite conceive of what a nanny does. "Maybe I couldn't imagine these moments because when someone asked about my childhood, my mind clenched and closed like two fists in a pool--fingers squeezing for something to come up with when everything around them was a different kind of matter."

Willa's father is a Chinese American immigrant whom she barely knows, her mother a blonde-haired white woman, detached and depressed, who can't comprehend the microaggressions her daughter faces. Since their divorce when Willa was very young, each has begun a new family, and she feels she belongs to neither. Thus adrift, she enters the Adriens' household, where she cares for the charming, innocently privileged, nine-year-old Bijou, who studies Mandarin and the violin and cooks coq au vin. Willa feels as unbelonging as ever, but also entranced by the family's ease, their wealth, their things. "When I looked around their apartment, my veins filled with rushes of want, as if I could see the price tags on everything, as if they would increase my own value." It's not that Willa is materialistic, but that she is drawn to the idea of worth suggested by those around her: "I often found myself in friendships with people like this, self-absorbed and sparkling."

Readers will be engrossed by Willa's troubled desire to please and her pervasive unease, as she seeks and then deflects the slightest attempt at connection. As she begins to meld into the Adriens' household, she reconsiders her own childhood and family homes in a series of flashbacks. The subtle racism she encounters is but one thread of Willa's distress; her estrangement from both of her half-families, and her half-hearted attempts to join the Adriens', presents a greater challenge on its face, but also stands in for the larger estrangement she feels everywhere she goes, as the in-between spaces of family and race in culture echo each other.

With an eye for just the right detail, Wu offers an understated protagonist, self-defeating but still searching. Win Me Something is a nuanced story of longing, of the paired desires to belong and to strike one's own path. Willa is a quiet heroine, but unforgettable. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Shelf Talker: A young woman must chart her own way, even while quietly craving belonging and home, in this subtle, wise debut.

The Bestsellers

Top-Selling Self-Published Titles

The bestselling self-published books last week as compiled by

1. Shielding Ember by Susan Stoker
2. Running on Diesel by Melissa Foster
3. Verity by Colleen Hoover
4. Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki with Sharon L. Lechter
5. The Rebound by Kendall Ryan
6. Unreported Truths About Covid-19 and Lockdowns: Part 4 by Alex Berenson
7. The Dom Identity (Masters and Mercenaries: Reloaded Book 2) by Lexi Blake
8. The Sunny Side Up Cozy Mysteries Box Set by Rosie A. Point
9. Miss Delightful by Grace Burrowes
10. Change the Story, Save the World by Moritz Davidesko

[Many thanks to!]

AuthorBuzz: Morgan James Publishing: Racing with Aloha: An Inspiring Journey from Humble Barefoot Maui Boy to Champion in the Water by Fred Haywood
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