Shelf Awareness for Friday, July 15, 2022


Harper: Black Girls Must Have It All (Black Girls Must Die Exhausted) by Jayne Allen

Berkley Books: Mrs. Nash's Ashes by Sarah Adler

Berkley Books: Meet Me at the Lake by Carley Fortune

Pantheon Books: Chain Gang All Stars by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

Scholastic Press: The Guardian Test (Legends of Lotus Island #1) by Christina Soontornvat, illustrated by Kevin Hong

News

ABA Annual Meeting: Challenges, Accomplishments, Goals

With more than 250 attendees Zooming in, the American Booksellers Association annual meeting held yesterday highlighted the sometimes contradictory trends of the past year as well as the association's accomplishments and goals for the future. While more stores have opened and revenues at many established stores rose substantially, costs have been high in a variety of ways. Still, faced with continuing and often unforeseeable challenges, booksellers have responded creatively and are persevering--and positioned well for whatever new surprises may lurk on the horizon.

ABA Board members and CEO Allison Hill at yesterday's meeting.

CEO Allison Hill best summed it up, when she said to booksellers at the conclusion of her report, "The work you all do is important in the world and in your communities. It is our honor to support you in it. I know how difficult this year was for many of you. Although most of our stores have reported an increase in sales, we know that that has come with increased costs and increased uncertainty. Year Two of the pandemic proved harder than Year One in many ways, in part because, as several of you said to me at the spring regional shows, it's hard to keep going back to a well that's dry. Many of you have told us you feel depleted. I know the news the past few months may have added weight to your already heavy shoulders, and I'd like to tell you that it's going to get easier, but we're not quite there yet. It will get easier though. And the good news is that the disruption you have experienced has revealed your core of creativity, resilience, and commitment, and generated innovation and insight, all of which have positioned this industry for a brighter future."

Hill also enumerated the association's priorities, which were the same last year and have continued:

Combatting book banning: She quoted ABFE director Dave Grogan as saying ABFE "has never been busier than it's been in the past year." ABFE's work includes providing stores resources "to help educate customers about banned books, letters to use to address school and library challenges," as well as an upcoming "5 Things You Can Do Right Now to Help."

Supporting antitrust legislation: Hill described the association's work in this area as "laser-focused," and emphasized that the ABA launched an advocacy campaign "to ask Congress to bring the American Innovation and Choice Online Act to the floor for a vote. This legislation will create clear rules for fair competition online by banning monopolistic behavior and protecting small businesses and consumers."

Supporting DEI: Hill called this "an ethical issue as well as a business imperative." Among other moves in this area, the ABA "added the Advance Access program for Underrepresented Voices. We hired a DEIA membership manager. We hired a copy editor with a DEI perspective." And, she noted, "as the ABA staff became more diverse this past year, we became better positioned to support our diverse membership and benefited from more diverse perspectives."

Improving e-commerce, which will take a big step forward with introduction soon of IndieCommerce 2.0, with more information available next week. Hill described the new platform as "faster, ADA-compliant, and [having] a more modern checkout and a cleaner look," making it "much easier for stores to handle content and navigate the back end."

Education: Calling education "one of the most valuable resources we offer," she noted that the association hosted "close to 200 education sessions, webinars, and meetups last year. We have a new director of education. We have new plans for the future." And the ABA is already planning the 2023 Winter Institute in Seattle.

Hill also made a plea for better data. "If we're ever going to effectively address critical issues in the industry like livable wage for both booksellers and bookstore owners, health benefits for all, and sustainability, we need data." Two concrete suggestions: stores should report book sales to the ABA and they should report financial information for ABACUS.

Hill was one of several speakers who praised the work of the ABA staff, saying, "Their commitment to your stores and their passion for this industry have been unwavering during a year that was challenging professionally and personally for all of us. They have my respect and gratitude."

ABA president Christine Onorati, owner of WORD Bookstores in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Jersey City, N.J., emphasized that planning and staging in-person events "has always been daunting, to say the least, and the ABA staff always rises to the challenge." But putting on the recent Children's Institute "required a new level of flexibility that we have not experienced before." Still, the staff "pulled it off with unparalleled professionalism." She thanked "each ABA staffer" and Hill. ("We are so lucky to have her steering our ship.")

She also praised her colleagues on the board, saying, "I am so unbelievably proud of this current board and the resilience every single member shows on a daily basis. Running our own businesses seems to get harder every single day, and yet we are all committed to continuing the momentum for change that has begun and [to show that] being guided by values and striving for success in business are not mutually exclusive concepts."

As noted by co-vice-president and secretary Kelly Estep, co-owner of Carmichael's Bookstore and Carmichael's Kids, Louisville, Ky., ABA membership showed healthy gains: as of July 1, 2,023 bookstore companies are members, up 6% from the last annual meeting, representing 2,561 locations, and there are 207 provisional members. In 2021, 215 member stores opened and 41 closed. Since the beginning of the year, 85 stores have opened.

Estep noted, too, that the association has an annual budget of $7 million and employs 39 people. The ABA's investment portfolio amounts to $27.5 million, and investment income supports ABA since membership dues and revenue from various activities don't cover all expenses.

She added that the association has a long-term investment approach that will help it ride out the current stock market downturn. Also the board has adopted (ESG) environmental, social and governance criteria to its investment approach, which has resulted in some changes, including divesting, for example, from Facebook last year. --John Mutter


Arcade Publishing: A Mysterious Country: The Grace and Fragility of American Democracy by Normal Mailer, edited by Michael J. Lennon and John Buffalo Mailer


ABA Town Hall: A Range of Questions from the 'Floor'

ABA Board members at yesterday's Town Hall.

Yesterday's American Booksellers Association town hall meeting, held immediately after the annual meeting, covered a range of topics.

Ends Policies Changes & Board Communication
One of the first questions raised in the meeting concerned the ongoing conversations around the ABA's ends policies changes regarding free expression and the First Amendment, asking whether the board plans to revisit the issue and if the ABA intends to poll member bookstores about the changes. Cynthia Compton, owner of 4 Kids Books & Toys in Zionsville, Ind., and MacArthur Books in Carmel, Ind., answered that the ABA's commitment to free speech is "unwavering," saying free speech is often discussed by the board and clearly supported by the association's leadership and staff. She also referenced the work ABFE has done in the last quarter in support of free speech (which was detailed in the July 6 issue of Bookselling This Week).

In response to the suggestion of a poll, Compton instead encouraged the booksellers in attendance to communicate with board members on a regular basis, whether that is via e-mail, in person at events like Children's Institute or the fall regionals, or during the board's virtual office hours. Ongoing communication between ABA members and the board, she said, would be more valuable than a poll. Danny Caine, general manager and co-owner of the Raven Book Store in Lawrence, Kan., reiterated later that a town hall session is not the only time or place to talk to the board.

Consolidation & Antitrust
The topic of ongoing consolidation in the book industry among publishers, wholesalers and POS providers arose several times during the discussion. Board members said it was a "huge concern" for them and something that comes up "all the time" in their meetings. Caine reported that the board spent a lot of time during its May meeting talking about consolidation, and noted that while talking about antitrust has often been shorthand for talking about Amazon, the issue is "not limited to one company." ABA CEO Allison Hill, meanwhile, remarked that the issue of consolidation goes "hand in hand" with the association's antitrust work, and she has been in contact with publishers about consolidation in the industry and its effect on booksellers.

Elaborating on the subject of antitrust laws, Janet Geddis, owner of Avid Bookshop in Athens, Ga., brought up the ABA's own antitrust guidelines that, for example, limit discussion among booksellers of such topics as pricing. She wondered if perhaps the association was "collectively overcorrecting" given the small share of the market indies have overall. Hill said she had similar thoughts when she joined the ABA and has reviewed the guidelines with the ABA's legal counsel several times. She agreed that it is "good to keep asking," and that in her understanding it is not so much about the size of the indie channel as about the potential for collusion in the marketplace.

Publisher Conversations
Noting that the ABA is nearly done with its annual round of publisher meetings and that there will be recaps in Bookselling This Week, Hill said the main thread throughout has been a "livable wage" for booksellers and the sustainability of the business. Publishers, meanwhile, generally discussed two major themes: significant concerns about the supply chain and book discoverability.

Code of Conduct
Carole Horne, formerly of Harvard Book Store in Cambridge, Mass., brought up the ABA's code of conduct and mentioned social media posts by and about ABA members that violate the boundaries set in the code of conduct. She asked whether that had been discussed at all by the board; board president Christine Onorati, owner of WORD bookstores in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Jersey City, N.J., said board members do take the code of conduct seriously, though they don't monitor booksellers' social media pages and the ABA does not have a hand in managing any of the Facebook groups meant for independent booksellers. 

Nomination Changes
Board members emphasized that board nominations can now be made year-round, and they encouraged as many booksellers as possible to get involved. Since the start of the pandemic the board has been rethinking what service as a board member entails and is trying to be as flexible as possible about meeting booksellers' needs. Melanie Knight, children's buyer for Books Inc. in Northern California, said that adjusting how the board works has made a huge difference in diversifying the board, and that work will continue going forward. --Alex Mutter


G.P. Putnam's Sons: The Only Game in Town by Lacie Waldon


Harvard Book Store to Open New Branch in Boston's Prudential Center

Harvard Book Store, Cambridge, Mass., will open a new store in Boston's Prudential Center in the spring of 2023. The location will feature a wide selection of books, a state-of-the-art event space, a large children's book section and a community space. Operating under a long-term lease with Boston Properties, owner of Prudential Center, the new store will be located in the space previously occupied by Barnes & Noble.

"We are delighted to bring Harvard Book Store to the city of Boston, while continuing our long tradition of bookselling at our flagship Cambridge location," said co-owner Jeff Mayersohn. "This is an ambitious project and we think we've established an excellent team to bring it to fruition. We envision it as an important addition to the literary life in the city and a welcoming space serving the many communities of Boston. We thank John and Linda Henry, whose recent investment in our company enables us to expand in this way." John Henry is principal owner of the Boston Red Sox, the Boston Globe, the Liverpool Premier League soccer team and other ventures.

Bryan Koop, executive v-p of Boston Properties for the Boston Region, commented: "We look forward to welcoming Harvard Book Store to Prudential Center. We are particularly excited about providing another home for the bookstore's award-winning event series, which will attract many thousands of visitors annually."

The new store will occupy more than 29,000 square feet in Boston's Back Bay. Project consultants include the design collaborative Bergmeyer, Colliers Project Leaders, and the construction management firm Gilbane Building Company.

In a message to customers, Harvard Book Store co-owners Mayersohn and Linda Seamonson wrote: "This is quite an ambitious project. The new store will comprise nearly 30,000 square feet, a space approximately five times the size of our Cambridge store. The additional space will allow us to do things that we can't accomplish in Cambridge.... The new store is being designed as a warm, welcoming space that will continue our long tradition of commitment to storytelling and the written word and will be a major addition to literary life in Greater Boston."

They also stressed that the new store does not represent a reduced commitment to the flagship Cambridge location: "In fact, in the next few months, we will begin renovation projects in Cambridge that will both improve the use of that space and make it more welcoming for customers, all while continuing our commitment to being a world-class academic bookstore. We will also be updating and enhancing our website at harvard.com."


G.P. Putnam's Sons: Love & Other Scams by Philip Ellis


New Owner, Name for Former Books Unlimited in Franklin, N.C.

(via)

Liz DeWandeler is the new owner of the former Books Unlimited in Franklin, N.C., and has changed the name to A Novel Escape. The Macon County News reported that the "building at 60 East Main Street in Franklin has housed hardware and general stores in its century-plus history. But since the 1980s, it has been home to a bookseller, most recently Suzanne Harouff, who was the owner of Books Unlimited since the 1990s."

When Harouff decided to retire, discussions began with DeWandeler, who had purchased the used bookstore Millie's on Georgia Road in 2019. A career veterinarian who moved to the Franklin area five years ago from Colorado, DeWandeler said she had always been a bookworm and decided owning a bookstore was her new career. 

"I no longer wanted to be a vet," she noted, "so this was a natural fit for me. When Suzanne and I began talking, the most important thing to us was that Main Street not lose a book store.... I talked it over with my husband and felt it was a dream come true." 

After purchasing Books Unlimited's inventory, DeWandeler closed the store for two months and made extensive renovations to the space in the fifth-generation-owned, 19th-century building. Her Georgia Road location, also called A Novel Escape, has been closed so she can concentrate on the Main Street store.  

"I'm especially proud of how the children's area turned out," she said. "The children have lots of space in an area with so much natural light. I plan to have story times and other activities for them." 

A Novel Escape offers a selection of approximately 60% used and 40% new books, as well as maps, puzzles, calendars, greeting cards, postcards, and more. DeWandeler observed: "I'm a big proponent of shopping small, individually owned businesses instead of the large online companies. And this store is still serving Suzanne's (Books Unlimited) long-time customer base as well as new customers, who are local, seasonal, and tourists."


G.L.O.W. - Galley Love of the Week
Be the first to have an advance copy!
The Crane Husband
by Kelly Barnhill
GLOW: Tordotcom: The Crane Husband by Kelly Barnhill

In this imaginative retelling of a Japanese folktale, Kelly Barnhill's second novel for adults, a pragmatic Midwestern teenager must grow up fast to protect her family. On the outskirts of what was once her family's farm, a girl raises her younger brother and manages the household while her artist mother weaves tapestries. But when her mother brings home a sharp and foreboding six-foot-tall crane who has ensnared her heart, the girl becomes desperate to bring her mother back to reality and snap her out of her obsession. For Tor editor Jonathan Strahan, Barnhill's singular novel stands out for its compelling depiction of one teenage girl facing "a world becoming less and less understandable, where the rules seem to change." There are three words to describe this fierce and evocative book: passionate, powerful, beautiful. --Alice Martin

(Tordotcom, $19.99 hardcover, 9781250850973, February 28, 2023)

CLICK TO ENTER


#ShelfGLOW
Shelf vetted, publisher supported

Notes

Mitchell Kaplan, Sarah Gorham, Laura Pegram CLMP Honorees

Mitchell Kaplan

Congratulations to Mitchell Kaplan, owner of Books & Books in southern Florida and co-founder of the Miami Book Fair, who will receive the Energizer Award for Exceptional Acts of Literary Citizenship from the Community of Literary Magazines & Presses (CLMP). The award will be presented at a benefit on November 2 in New York City.

Other honorees are:

Sarah Gorham, co-founder and editor-in-chief of Sarabande Books, who recently announced her retirement after 29 years, will receive the Golden Colophon Award for Paradigm Literary Publishing.

Laura Pegram, founder and editor-in-chief of Kweli Journal, will receive a new CLMP award, the Platinum Review Award for Excellence in Literary Magazine Publishing.

In its citation for Kaplan, CLMP wrote: "Mitchell Kaplan is the founder and president of independent bookseller Books & Books, opening the first store in 1982 in Coral Gables, Fla. Now with five South Florida locations, as well as affiliated stores at the Miami International Airport and in Key West, Books & Books hosts over 400 events annually and was named Publishers Weekly's 2015 Bookstore of the Year. Kaplan also co-founded the Miami Book Fair in 1985 and continues to guide the programming team at the fair, which takes place on the campus of Miami Dade College. Each year the fair presents close to 500 authors over one week in November; programs take place in Creole, Spanish, and English, reflecting the diversity of Miami. In addition, Kaplan has served as president of the American Booksellers Association, received the Literarian Award from the National Book Foundation, and established the Mazur Kaplan Company to bring books to the screen. He hosts the podcast the Literary Life with Mitchell Kaplan and recently accepted an appointment to serve on the board of the National Coalition Against Censorship.


Personnel Changes at Simon & Schuster; Workman

Erica Magrin, previously sales coordinator at Disney Worldwide Publishing, has joined Simon & Schuster's independent sales team as telesales account manager.

---

At Workman Publishing:

Michelle Hilario-Ruiz has been promoted to digital marketing and advertising coordinator for the Workman Kids, Workman, Workman Calendars, and Algonquin Young Readers imprints. Before that, she was digital marketing and advertising assistant. Earlier she was marketing campaign associate at Caesars Entertainment.

Ivanka Perez has joined the company as publicity assistant for the Workman Kids, Workman, Workman Calendars, and Algonquin Young Readers imprints.

She is a recent graduate of Rice University.

Christy Yu has joined the company as digital marketing assistant for the Workman Kids, Workman, Workman Calendars, and Algonquin Young Readers imprints. She was formerly a marketing assistant at Peter's Supplies and earlier was event coordinator, graphic designer, and marketer at Finessed Media.


Media and Movies

TV: Both/And

Freida Pinto (Mr. Malcolm's List, Slumdog Millionaire) is developing Huma Abedin's memoir Both/And: A Life in Many Worlds into a TV series through her production company, Freebird Films, Deadline reported. Pinto will star as Hillary Clinton's top aide and longtime advisor in the project, which is set up at Entertainment One. Pinto and her producing partner Emily Verellen Strom will executive produce alongside Abedin.

"We thought we knew Huma's story--the woman behind the scenes, and then reluctantly in front of the camera when her own life hit the news," Pinto said. "Then, we read her memoir and were stunned by her candor, generosity, warmth, intelligence, and the way that her childhood, faith and family have so authentically woven through her whole life. Huma's story is both extraordinary and immediately relatable, timely and relevant to so many of us. Freebird Films is so honored to be able to work with our partners at eOne and Huma to bring her story to television. Stories like this--of powerful, everyday superheroes among us--are what drives our work at Freebird Films and playing Huma in this series will be such an honor for me."

Abedin added: "It was clear to me from our very first conversation that Freida and Emily not only believe in but get the story, that they have a vision and a passion about bringing a life filled with unexpected adventures to the world in a way that is true to who I hope to remain always--defiantly optimistic."



Books & Authors

Awards: Orwell Book Winners, Mo Siewcharran Longlist

The 2022 Orwell Prize for Political Fiction was awarded to Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan. The judges said: "The focus of this novella is close, precise and unwavering: a beautifully written evocation of Ireland in the 1980s, precisely rendered; of a good man and his ordinary life; and of the decision he makes that unlocks major, present questions about social care, women's lives and collective morality. The very tightness of focus, and Keegan's marvelous control of her instrument as a writer, makes for a story at once intensely particular and powerfully resonant."

The Orwell Prize for Political Writing went to My Fourth Time, We Drowned by Sally Hayden. The judges said Hayden's reporting "is an extraordinary exploration of a modern reality using modern means: truly a book of our times. While many people seeking refuge from the terrible logics of repression, war and poverty cannot easily cross frontiers, phone and Facebook messages can. They allow contact with home but are also the means by which ransoms are gruesomely demanded by traffickers. But they are also the way in which Hayden explores the lives of people stuck under the control of traffickers, militias, the UN, and lets them speak to us as full human beings: hungry, ill, and often doomed in their quest for safety. She gets the terrible truth out to a world that has been far too indifferent."

Both winners receive £3,000 (about $3,550). Jean Seaton, director of the Orwell Foundation, observed that Hayden and Keegan "have, in very different ways, written gripping stories about things that should alarm us: there are awful truths right at the heart of our societies and systems. However, in their wit, elegance and compassion, these powerful winning books also help us think about the choices we make, and how to make the future better. Orwell would be proud."

---

Hachette UK has released a longlist for the Mo Siewcharran Prize, which was launched in 2019 "to help discover unpublished fiction writers from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds." The shortlist will be announced September 10 and a winner named later in the month. 

The winner receives £2,500 (about $2,955), an editorial session with a Quercus editor, introductory meetings to at least two literary agents, introductory session with the Quercus rights team, and meetings with the Quercus marketing and publicity teams. The winner's project will be considered for publication with an advance against royalties.


Reading with… Antonia Angress

photo: Dena Denny

Antonia Angress was born in Los Angeles and raised in San José, Costa Rica. She is a graduate of Brown University and the University of Minnesota MFA program. Her debut novel, Sirens & Muses (Ballantine, July 12, 2022), follows four artists drawn into a web of rivalry and desire at an elite art school and on the streets of New York.

Handsell readers your book:

Sirens & Muses is a campus novel about artists finding their way through life and love. It's queer, sexy and cerebral--and funny! Think The Marriage Plot meets Fates and Furies meets Portrait of a Lady on Fire.

On your nightstand now:

I'm currently reading Lauren Collins's When in French and Frank McCourt's Teacher Man, both as research for my next novel, which is about a language teacher and draws on the years I spent teaching Spanish to elementary and middle school students. In that spirit, I've also been rereading Ms. Hempel Chronicles by Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, one of my favorite novels about a teacher and one of my favorite novels, period.

Favorite book when you were a child:

I was obsessed with Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and can still recite "The Walrus and the Carpenter" from memory (this is my best--and only--party trick). One of my cherished possessions as a kid was this beautiful hardcover edition of The Annotated Alice, featuring Martin Gardner's extensive annotations on the Victorian references, mathematical concepts and wordplay that Lewis Carroll embedded in the story.

Your top five authors:

Five is too few, but if I must: Zadie Smith, Jennifer Egan, Donna Tartt, Susan Choi and Sarah Waters.

Book you've faked reading:

I majored in comparative literature in college, and there was a literary theory course that everyone had to take. I muddled through a whole bunch of Derrida that semester, but I could not possibly tell you what that guy was going on about.

Book you're an evangelist for:

So many! Bobcat by Rebecca Lee is the best short story collection you've never heard of. My Name Is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok and The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner are my two favorite examples of the Künstlerroman (literally, "artist's novel"--a genre I'm very into, obviously). Kaitlyn Greenidge's We Love You, Charlie Freeman is a book I have a hard time describing to people, but trust me when I say it's brilliant. I loved Lee Cole's Groundskeeping so much that I hunted down his e-mail address and sent him a fan letter. While writing Sirens & Muses, I read tons of campus novels; my favorites are Make Your Home Among Strangers by Jennine Capó Crucet and The Idiot by Elif Batuman. And I can't stop raving about The Final Revival of Opal and Nev by Dawnie Walton, which needs to be adapted into a prestige TV series.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Mostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett--for the cover (that flamingo!) and the content, which is marvelous.

Book you hid from your parents:

My parents are both big readers. They let me read whatever I wanted and encouraged me to borrow books from their shelves. There was one exception, though: American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis. Once, when I was maybe 13, I took it, thinking it looked interesting, and my mom freaked out and confiscated it. She told me I could read it when I was older, and we had a big fight about it. I remember trying to steal it back from her a couple of times until finally she hid it from me. After that, I kind of lost interest and to this day I've never read it.

Book that changed your life:

Curtis Sittenfeld's Prep was one of the first adult literary novels I read outside of school, and it made me want to be a writer. She remains one of my favorite authors.

Favorite line from a book:

"In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move." --Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

Five books you'll never part with:

I hold a special place in my heart for books that have made me cry, TikTok teen-style: The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai, The Five Wounds by Kirstin Valdez Quade, The Angel of History by Rabih Alameddine, Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward, The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth and Fun Home by Alison Bechdel. (I know that's six; a lot of books have made me weep.)

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

I'm a sucker for love stories, mysteries and books about books, and A.S. Byatt's Possession is all three. Spellbound, I read it in a single sitting.


Book Review

Review: Sinkhole: A Legacy of Suicide

Sinkhole: A Legacy of Suicide by Juliet Patterson (Milkweed Editions, $25 hardcover, 272p., 9781571311764, September 13, 2022)

Shortly after her 77-year-old father hanged himself from a bridge near his home in St. Paul, Minn., Juliet Patterson embarked on a quest to unearth the source and meaning of that event, as well as the deaths of both of her grandfathers, also by their own hand. The result is Sinkhole: A Legacy of Suicide, a spare, sensitive evocation of Patterson's experience of grief, paired with an insightful work of family and regional history.

As if the death of her father on December 17, 2008, weren't a sufficient blow, a mere week later, Patterson suffered painful soft tissue injuries in an automobile accident. Though her father left behind three binders that demonstrated he "methodically prepared for his death," Patterson struggled to discover any motive for the act by a man who seems to have been an enigma to her throughout his life. A progressive heart condition and the disastrous results of some risky investments that collapsed in the 2008 financial crisis provided plausible, but ultimately unsatisfying, explanations.

Following her father's death, Patterson made numerous trips to the small southeast Kansas town of Pittsburg, where her parents grew up and met. It was there that her paternal grandfather, Edward White Patterson, who served two terms in Congress as a New Deal Democrat in the late 1930s, shot himself in 1940, and her maternal grandfather, William McCluskey, only recently retired in 1967, drowned himself in a lake after slashing his wrists.

Patterson's attempts to explain their acts are no more definitive than the ones she offers for her father's death. Not content to limit herself to these tragic family stories, Patterson also explores the social and economic history of Pittsburg and its environs. The area once was home to an extensive coal mining industry whose environmental legacy includes the phenomenon that provides the book's title.

More than 47,500 Americans die by suicide each year, and the rate of suicide increased by 33% between 1999 and 2019, so the problem of suicide has become an urgent one for psychologists and others in the field of mental health. Patterson dips into some of this scientific research, especially the work of Edwin Shneidman, a psychologist she credits as one of the co-founders of contemporary suicidology, who wrote an influential book based upon his study of hundreds of suicide notes like the one her father composed.

Patterson previously published two collections of poetry, but this is her first prose work. The poet's sensibility is evident in these pages, as she excavates her own raw emotions alongside passages of clear-eyed journalism and creative nonfiction. Sinkhole is a painfully honest and sobering work that may provide insight and comfort to those facing a similar tragedy. --Harvey Freedenberg, freelance reviewer

Shelf Talker: A daughter brings a poet's sensibility in her attempt to solve the mystery of suicide that has darkened two generations of her family.


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: The True Spirit of #AntiPrimeDay

This week, in the middle of the dismal summer online retail blitz that is Amazon Prime Day(s), Twitter wags were out in force ("My heart goes out to those who couldn't spend Amazon Prime Day with their family or loved ones." And: "Sad that Amazon Prime Day has become all about buying stuff."). But it's no laughing matter for independent bookstores, and booksellers made sure their #AntiPrimeDay message was heard this week on social media. Among the highlights: 

At Pearl Street Books, La Crosse, Wisc.

IndieBound: "This Prime Day and every day, remember: Amazon has monopoly power. It devalues books and harms communities. Support local businesses, including your indie bookstore, and keep the magic in your hometown."

Parnassus Books, Nashville, Tenn.: "Friends, it's that time of year again. Amazon is marketing 'epic deals' on July 12 and 13, but the #BoxedOut campaign is back to talk about what's really important and to shed some light on why Amazon is able to offer those deals.... Choose bookstores and small businesses, run by real people making connections and providing places for our communities to gather to appreciate the written word."

Wishing Tree Books, Spokane, Wash.: "A certain online mega-retailer owned by the 2nd richest person on earth is promoting some 'epic deals' in the next couple days, but those savings in the moment have a bigger cost down the line--to workers, small businesses, local economies, and the environment. We urge you to #shopindie.... Choose local shops & put your $$ back into your community. We appreciate you!"

Raven Book Store, Lawrence, Kan.: "Happy Prime Day, remember that Amazon supports the politicians that are overturning abortion access."

Fact and Fiction Books, Missoula, Mont.: "Because we live in Missoula, work in Missoula, and pay taxes in Missoula. Because we are more about decolonization than colonizing the moon. Because humans give better reading recommendations than robots." 

Good Neighbor Bookstore, Lakewood, N.Y.: "While you may feel like you are getting a great deal, the cost that we are all paying is the continued destruction of our small business communities. And not just the business community. But... the community as a whole. For every business Amazon destroys, it is one less business that is donating to your organization, sponsoring a local youth sports team, paying taxes that stay within our county, the list goes on."

Pagination Bookshop, Springfield, Mo.: "People, not algorithms. Spaces. Shelves. Browsing with other booklovers. Surprise connections. Personal recommendations. Neighbors supporting neighbors. Communities with personality. Gatherings. Curated gifting. Shane's Beatles sunglasses. Shopping local matters!!! It matters to us so, so much. Don't let indie bookstores get #boxedout by A*****, who will never have a spirited conversation with you about that ending or a strong opinion about the next fantasy novel you absolutely need to read right now or where you should definitely go for lunch after this." 

Kramers, Washington D.C.: "How do we say this 'politely': eff amaz*n. Characterless corporate conglomerates can never take the place of small bookstores, with real people, who care about you and what you're reading. Bookshop.org is fighting the good fight against amaz*n, offering free shipping all day (available on kramers website)." 

Underground Books, Carrollton, Ga.: "Things you can do with Amazon--find a cheap copy fast. Things you CAN'T DO: you can't impress a date, go to author events, explore with your kids, show out-of-town guests, form lifelong memories, or grow up with Amazon--but you can with your local indie, and we need and appreciate your support so much."

Shop Around the Corner Books, Redding, Calif.: "There's a lot of talk on here about Prime Day--here's my take: shopping local is best, Amazon isn't evil, buying books from a brick and mortar shop is more fun, small business owners work hard to bring you an experience and a product that the internet cannot, sometimes small business rely on web sales and we can all do better at purchasing responsibly!"

Curious Iguana, Frederick, Md.: "Surprise! We are giving away random gift cards for anti-prime day! Make a purchase at the Iguana for a chance to win."

Subterranean Books, St. Louis, Mo.: "Today we're all boxed in with new stock, so you can #boxout Prime Day! It's a perfect day to show love and support for independent bookstores because we believe in: Real people who love books selling and recommending books. Sales revenues that go back into the community. Promotion of literacy and community building."

Loganberry Books, Shaker Heights, Ohio: "On Am*z*n Prime Day--and every other day--indie bookstores offer something you can't find in mega corporations. Thank you so much for supporting us however you can. We are here because you keep us here."

Loyalty Books, Washington, D.C. & Silver Spring, Md.: "Oh, is something going on in these internet streets today? Rather than contribute to our collective oppression we suggest getting an awesome shirt from our Bonfire, shopping with us directly or from our Bookshop page (free shipping Tues/Wed this week!) and continuing to be the awesome neighbors and community members you are no matter what your funds look like right now. We heart you. Happy indie day, everyday."

Novel Bay Booksellers, Sturgeon Bay, Wisc.: "Your local bookstore beckons: open a book, sink into a comfy chair and read, OR browse, touching covers, pages, dreamy, OR happily/maybe seriously chat books with us & other booklovers. However you visit, we appreciate that you are in a real bookstore, shopping local and supporting community. #antiprime"

--Robert Gray, contributing editor

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