Shelf Awareness for Friday, August 12, 2022

Atria Books: The Silence in Her Eyes by Armando Lucas Correa

Labyrinth Road: Plan A by Deb Caletti

Harper Muse: Unsinkable by Jenni L. Walsh

Mariner Books: Everyone on This Train Is a Suspect by Benjamin Stevenson

S&s/ Marysue Rucci Books: The Storm We Made by Vanessa Chan

W by Wattpad Books: Night Shift by Annie Crown

Shadow Mountain: Under the Java Moon: A Novel of World War II by Heather B. Moore

Quotation of the Day

Richard Howorth: 'American Literature Loses Out to Consolidation'

"What I have seen as a bookseller is that publishing, originally geared toward offering new writers the chance to connect with readers, evermore trends toward an industry narrowly engineered to produce repeat best sellers. The immense resources of a Penguin Random House or a Simon & Schuster will train mostly on a small percentage of its authors; the rest of the authors whom they publish will hope to take advantage of what collateral prestige and opportunity exists by being published in the company of household names...

Richard Howorth

"I hesitate to speak critically of Penguin Random House. After all, William Faulkner, published almost entirely by Random House, is a longtime resident of Oxford, Mississippi--where I live--and Penguin Random House published my wife's novel, Summerlings, for heaven's sake, so of course our store does business with it. And a whole lot of business it is. Penguin Random House, even without including Simon & Schuster, has a larger share of our business than all of Square Books' other accounts--combined.

But how would readers ever have discovered Larry Brown, another fine writer--who, like Faulkner, was a resident of Lafayette County--if he hadn't been discovered by a brilliant editor, Shannon Ravenel, at a small outfit, Algonquin, having enjoyed little or no interest from the biggies? Or Kiese Laymon, whose first two books originated with a tiny publisher, or Lee Durkee, who lives in Oxford and whose recent novel The Last Taxi Driver was published by the independent press Tin House?"

--Richard Howorth, co-owner of Square Books, Oxford, Miss., and a former American Booksellers Association president in a New York Times opinion piece "American Literature Loses Out to Consolidation"

Flatiron Books: Anita de Monte Laughs Last by Xochitl Gonzalez


NAIBA Annual Meeting: Good News Abounds

Yesterday's New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association annual meeting was full of good news about members and the association, which was all the more striking after several years of the Covid pandemic.

Past president Bill Reilly of the river's end bookstore, Oswego, N.Y., who chaired much of the meeting, noted that this is the 25th anniversary of the founding of NAIBA, which came with the merger of the Mid-Atlantic and New York/New Jersey booksellers associations. He praised NAIBA's many accomplishments since then, including creating the booksellers professional certification program, doing publicity speed dating events, hosting a range of bookseller retreats, hosting dinners at the ABA institutes, hosting social meetings and gatherings throughout the region, hosting publisher rep/editor picks, and more.

As for the past year, executive director Eileen Dengler noted that the bookseller professional certification program has been spun off to be an independent entity. To date, some 203 booksellers have taken courses, and 129 have received certifications in those classes. The next series of classes starts September 12, with registration opening this coming Monday. (Dengler was proud to say that the program has its "very first fully certified professional bookseller," who happens to be Kit Little, NAIBA's executive administrator.)

Among other accomplishments in the past year, Dengler said, NAIBA hosted two virtual conferences with SIBA and moved New Voices, New Rooms to the summer to coincide with the holiday buying season; added a spring print catalogue; revamped the book of the year award schedule to make it a calendar-year program; hosted several events in person for the first time in a while; and continued the weekly pick of the list program, which is becoming monthly.

Financially NAIBA is "doing quite well," Erin Matthews of the Last Word, Mt. Airy, Md., said during the treasurer's report. The association's current assets in the bank amount to $747,479, and while the projected budget shows a deficit, the board expects NAIBA to "come out a bit ahead." Matthews noted that the board has been making investments, including giving $55,000 to the professional booksellers school, hiring member relations coordinator Elliott batTzedek, funding a mentorship program and added diversity scholarships for Winter Institute and Children's Institute. She added: "We're in very good position financially and are looking to use that position to further benefit members however we can."

NAIBA's membership has jumped in a year, to 246 bookstore members from 178 a year earlier (an increase of 38.2%), said Veronica Liu of Word Up Community Bookshop/Librería Comunitaria, New York, N.Y., chair of the membership committee. There are also some 85 publisher members.

Reilly welcomed two new board members: Amanda Toronto of WORD Bookstores, Brooklyn, N.Y., and Jersey City, N.J.; and Carolyn Godavitarne of Politics & Prose, Washington, D.C.

Britannica Books: Britannica's Encyclopedia Infographica: 1,000s of Facts & Figures--About Earth, Space, Animals, the Body, Technology & More--Revealed in Pictures by Valentina D'Efilippo, Andrew Pettie, and Conrad Quilty-Harper

ABA Unveils Fall Marketing Campaign

The American Booksellers Association has announced this year's Fall/Holiday shopping campaign: "Good books come to those who shop early!" 

Marketing materials for the campaign are live on, and the ABA has put together recommended messaging for newsletters and social media. The association plans to release more material, including videos, printables and graphics, on a rolling basis through the month of October.

"Given continual national supply chain issues, communicating to your customers to shop early and shop local is even more imperative than the last two years," the ABA said in Bookselling This Week. "Whether that is purchasing pre-orders for this season's most anticipated releases or shopping the shelves currently at your store, shopping early for your customers means avoiding out-of-stock books!"

The ABA is also looking for suggestions for a gender-neutral name for a new indie bookstore cat mascot. Booksellers can submit suggestions up until Wednesday, August 31, and the winning name will be decided via a poll in a future BTW issue.

A Holiday Marketing Campaign guide is also available on

GLOW: Carolrhoda Books: Pangu's Shadow by Karen Bao

New Voices, New Rooms: Big Ideas for Little Readers

"The power of slowing down" was the theme moderator Kirsten Hess, owner of Let's Play Books in Emmaus, Pa., identified as the thread connecting the four picture books featured at the author breakfast on the second day of NAIBA/SIBA's NVNR programming.

For Desiree Cooper, the inspiration for Nothing Special (Wayne State Univ. Press, Oct. 4), was her children's annual summer visit from their Detroit home to their grandparents' home in Virginia. "There's a special connection Black families maintain since the Great Migration," Cooper said. Though many Blacks left the South to seek more opportunities, they return to visit their families, and the boy at the center of Nothing Special loves his time with PopPop--crabbing, shucking corn and playing in the backyard. To him, it's very special. Cooper said her father died in 2020, but the likeness of him depicted in the art by Bec Sloane keeps his memory alive.

Clockwise from top left: Constance Lombardo, Kate DiCamillo, Karina Nicole Gonzalez, moderator Kirsten Hess, Helen and Thomas Docherty, Desiree Cooper. 

Karina Nicole Gonzalez's work as a bilingual speech pathologist for K-8 students at a Brooklyn school taught her "the magic of picture books." She noticed not only the bonding that happens between a parent and child through picture books, but also the way it communicates to the adult reading to the child. Gonzalez's debut, The Coquíes Still Sing, illustrated by Krystal Quiles (Roaring Brook, Aug. 23; also available in a Spanish-language edition, translated by Amparo Ortiz), captures the devastation that Hurricane Maria wreaked on Puerto Rico in 2017, leaving Gonzalez's grandmother without power for six months, and without potable water for three months. Hess said that when people come to her bookstore and ask if children are ready for such challenging topics, she replies, "If a child can experience it, then another child can read about it."

And speaking of the magic of picture books: author Helen Docherty first met her husband, illustrator Thomas Docherty, at a pub and they bonded over a picture book. Their new collaboration, Blue Baboon Finds Her Tune (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, Sept. 6), stars a hero who's a bit out of synch with the animals she meets, playing a bassoon off key and finally meeting a green baboon who's also out of tune. (The book that brought them together? Russell Hoban's How Tom Beat Captain Najork and His Hired Sportsmen, illus. by Queintin Blake.)

The Dochertys' wasn't the only love story: Constance Lombardo's Tiny Spoon Vs. Little Fork, illus. by Dan Abdo and Jason Patterson (Hippo Park, Oct. 18) starts with a rivalry between Tiny Spoon and Tiny Fork on the toddler's tray (or airborne, once the toddler sets them in flight), but they wind up allies in the end. Lombardo lauded the sequential art by comics creators Dan Abdo and Jason Patterson, and Hippo Park has supplied a downloadable activity placemat while readers wait for the book to appear.

"Mercy is always on my mind," Kate DiCamillo confessed, when Hess asked what prompted A Very Mercy Christmas (Candlewick, Sept. 27), the latest book featuring the "porcine wonder" Mercy Watson. "All you have to do is think of a situation. Neighborhood kids. Caroling every year. Everyone coming together in a haphazard way." DiCamillo also lauded her longtime collaborator, Chris Van Dusen, for hitting just the right notes in his artwork (even if Stella, Mercy, the cat and the horse do not). She showed a spread of the quartet staring up at the stars, allowing the audience to take a pause and appreciate a shared moment. --Jennifer M. Brown

Soho Crime: My Favorite Scar by Nicolás Ferraro, translated by Mallory Craig-Kuhn

Obituary Note: Janice Bluestein Longone

Janice Bluestein Longone

Janice Bluestein Longone, the antiquarian bookseller who "gathered thousands of cookbooks and other relics of the American kitchen" over the course of her long career, died on August 3, the Washington Post reported. She was 89.

For decades, Longone ran the Wine and Food Library, a bookstore she founded in 1972, from her home in Ann Arbor, Mich. Over time she assembled an archive of cookbooks and culinary ephemera "that is revered among chefs, scholars and gourmands as an unparalleled repository of culinary history." She kept books for sale in the basement and displayed her personal collection in the living room.

Before long, the Wine and Food Library attracted "a devoted coterie of mail-order clients as well as cooking aficionados who detoured great distances to peruse her teeming shelves." Prices ranged from $10 to $8,000, and Longone told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the most sought-after book was Betty Crocker's Picture Cook Book, the bestselling cookbook in American history. She attributed the volume of requests to "nostalgia."

Bonnie Slotnick, owner of Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks in New York City, called Longone the "doyenne of American cookbook dealers," adding that she didn't know "if there is anybody else who is around today who could come anywhere near her."

Longone told the Newhouse News Service that her "vision is to create the best collection in the world for the study of American culinary history, and to have it catalogued properly for the use of historians."

Today Longone's collection--the Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive--resides at the University of Michigan and contains "more than 20,000 cookbooks, menus, pamphlets, labels, posters and product advertisements." While the collection included cookbooks and other items from the 18th century to the 21st, it "was most robust in its holdings from the 19th and early 20th century."

Perhaps the rarest book in her collection was the only known copy of A Domestic Cook Book, written by Malinda Russell in 1866. Longone considered it "the earliest unequivocally Black-authored American work devoted solely to cookery." She also had a copy of the Jewish Cookery Book from 1871 that is "generally believed to be the first Jewish cookbook published in the United States."

Discussing her collection with the Detroit Free Press, Longone said, "It's me. It's who I am. It's not just a profession or a hobby."


Image of the Day: Anthony Marra at Book Passage

Book Passage, Corte Madera, Calif., hosted Anthony Marra (l.) for a discussion of his new novel, Mercury Pictures Presents (Hogarth), with Stanford Creative Writing Professor and author Adam Johnson (Fortune Smiles; The Orphan Master's Son). The in-person event was also livestreamed.


Bookstore Display: Behind the Scenes at BookPeople

BookPeople in Austin, Tex., shared this fast-motion video documenting the construction of a book display:

"Ever wonder how much work goes into making a display? More than shown here! Weeks of title curation, sign painting, accessory finding, cube wrapping, and concept planning!"

Books & Authors

Reading with... Naseem Jamnia

photo: Jeramie Lu

Naseem Jamnia (they/them) is a Persian-Chicagoan, former scientist and fiction MFA graduate from the University of Nevada, Reno. Their work has appeared in the Washington Post, Bitch Media, Cosmopolitan, the Rumpus, the Writer's Chronicle and elsewhere. Jamnia received fellowships from Lambda Literary and Otherwise and was named the inaugural Samuel R. Delany Fellow. Jamnia is the managing editor at Sword & Kettle Press. Their debut novella, The Bruising of Qilwa (Tachyon, August 9, 2022), explores questions of identity and belonging in a nuanced medical mystery.

Handsell readers your book in 25 words or less:

Queernormative, Persian-inspired secondary world--starring an aroace, nonbinary, blood magic-wielding refugee healer--about migration, medical racism, medical ethics and colonialism, centered around found family.

On your nightstand now:

At the time of writing this, it is Portrait of a Thief by Grace D. Li, an incredible meditation on colonialism, differences in diasporic experiences, being a child to immigrants, the Ivy Plus atmosphere and the Western gaze. I'm obviously not Chinese, but I do come from an Asian culture with a fraught history of imperialism and colonization. And I'm also a child of immigrants with complex diaspora feelings, who went to Ivy Plus schools--so the contents hit home in many ways.

Favorite book when you were a child:

There are many I could shout out, but I'll go with Tamora Pierce's Song of the Lioness quartet. More than any of her other books (and I've read all of them), Alanna's story has stuck with me all these years. It was the closest representation of my gender I saw for years; I didn't have the language of "nonbinary" until my 20s, but I'd always felt Alanna's struggles with her own gender were somewhat analogous to mine.

Your top five authors:

N.K. Jemisin is a maker and shaker. She is a legend. She writes masterpieces. She has forever changed speculative fiction.

Kazuo Ishiguro has been my favorite author since I first read The Remains of the Day in high school (it's the most perfect book ever written). His language is exquisite, and his stories are quiet and thoughtful--my favorite kinds.

S.A. Chakraborty is not only an all-around great person but also a fabulous writer. I fell in love with the world of Daevabad immediately--seeing my culture portrayed on the page so thoughtfully was amazing! I wish I had a fraction of her knowledge.

Charlie Jane Anders is one of the best humans I know, but Even Greater Mistakes demonstrates to me that she's also one of the best authors I've read. She's a powerhouse who has shaped and will continue to shape queer and speculative literature.

This is 100% cheating because the books aren't out yet, but Terry J. Benton-Walker is one of my closest friends and writes incredible books. His debut YA, Blood Debts, is full of love and compassion and justice. His debut middle grade, Alex Wise vs. the End of the World, will make so many kids feel seen.

Book you've faked reading:

Gosh, I was that kid in English class who consistently read everything that was assigned, but in my MFA I finally cheated and did not actually finish Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse. I had to read it in my Intro to Graduate Studies class; I was super overwhelmed with things, so I read some of it and, for the first time, used SparkNotes for the rest. I did not have it in me to blast through it on top of reading Moby-Dick for my fiction workshop. (Sorry, Dan!)

Book you're an evangelist for:

Have you heard the gospel of The Actual Star by Monica Byrne? I've gifted three or four copies of this book by now. It's a revelation. Three timelines, each set a thousand years after the next, with a tighter narrative than Cloud Atlas and a post-climate-collapse future that is hopeful and expansive societally, economically, socially and culturally. I'm amazed this book has not been on every awards list. It's truly a marvel on every level.

Book you've bought for the cover:

I bought the U.K. editions of the Blood Heir trilogy by Amélie Wen Zhao, because I am in love with those covers. This feels like a fake answer because Amélie is a friend of mine, so I would have bought copies of her books anyway, but I could not resist the Goldsboro sprayed-edge editions.

Book you hid from your parents:

I don't remember how old I was when I got Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume from the library, but I do remember acutely knowing that I could not, under any circumstances, let my parents know the contents of this book. Unfortunately, my parents did find out and made me return it, so I never finished it. (Very fortunately, they have grown with me as people and parents and, I think, would handle this very differently now.)

Book that changed your life:

Though it had been recommended to me before this, I didn't pick up Jemisin's The Fifth Season until after I'd quit my Ph.D. program and moved to Reno. I was working on a project that I'd been picking at for a few years, but it wasn't coming together. The Fifth Season not only unlocked that project for me (this became my MFA thesis novel, which later inspired The Bruising of Qilwa, which is set in that same universe) but also showed me what speculative fiction--indeed, what all fiction--could be. I've always loved English class, because literary analysis makes books come alive in a whole new way for me; reading The Fifth Season showed me that books across genres can be master classes in literature, worthy of such analyses. I was stunned by Jemisin's point-of-view choices, braided narrative, time jumps, character designs, worldbuilding--every word in that book is utter perfection. It fundamentally changed how I approach writing.

Favorite line from a book:

"Indeed--why should I not admit it?--in that very moment, my heart was breaking." --Kazuo Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day

Five books you'll never part with:

Because I already waxed poetic about The Fifth Season and chose a quote from The Remains of the Day, I'm going to list five other books in the interest of ~diversity~ in my answers.

So You Want to Be a Robot by Merc Fenn Wolfmoor--an exquisite short fiction collection by one of the most revolutionary authors I've ever read.

She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan--holy cannoli on a ravioli, Batman, I hope one day I can write a historical speculative fiction of Iran like this.

The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi--the book I first saw myself in, at age 21.

Borderlands/La Frontera by Gloria Anzaldúa--a stunning examination of liminal spaces of identity.

Craft in the Real World by Matthew Salesses--a redefinition of craft and validation of the experience of being a marginalized person in writing workshops.

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

It took me a while to realize the answer here: The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson. It's exquisite on the line level and in its larger scope; how does someone make accounting so tense? I'm in awe of every line: "This is the truth. You will know because it hurts." AND IT HURTS A LOT!

Book Review

Review: Curing Season: Artifacts

Curing Season: Artifacts by Kristine Langley Mahler (West Virginia University Press, $21.99 paperback, 192p., 9781952271656, October 1, 2022)

Kristine Langley Mahler's Curing Season: Artifacts is an essay collection selected for West Virginia University Press's In Place series, which features strongly place-based literary nonfiction. In these often experimental essays, Mahler considers a brief but powerful part of her youth spent in eastern North Carolina: four years of preadolescence in which the young Mahler struggled with feeling that she didn't belong. While this is arguably a universal preadolescent experience, Mahler's story is indelibly linked to the community in which she lived, made and lost friends and attended school.

In Pitt County, N.C., the author encounters matters of race and class for the first time. The profitable sale of her family's home in Oregon has enabled them to enter a prosperous suburb where her neighbors attend cotillion. White children, like Mahler, who go to public school are bussed into a majority-Black part of town as part of 1990s desegregation efforts. Her neighbors' families seem to all rely on generational relationships to the place. She feels her outsider status at every turn. Also characterizing Mahler's experience are difficult preadolescent friendships, including the "mean girl" type, and one relationship in particular: Mahler's best friend Annie, long estranged and eventually deceased. By the end of Curing Season, the troubled, dead friend haunts the author as much as the place does.

While some essays use relatively straightforward narrative storytelling, others are fragmented, rely on images or borrow forms from other works. There are list essays and hermit crab essays based on dictionary entries and proposals for project fundings; Mahler explores astrology, references Joan Didion's famous rational detachment and borrows lines from Margaret Atwood's Cat's Eye and the local history Chronicles of Pitt County. "I grafted my history onto theirs; I twisted the lessons until I could wring out similarities between my past and theirs; I removed and imprinted my history on top of theirs until I could not tell the difference between their truth and mine." In blending Mahler's experiences with those of Pitt County, she digs into the very nature of truth and memory. The author of these formally inventive essays is forever circling both the specific place and the experience of feeling disconnected and othered. "I have returned a hundred times; I have never come home." She remains preoccupied, even obsessed, decades after leaving, still trying to belong or gain a greater understanding of what didn't work.

The title Curing Season: Artifacts refers to the tobacco-curing season in Pitt County and to both literal and figurative acts of excavation. Mahler's investigative ponderings on belonging, displacement and a sense of home are both specific to place and universally familiar. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Shelf Talker: These experimental essays about place, home and the failed effort to belong are closely tied to Eastern North Carolina, but will resonate everywhere.

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