Shelf Awareness for Friday, March 1, 2024

William Morrow & Company: Death of the Author by Nnedi Okorafor

St. Martin's Press: Disney High: The Untold Story of the Rise and Fall of Disney Channel's Tween Empire

Running Press Adult: Scam Goddess: Lessons from a Life of Cons, Grifts, and Schemes by Laci Mosley

Graphix: 39 Clues: One False Note (39 Clues Graphic Novel #2) by Gordon Korman, Illustrated by Hannah Templer

Running Press: Enter For a Chance to Win a Moonlit Explorer Pack!

Quill Tree Books: The Firelight Apprentice by Bree Paulsen


Liz's Book Bar Opening in Brooklyn, N.Y., in June

This summer, author Maura Cheeks (Acts of Forgiveness) will open Liz's Book Bar in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Located at 315 Smith St. in Brooklyn's Carroll Gardens neighborhood, the 1,500-square-foot bookstore and bar will sell a general-interest inventory of mostly adult books alongside beer, wine, and coffee.

Cheeks plans to carry a "pretty strong selection of classics" and, within that, an emphasis on fiction and nonfiction by Black authors that have been overlooked. She intends to give them "the attention they deserve."

"I'm of the belief, 'the more bookstores, the better'," Cheeks said. "And I believe Black-owned bookstores in particular serve an important role in ensuring we acknowledge and remember our nation's complicated past."

Maura Cheeks outside the future home of Liz's Book Bar in Brooklyn.

She's planning to have an opening inventory of about 4,000 titles, and while most of them will be adult books, there will be a small assortment of books for children and teens. At opening, all of the stock will be new books, but Cheeks is considering incorporating used titles in the future. As for nonbook items the store might carry, Cheeks said she'll likely stock a small selection of things like coffee beans and honey.

Cheeks described her event plans as mostly falling into two broad categories. The first she called "interesting creative conversations," which would see creatives from all different fields talking to each other, such as "writers talking to painters talking to musicians." 

The other category, she said, will be part of an attempt to "democratize education," and what Cheeks has in mind for these events is something akin to the "courses in literature departments" at colleges and universities. Some may consist of a single event, while others may include multiple events held over the course of a few weeks. Through these events, she hopes to give community members a chance to make use of resources to which they may not otherwise have access.

Cheeks named the store in honor of her grandmother. Cheeks grew up going to bookstores with her, and those trips fostered a love of bookstores, reading, and writing, she explained. "She is why I love reading and became an author."

Opening a bookstore of her own, and specifically a bookstore and coffee shop, has "always been something I've wanted to pursue," Cheeks said. She has long envisioned a place "where people can sit and talk to one another," and where community members can connect with each other and pursue their interests.

On the subject of her writing career, Cheeks remarked that she's "always been" a writer, but it was in 2018 that she left a full-time job to start "pursuing writing more seriously." Since 2021, she's been able to write full-time, and it began to feel like the "right time" to pursue her bookstore dream. In June 2023, she began looking for a space "pretty seriously."

She found the bookstore's future home via serendipity, while on a walk through her neighborhood. She saw a for-rent sign on a building, and from then on it was "just good vibes." She described the storefront as one long space, in which the bar and bookstore sides of the business will be intermingled.

To learn the ropes of running both a bookstore and a bar, Cheeks worked for nearly a year at Book Club Bar in the East Village. Book Club Bar owners Erin Neary and Nat Esten showed her the ins and outs of the business, and were "amazing mentors to me," Cheeks recalled.

Prior to the store's public opening this summer, Cheeks plans to host a pre-opening happy hour for community members. On the topic of her community, Cheeks said she "didn't expect the outpouring of positive responses I've received so far." She put a sign in the window featuring the store's website and Instagram handle, and she's received plenty of "excited messages from people looking forward to the store." --Alex Mutter

Zest Books: The Gender Binary Is a Big Lie: Infinite Identities around the World by Lee Wind

Honest Dog Books, Bayfield, Wis., Expanding

Honest Dog Books, a new and used bookstore in Bayfield, Wis., is expanding for the third time since owner Julie Buckles bought the store in 2019, with new space to be used for books, a children's reading area, and special events, the Ashland Daily Press reported. 

"I get more excited about the store every year," said Buckles. "I bought the store with very little idea of the work it takes to run a store. So everything is still fresh and new and I'm still learning."

After purchasing the original shop, which at the time sold only used books, in September of 2019, Buckles endured a slow winter, followed by the pandemic, forcing the physical store to close. "I was staring at 13,000 books with no means of selling them," she said. 

While still holding down a full-time job as communications director at Northland College, Buckles and store manager Erin Schlager pivoted quickly to finding a way to sell books online with the creation of a "SurpriseMe!" option--answer three questions about books you enjoy reading, send in $10, and receive a book based on your reading preferences. This has evolved into a successful pick-of-the-month club, with a variety of subscription options featuring both new and used books.

In 2021, Honest Dog Books partnered with Wisconsin musher and author Blair Braverman and her husband, Quince Mountain, for the release of their book Dogs on the Trail. The bookshop became the primary spot to preorder the popular title, which created a new challenge: Where would a tiny bookstore receive thousands of new books and ship them out?

Buckles rented a nearby unit featuring a garage door and a large open space with room for shipping tables. She made the commitment to lease the space for a year, which led in 2022 to the opening of the Dog House, offering rare books and a space for vinyl. 

She then retired from her Northland College job to devote herself to the store. "It was becoming clear that I couldn't do both, so I happily became a full-time bookseller," she said.

This winter, when another large space off the courtyard behind the main store became available, Buckles rented what she calls "the Third Space," which will be devoted to books and a children's reading area with space for author events. She drew inspiration from a recent family trip to Mexico City, where she was entranced by the many bookstores that featured open-air spaces.

"I'm an author, adventurer, journalist, communicator and I love the written word," Buckles said. "There's nothing better I could be doing with my life experiences."

GLOW: Flatiron Books: Private Rites by Julia Armfield

Grand Opening for Alexandria on Main Bookstore in Elkins, W.Va.

Alexandria on Main, a bookstore and event center selling new and used books, will host a grand opening celebration Saturday, March 2 at 119 3rd St., in Elkins, W.Va. Lootpress reported that owner Becca McCracken, "known affectionately as 'Becca the Book Lady,' brings her lifelong dream to fruition with Alexandria on Main. Inspired by her passion for literature and commitment to community enrichment, McCracken aims to create a welcoming space for book lovers of all ages."

Alexandria on Main will feature a large selection of both new and used books, with sections dedicated to West Virginia authors, local history, nature, hiking, and outdoor adventures. The bookstore plans to host events book signings, poetry slams, and author talks in its event space, the Common Chamber.

The decision to establish a bookstore in Elkins was "deliberate, as McCracken and her family were drawn to the town's charm and cultural vibrancy," Lootpress wrote. "With downtown Elkins undergoing revitalization efforts, including the opening of the Tygart Hotel and the Interact Children's Museum, Alexandria on Main adds another dimension to the town's growing cultural scene."

McCracken noted her excitement about joining "a growing city that still retains the feel of a small town," emphasizing Elkins' blend of "art, culture, and freedom of expression."

On the shop's Facebook page, McCracken wrote: "The Library of Alexandria in Egypt is famous for being a hub for community activities. Alexandria on Main will become a gathering place, a space to exchange ideas, write, read and learn. We can't wait to have you as part of our Literary Family!"

Alex Baker: Exceptional Design And Creative Services For The Publishing Industry

International Update: Nibbies' Indie Bookshop of the Year Finalists; Emigres Create 'Alternative China' in Bookstores

A record number of 77 independent bookshops across nine different regions and countries have been named regional and country finalists for Independent Bookshop of the Year at the British Book Awards (the Nibbies) this year, the Bookseller reported. The prize, which is sponsored by Gardners and supported by the Booksellers Association, celebrates bookshops at the center of local communities. See the complete list of finalists here.

Regional and country winners will be released March 12, then contend for the overall prize, which will be announced May 13 at a ceremony in London. The overall Independent Bookshop of the Year winner will also be in the running to be crowned Book Retailer of the Year. 

BA executive director Meryl Halls posted on social media: "We are so incredibly lucky to have this range and richness in our indie bookselling sector. Every one of them adds to their town center, builds readers, creates places worth visiting and enhances the cultural and social life of their community. We salute and celebrate them all!"

Tom Tivnan, managing editor at the Bookseller, commented: "One of the things that is driven home by the selection process for this award is how lucky book buyers in the UK and Ireland are as we are truly in an independent bookshop renaissance. This year's cohort is one of the strongest I have seen in my 15 years judging this award. Indies have come out of the pandemic and into a cost-of-living and business rates crises, yet still through innovation and creativity thrive as never before." 


"From Tokyo and Chiang Mai, Thailand, to Amsterdam and New York, members of the Chinese diaspora are building public lives that are forbidden in China and training themselves to be civic-minded citizens--the type of Chinese the Communist Party doesn't want them to be. They are opening Chinese bookstores, holding seminars and organizing civic groups," the New York Times reported.

Four Chinese bookstores opened in Tokyo last year. In Taiwan, Anne Jieping Zhang, a mainland-born journalist who worked in Hong Kong for two decades before leaving during the pandemic, started a bookstore in Taipei in 2022. She opened a branch in Chiang Mai, Thailand, last December and is planning to open bookshops in Tokyo and Amsterdam this year.

"I want my bookstore to be a place where Chinese all over the world can come and exchange ideas," said Zhang, whose Nowhere bookstore issues passports of the Republic of Nowhere to its valued customers, who are called citizens, not members.

Nowhere's Taipei branch held 138 events last year. The Chiang Mai branch held about 20 events in its first six weeks. Zhang said she didn't want her bookstores to be only for dissidents and young rebels, but for any Chinese person who is curious about the world.

"What matters is not what you oppose but what kind of life you desire," she said. "If the Chinese or the Chinese diaspora cannot rebuild a society in places without top-down restrictions, even if we undergo a change of regime, we definitely won't be able to lead better lives."


Romantasy, a subgenre that combines romance and fantasy, is seeing runaway success in Canada, as it is elsewhere. CBC Radio's Day 6 reported that book publishers and industry watchers are "taking note of both the genre's enormous popularity among young female readers, and the power of #BookTok, the hashtag used on TikTok to discuss books, to elevate its traditionally published writers and self-published indie authors alike."

"You're seeing the progression of our generation who love those YA books like The Hunger Games and Twilight, and now we're growing up and we are older, so the material that we want is, you know, a bit more mature," Nicola MacNaughton, co-owner of Slow Burn Books in Calgary, Alberta, told Day 6. "And the nice thing, too: you have that guaranteed happily ever after," she added. "You know that the author is going to put you through a lot. But at the end of the day, they're going to put you back together and make you whole again."

MacNaughton said she and her sister, Shannon, who opened the store less than a year ago to meet growing demand for romance books in general, have noticed in their bookstore the power of social media to fuel sales: "The nice thing about BookTok and Bookstagram is that you don't have to be traditionally published to get your book out there and to have people know about it. That's really made it a lot more democratized in the marketing of books." --Robert Gray

Obituary Note: Ken Fund

Ken Fund

Ken Fund, former COO of the Quarto Group, died February 22. He was 65. Fund joined Quarto in 1999 as president and CEO of subsidiary Rockport Publishers before heading the company's U.S. division for many years. He was appointed group COO in 2016 and joined the board as an executive director in 2018. Upon his retirement in December 2021, he remained on the board as a non-executive director. 

Fund's career began with Dino DeLaurentiis Productions in new business development before moving to Simon & Schuster Publishers as business manager in 1984. He joined Harper Collins San Francisco in 1990, rising to the position of senior v-p for adult publishing. He was a graduate of SUNY Oswego and held an MBA in finance from Pace University. 

In a tribute, Quarto noted that Fund "was a compassionate boss, valiant leader, and inspiring mentor, and felt like family to many at Quarto. Known for his business acumen and wicked sense of humor, Ken was passionate about his work and always willing to offer his opinion and guidance. Outside of work, Ken enjoyed golf, tennis, great food, and the New York Jets, and his adventurous, larger than life spirit inspired those around him to embrace life fully."

Winnie Danenbarger, senior v-p., group publishing director, said: "Ken will be hugely missed by his publishing colleagues and Quarto family. His leadership and friendship were invaluable to me and so many others at Quarto over his 24 years at the company. We are all still reeling from this tragic news. He leaves behind an incredible legacy that will live on for years to come."

Alison Goff, group CEO , Quarto added: "Ken was a huge part of the Quarto family for many years and will be greatly missed by all those who worked with him. Ken's legacy of love, compassion and generosity will live on in the hearts of those he touched. Rest in Peace, dear Ken."


Image of the Day: Ingram Celebrates Chambersburg, Pa., DC Upgrade

On Wednesday in Chambersburg, Pa., Ingram Content Group celebrated the grand opening of the newest addition to its print-on-demand distribution network. The Chambersburg facility is now Ingram's "first combined print, wholesale, and distribution center," chief logistics officer Shawn Everson said. The facility includes state-of-the-art print-on-demand capability and large-scale automation "to better meet the print and distribution needs of booksellers, librarians, and publishers." Pictured: (from l.) v-p of operations Chris Willis; Everson; Ingram chairman John Ingram; CEO and president Shawn Morin; and Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce director of membership Mark Hollar.

Bookseller Leap Day Video: One More Page Books & More

"Happy Leap Day from all of us at OMP!" One More Page Books & More, Arlington, Va., posted on Facebook, along with a brief video of staff members celebrating in a most appropriate way. "Stop in to the store today before 7 p.m. for a chance to get something from our prize cart. All you need to do is snap a picture with one of our cardboard pals set up in the store and show it to us at the register."

Cool Idea of the Day: Picture Book Club for Grown-ups

A dozen excited grown-ups took over the upstairs room at Mr. Mopps' Children's Books, Berkeley, Calif., on Sunday afternoon. Many had brought with them a children's picture book to read aloud to the group, and there was even some singing of sea shanties.

Picture Book Club is based on an idea from Chronicle editor Melissa Manlove: during the pandemic lockdown she started a Zoom version where industry professionals would meet once a week and read one another picture books for half an hour. Mr Mopp's manager Clare Doornbos discussed this idea with local picture book author Monica Wesolowska (Leo + Lea;  Elbert in the Air) who agreed to help host the event.

Doornbos explained, "The pandemic, major changes at CALIBA and the disappearance of publisher author dinners from the West Coast have made it difficult to make new kidlit connections in the San Francisco Bay Area. Some people's brains start fizzing when they read a good picture book and they just need to share it with someone else, I hope Picture Book Club for Grown Ups will bring those people together."

Personnel Changes at Little, Brown, Mulholland Books

Alyssa Persons has been promoted to assistant director of publicity, Little, Brown and Mulholland Books.

Charlotte Morrison has been promoted to senior advertising manager, Little, Brown.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Abraham Verghese on CBS Sunday Morning

CNN's Chris Wallace Show: Kara Swisher, author of Burn Book: A Tech Love Story (Simon & Schuster, $30, 9781982163891).

CBS Sunday Morning: Abraham Verghese, author of The Covenant of Water: A Novel (Grove Press, $32, 9870802162175).

TV: Neuromancer

Apple TV+ has ordered a series adaptation of the William Gibson award-winning novel Neuromancer. Variety reported that the 10-episode series is from co-creators Graham Roland (Dark Winds) and J.D. Dillard. Roland will also serve as showrunner, while Dillard will direct the pilot. Skydance Television is co-producing with Anonymous Content.

According to the official logline, the series "will follow a damaged, top-rung super-hacker named Case who is thrust into a web of digital espionage and high stakes crime with his partner Molly, a razor-girl assassin with mirrored eyes, aiming to pull a heist on a corporate dynasty with untold secrets."

"We're incredibly excited to be bringing this iconic property to Apple TV+," said Roland and Dillard in a joint statement. "Since we became friends nearly 10 years ago, we've looked for something to team up on, so this collaboration marks a dream come true. Neuromancer has inspired so much of the science fiction that's come after it and we're looking forward to bringing television audiences into Gibson's definitive 'cyberpunk' world."

Books & Authors

Awards: Inclusive Books for Children Book Prize

Winners have been named for the inaugural Inclusive Books for Children Prize, the Bookseller reported. The prize is hosted by Inclusive Books for Children, a charity founded by Marcus and Sarah Satha in 2022 that offers a website for families to help them choose books for a more inclusive bookshelf. This year's three category winners, who each receive £10,000 (about $12,615), are: 

Baby and toddler: Too Green! by Sumana Seeboruth, illustrated by Maribel Castells, which "features an ethnically diverse family and LGBTQIA+ representation," the judges said. 

Picture book: You're So Amazing! by James & Lucy Catchpole, illustrated by Karen George, which "offers disabled representation, written from an Own-Voice perspective, as well as a diverse cast."

Children's fiction: Meet the Maliks, Twin Detectives: The Cookie Culprit by Zanib Mian, illustrated by Kyan Cheng, which "features Muslim South Asian representation, an extended family and is an Own-Voices story." 

Awards judge Jeffrey Boakye said: "Being on the judging panel for the Inclusive Books for Children Awards has reminded me just how vital it is for there to be a range of voices and experiences within children's publishing. The shortlist alone provides a powerful example of how rich children's publishing can be once it welcomes a diverse breadth of narratives and perspectives. These books are joyous and celebratory, while also countering the limited perspectives that can come from dominant narratives." 

Fabia Turner, head of content at IBC, commented: "There's so much rich experience, authentic representation and pure joy to be found in the pages of these stories. Huge congratulations to the winners, the shortlisted authors and illustrators, and everyone else involved in making our 2024 awards such a great success."  

Reading with... Izzy Wasserstein

photo: Huascar Medina

Izzy Wasserstein is a queer and trans woman, educator, and the author of two poetry collections and the short story collection All the Hometowns You Can't Stay Away From. Her novella These Fragile Graces, This Fugitive Heart, just published by Tachyon, is a noir techno-thriller of fractured identity and corporate intrigue. Wasserstein shares a home with the author Nora E. Derrington and their animal companions.

Handsell readers your book in 25 words or less:

In the near future, a trans woman returns to her old commune to investigate her ex's death, but she's haunted by faces from her past.

On your nightstand now:

An ever-expanding list of books in various stages of completion. Currently that includes I Who Have Never Known Men by Jacqueline Harpman, The Bruising of Qilwa by Naseem Jamnia, and Stephen Graham Jones's Don't Fear the Reaper.

Favorite book when you were a child:

C.S. Lewis's The Silver Chair, which was my favorite of the Chronicles of Narnia books, and may have been the reason I'm still obsessed with fantasy adventuring and role-playing games.

Your top five authors:

If you ask me this on a different day, you might get different answers! But at least for today, my list includes Octavia Butler, who taught me so much about world-building and the ways that power differentials shape every community and interaction; Ursula K. Le Guin, who did more than any other author to open me up to new ways of thinking, and even when I disagree with her, she's always worth arguing with; N.K. Jemisin, whose Broken Earth trilogy begins with an audacious promise, and then finds an even more audacious way to keep it; China Miéville, who writes weird, politically complex books that haunt me; and Jorge Luis Borges, who once turned a grievance with another poet into the classic story "The Aleph"--may we all put our petty complaints to such great use!

Book you've faked reading:

James Fenimore Cooper's The Deerslayer, a book I spent weeks trying and failing to complete for an undergraduate class. In the end I ignored most of the middle of the book and flipped through the end. It did, however, lead me to Mark Twain's famous "James Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses," so at least it had one positive effect.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Arkady and Boris Strugatsky's Hard to Be a God, which is simultaneously a warning about the dangers of fascism and a critique of the Soviet government. It's strange, unsettling, and masterful, and hasn't found as wide an audience (at least in English) as it deserves.

Book you've bought for the cover:

I don't know that I've ever bought a book for its cover, since I am constantly buying more books than I have time to read, but I can say that I think I'd have bought the excellent Ink Blood Sister Scribe by Emma Törzs for its cover if I hadn't already had it on my to-read list.

Book you hid from your parents:

I don't know that I ever actually hid a book from my parents--I was a very rule-oriented kid--but I am very glad that they never paid attention to the content of the Sandman graphic novels by Neil Gaiman that I was reading.

Book that changed your life:

Ursula K. Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness. That's a book that has so much to say about gender, war, religion, and winter itself. It also has one of the best last pages in history. It re-wired my brain, and I'll always be grateful for it.

Favorite line from a book:

Asking me to pick a favorite line is like asking me to pick which of my animal companions is my favorite; spoiled for choice, I'll share a line I adore from The Left Hand of Darkness:

"I certainly wasn't happy. Happiness has to do with reason, and only reason earns it. What I was given was the thing you can't earn, and can't keep, and often don't even recognize at the time; I mean joy."

Five books you'll never part with:

Le Guin's The Dispossessed, which teaches me something new every time I read it; R.B. Lemberg's The Four Profound Weaves, which is gorgeous, meditative, and essential; Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, the first science fiction novel and still essential reading; Eavan Boland's heartbreaking, life-affirming poetry collection Outside History; and bell hooks's Teaching to Transgress,a book every teacher should (re)read.

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

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke. It's a dark academia book, a portal fantasy, and so much more. It's also one of those books where describing it can't do it justice. I'd love to experience it again for the first time.

Book you are desperate to read:

I can't ever get enough books about marginalized people who get to be as complex and messy as white men are allowed to be. If that book also has chosen families and a "there's only one bed" moment, so much better!

Book Review

Review: Nonna Maria and the Case of the Lost Treasure

Nonna Maria and the Case of the Lost Treasure by Lorenzo Carcaterra (Bantam, $28 hardcover, 288p., 9780593499214, May 7, 2024)

Lorenzo Carcaterra brings readers back to the sun-drenched Italian island of Ischia in his charming third Nonna Maria mystery, Nonna Maria and the Case of the Lost Treasure. The titular sleuth, a widow devoted to espresso, wine, and cooking elaborate meals for her family, helps her friends solve two mysteries--a treasure hunt and a threat to a friend--which turn out to be intertwined. Carcaterra (Three Dreamers) pays tribute to his grandmother, the real-life Nonna Maria, through his fictional amateur detective's clever actions and delectable cooking.

Paolo Murino, a captain in the national Carabinieri police force, has found both love and solace on Ischia after moving there from the north eight years earlier. But someone still has it out for him. Although he correctly deduces that the first two men sent to frighten him are merely decoys, Murino knows there's a target on his back. Determined not to put Nonna Maria in danger, he warns her against getting involved, but Nonna Maria is equally determined that no one will harm her friend.

At the same time, a local young woman named Rita comes to Nonna Maria with a hand-drawn map and a question. Her recently deceased grandfather, Paolino, supposedly hid a priceless treasure in the island's network of caves, and Rita wants help in finding it. Nonna Maria, of course, knows just whom to ask: two longtime smugglers known as the Pirate and the Magician, both of whom would do anything for Nonna Maria (and her cooking). Another friend, Pepe the Painter, has spent years capturing Ischia's historic Castello Aragonese through paintings and sketches. Nonna Maria enlists his help, too, since the castle is the entry point for many of the island's caves.

Like life on the island, Carcaterra's plot moves at a leisurely pace, with occasional dramatic moments (like a fender bender and a fireworks display) and plenty of delicious meals, most of them cooked by Nonna Maria. Gangsters, both local and not, play a part; the smugglers also have a trick or two (honorable or otherwise) up their sleeves. Nonna Maria, with her ever-present black tote bag, dispenses wisdom and wine to her friends, and though the dramatic tension escalates, readers can predict correctly that the narrative will end with a celebratory feast. With wry humor and a vividly realized setting, Nonna Maria's third adventure feels both cinematic and cozy--a treat for mystery lovers and Italophiles. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Shelf Talker: Lorenzo Carcaterra's charming third Nonna Maria mystery follows a treasure map, a group of gangsters bent on revenge, and a cunning local widow-cum-sleuth. 

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Canada Celebrates Freedom to Read Week 

The climate of fear is a goal of the book banner, and if we give in to that fear, we do the work of the book banners for them.

--Canadian author Robin Stevenson in a recent q&a with PEN Canada

Freedom to Read Week, an annual event that "encourages Canadians to think about and reaffirm their commitment to intellectual freedom," marked its 40th anniversary this year. The celebration, held February 18-24, was led by Library and Archives Canada, the Canadian Urban Libraries Council, and the Ontario Library Association in partnership with the Book and Periodical Council.

Michael Nyby, a public school librarian and vice-chair of the Intellectual Freedom Committee of the Canadian Federation of Library Associations, noted that from September 1, 2022, to August 31, 2023, Canadian libraries reported 118 intellectual freedom challenges, up from 55 in the previous 12-month period and 46 in the 12 months before that.

From the Winnipeg Public Library

"In fact, these 118 reports represent the highest number ever recorded in Canada in a single twelve-month period," he wrote. "That said, it is important to recognize that this number likely represents a very small portion of actual censorship efforts in Canadian libraries. It is widely believed that most difficulties encountered by libraries go unreported to library organizations. Studies by the American Library Association have resulted in an oft-cited estimate that between 82% and 97% of all library challenges go unreported, and there is no reason to believe that Canadian libraries fare any better. To that end, the data available illustrate a mere snapshot of library censorship efforts in Canada. Despite our best efforts, it is nearly impossible to know the full extent of the situation."

Founded amid an uproar against Ontario high school seniors studying Margaret Laurence's novel The Diviners, Freedom to Read Week brings authors, teachers librarians, and booksellers together to highlight "the importance of students' access to different perspectives in their school libraries and the need for schools to have (and stick to) clear policies when navigating book challenges," CBC News reported. According to Canadian librarians, recent challenges primarily involve opposition to books that deal with sexuality, 2SLGBTQ+ themes, or gender diversity. 

From the Regina Public Library

Syrian Canadian author Danny Ramadan "recalls self-censoring his writing in Syria before his arrival in Canada 10 years ago," CBC News wrote. "Now, as an advocate for LGBTQ+ refugees and an author exploring belonging, displacement and identity, he says navigating book challenges is a somewhat expected part of being published."

When an Ontario school board shadow-banned his children's title Salma Writes a Book last fall, Ramadan said he was shocked: "I expected the book to be banned in Florida. I was just extremely shocked when I found out that it was banned here, on our home turf here in Canada. It just felt dizzying." 

Students had to request the book specifically, and a librarian or teacher was required to provide "a Catholic understanding of the book" before granting any request, Ramadan noted, adding: "There is a duty of care that I have when I'm creating children's literature.... I think of the best way to offer that information to the child without causing any difficult emotions or navigating things that they might not be mature enough to navigate." Restricting the book is "telling me that my identity somehow should be hidden from children--is in a way telling me that my identity should be hidden from my own niece. It's extremely offensive to me."

A spokesperson for the board said the book has since been returned to its regular shelves, following a period of review.

While school and public libraries were the focus of much of #FTRWeek's activities, many Canadian indie booksellers also participated, including:

At Laughing Oyster Bookshop

Laughing Oyster Bookshop, Courtenay, B.C.: "Freedom to Read Week provides an opportunity for Canadians to focus on issues of intellectual freedom as they affect your community, your province or territory, our country, and countries around the world. This year marks the 40th anniversary of Freedom to Read week. What are you reading?"

Pages Book Emporium, Cranbrook, B.C.: "XX DON'T READ THESE BOOKS XX We're smack in the middle of Freedom to Read Week. This annual event reaffirms to us how important it is that we maintain the freedom to choose what we read. Have you stopped in to check out our FTRW display? It's full of titles that have been banned or challenged in Canada and internationally in the past decades. Some of the titles may surprise you and some of them may even be straight off your own favorites list."

Lake House Books, Port Stanley, Ont.: "We're celebrating Freedom to Read week here at Lake House Books. We don't shy away from topics like race, gender and equality! Rather we embrace books that will help us understand these subjects from a young age." 

Entershine Books, Thunder Bay, Ont.: "Freedom to Read Week is an annual event that encourages Canadians to think about and reaffirm their commitment to intellectual freedom. This table represents a small portion of books that have been banned or challenged. How many have you read?"

On the final day, Freedom to Read Week posted on social media: "That wraps up another great #FTRWeek! Thank you to everyone who coordinated activities, participated in events, connected on social media or started a conversation about #FreedomToRead. And a reminder that we can--and should--protect our freedom to read year-round."

--Robert Gray, contributing editor

Powered by: Xtenit