Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Chronicle Books: Stella & Marigold by Annie Barrows, Illustrated by Sophie Blackall

Poisoned Pen Press: The Boyfriend by Frieda McFadden

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


RISE Bookselling Conference: Children's Books Inclusivity; Author Manu Causse; The Portuguese Book Market

At a Sunday morning panel at the RISE Bookselling Conference taking place in Lisbon, Portugal, this week, booksellers from the U.K., Canada, and Spain discussed their experiences curating diverse and inclusive selections of children's books. Iris Hunscheid, the owner of two bookstores in Germany, moderated the discussion.

Aimée Felone, co-director and founder of Round Table Books in London, England, recalled that about five years ago, the conversation about inclusivity in publishing was beginning to get "very loud," and following George Floyd's murder in 2020, publishers rushed to acquire and publish Black voices. But four years later, the conversation about inclusivity is a "whisper," and the intention that seemed so widespread in publishing in 2020 and 2021 has all but "disappeared."

Felone noted that the publishers who were always committed to publishing diverse voices are still doing so, but finding representative titles from the big houses has become "difficult again." While the situation is broadly better than it was, "huge gaps" still remain for certain topics and age groups, and booksellers "still have to hunt."

Panelists (from left) Iris Hunscheid, Aimée Felone, Anjula Gogia, Ana Maria Stanescu

Anjula Gogia, manager and events coordinator at Another Story Bookshop in Toronto, Canada, said there were certainly "more offerings" available today than there used to be, but it's not always clear if these new children's titles are "own voices" or not. And while there have been advances with picture books and YA books specifically, she and her team "see a gap with chapter books." Very few are written by people of color, and there are "almost none" about queer topics.

Ana Maria Stanescu, co-owner of KosmoKids in Madrid, Spain, said she and her team, who are all teachers, source books first based on what customers need, and then "books that we like." There is very high demand for children's titles about neurodiversity, as well as titles about nontraditional families. She added that historically there has been hesitance and reluctance in Spain when it comes to diversity and inclusion, but "every day it's getting easier" for people to understand the importance of including "nontraditional things."

Asked about book bans, Gogia said the situation in Canada is not as drastic as in the U.S., but it is "growing" and the "backlash is coming." She mentioned the Waterloo Catholic District School Board in Ontario, which last year was revealed to have "shadow banned" children's books that feature LBGTQ characters or discuss related subjects. It is only a "very vocal" minority that is fighting for things like this, she explained, but the danger is that they are campaigning to be trustees on school boards.

Felone, meanwhile, said that in the U.K., book banning has not reached a "vocal level," but there are individual teachers and schools increasingly deciding to not engage with diverse books. Stanescu said the situation was much the same in Spain.


Manu Causse

During Sunday's afternoon keynote, author Manu Causse appeared in conversation with Raluca Selejan, co-owner of La Două Bufniţe in Timisoara, Romania. Causse discussed his lifelong love of bookshops, which he called his "home"; his career as a writer; and his experience of having his YA novel Bien Trop Petit (Way Too Small) banned in France.

Causse explained that the book had initially been marked as suitable for ages 15 and up, but a government committee reviewed it and ruled it to be unsuitable for anyone under the age of 18, meaning that booksellers had to check the IDs of anyone buying it. Causse noted that the ban effectively shined a "spotlight" on the book, and its sales increased by more than tenfold. Publishers, booksellers, and other authors also roundly criticized the ban.

In the keynote's q&a portion, a French bookseller commented that she and her colleagues were "shocked" to hear the news of the ban. She was dismayed that a "smartly written" book was banned while titles that have actually harmful messages remain on display tables and can be purchased by anyone. She remarked that Bien Trop Petit was originally in the shop's youth section, but after the ban, they were "obliged" to move it about two tables away.


Rosa Azevedo and Pedro Sobral

With a population of just over 10 million, Portugal is a relatively small book market. It publishes many titles in translation and is steadily shifting from a tradition of buying books as gifts--that aren't necessarily read--to a true reading culture, as outlined at a Sunday session featuring Pedro Sobral, president of APEL, the Portuguese publishers and booksellers association, and Rosa Azevedo, head of ReLI, the independent booksellers association.

In 2022, the Portuguese book market had sales of 175 million euros (about $190 million), which more than made up for the substantial sales drop at the beginning of the pandemic, when severe lockdowns hurt the book business in Portugal. Sobral called the sales growth "a big surprise," in part because in the decade before the pandemic book sales grew only about 1% a year.

There are nearly 300 publishers in Portugal, publishing books "in every segment you can imagination," making for "very diverse" offerings. Booksellers include four large chains, nine "multiproduct" retailers, independents, and a variety of supermarkets, which are still important for book sales. Readers overwhelming prefer printed books, and a vast majority shop at least sometimes in bricks-and-mortar stores.

Recent studies have shown that traditionally Portuguese book buyers often buy books as gifts. A study of purchasing habits showed that in 2022, 62% of Portuguese bought books but 61% of the population had not read a book that year. As Sobral said, "Reading habits have been low." However, a positive effect of the pandemic has been to boost reading for its own sake, leading more people, especially younger people, to read and begin creating "a new reading culture."

Azevedo noted that her independent bookshop association has some 60 members, and that while independent bookshops face a range of challenges--discounting by competitors, unfavorable terms, a lack of government support, and a slow economy, among them--indies are "no longer a small slice of the market." In much the same way as in the U.S., many new indie bookshops are opening. They tend to be small and have very particular focuses that reflect the passions and interests of their owners.


At the end of the conference yesterday, it was announced that next year's conference will take place in Riga, Latvia, March 23 and 24. --Alex Mutter and John Mutter

Peachtree: The Littlest Yak: Home Is Where the Herd Is by Lu Fraser, Illustrated by Kate Hindley

Ga.'s Avid Bookshop Sues County Jail over Mail Policy

Avid Bookshop, Athens, Ga., has filed a lawsuit in federal court charging that the Gwinnett County Jail's mail policy, which bars Avid from mailing books to jail residents, violates its First Amendment Rights. Gwinnett County has a population of about one million and is just northeast of Atlanta.

In May 2023, Avid said, it was approached by customers who requested that Avid mail books to an individual in the Gwinnett County Jail. The jail rejected Avid's book shipments, saying that Avid was not an "authorized retailer," which the store calls "a murky descriptor that the Jail has interpreted to preclude brick-and-mortar bookstores, such as Avid, from communicating with Gwinnett County Jail inmates by sending them books."

The jail's "authorized retailer" policy gives the jail complete discretion to decide who can mail books to jail residents, Avid continued. "This is because the policy has no criteria for designating who is an 'authorized retailer,' and no process for becoming an 'authorized retailer.' There is also no way to appeal being denied 'authorized retailer' status."

Luis Correa, operations manager at Avid, commented: "The jail's vague policies harm independent booksellers, especially small businesses like Avid Bookshop who are dedicated to bookselling as an expression of our values of progress and community. Incarcerated people have a right to books and we as independent booksellers should be able share our love of reading with them through the books we recommend and sell ourselves. What these policies amount to is unmitigated government censorship."

Philomena Polefrone, advocacy associate manager of the American Booksellers Association, added: "The decision to exclude independent bookstores from the right to send books to prisons while permitting big box retailers and Amazon is unfair and baseless. Independent bookstores must, at the very least, be given a transparent set of policies and allowed due process to become authorized vendors."

Moira Marquis, PEN America's Freewrite project senior manager, said, "Lists of approved vendors are unconstitutional prior restraints on freedom of speech. Any publisher, bookstore or other book distributor should be allowed to send books to detained and incarcerated people in accordance with the 'publisher only' rule upheld by the United States Supreme Court in Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 550-51 (1979). Allowing some publishers and vendors to send books to incarcerated people while excluding others, violates publishers' rights to free speech and equal protection as guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution."

Schuler Books Relocating, Expanding Okemos, Mich., Store

Schuler Books will relocate and expand its Okemos, Mich., bookstore, located in the Meridian Mall at 1982 W. Grand River Avenue. Schuler Books also operates bookstores in Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor, and West Bloomfield.

When Bed Bath & Beyond, which was directly across the hall, moved out, the bookstore's owners were approached by mall management with an opportunity to move into the vacated space.

The new location is a larger space, allowing for expansion of the bookstore, cafe, and the addition of a dedicated event area similar to that of the Grand Rapids location. Construction will take several months, with an anticipated move-in and opening sometime in the second half of 2024.

"We are delighted to further expand our roots in Okemos, and look forward to serving our customers in our current space until we complete the transition to our new store," Schuler Books said in a statement. "We thank the Okemos and Lansing area community for supporting our mission of connecting people with books over the past 34 years. It's due to their patronage that our independent bookstore continues to grow and thrive.

SIBA & GLIBA Set Indie Press Social for Louisville, Ky.

The Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance and the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association are hosting an Indie Press Social on Tuesday, May 21, in Louisville, Ky.

The day begins with an office tour of Sarabande Books, the Louisville nonprofit literary press that publishes poetry, fiction, and essays. The next stop is Carmichael's Bookstore's Frankfort Avenue location, where eight independent presses--Beacon Press, Europa Editions, New Directions, Other Press, Sarabande Books, Soho Press, Two Dollar Radio and Verso Books--will present on their mission and upcoming titles, followed by a q&a. The day concludes with dinner and bowling at Vernon Lanes.

Linda-Marie Barrett, executive director of SIBA, said, "Indie Press Socials create opportunities for publishers and booksellers to network and have important conversations in a more intimate, meaningful way. Ending the day with bowling and drinks at a vintage bowling alley, and perhaps a bit of friendly competition between teams of publishers and booksellers, will make this a day to remember and treasure."

Larry Law, executive director of GLIBA, said, "We usually only get to see our fellow booksellers in the south during Winter Institute and so we are thrilled to have another opportunity at the incredible Carmichael's. We are honored and thrilled by the invitation from SIBA. The convergence of indie bookselling and indie publishing is not only fun but crucial, making events like these invaluable for our organization. It is from events like these that the future of bookselling evolves."

Registration for the Indie Press Social is open to booksellers at both GLIBA's and SIBA's respective websites, with a limit of 25 attendees per regional association. For more information and to register, please visit SIBA's website or GLIBA's website.

Obituary Note: Dan Wakefield

Dan Wakefield

Dan Wakefield, "a protean and prolific journalist, novelist, screenwriter, critic and essayist who explored subjects as diverse as life in New York City in the 1950s, the American civil rights movement, the wounds that war inflicts on individuals and society, and, not least, his personal journey from religious faith to atheism and back again," died March 13, the New York Times reported. He was 91.

His death was confirmed by Will Higgins, who from 2016 to 2017 hosted a public radio show with Wakefield, Uncle Dan's Story Hour, on which Wakefield told stories about his life and career from the Red Key Tavern, an old bar in Indianapolis, his hometown. 

Wakefield, who published more than 20 books, found acclaim before he was 27 with the publication his first, Island in the City: The World of Spanish Harlem (1959). His next book, Revolt in the South (1962), explored resistance to the civil rights movement in the old Confederacy. 

In 1970, his first novel, Going All the Way, was nominated for a National Book Award, drawing praise from critics and major writers, including Gay Talese and Kurt Vonnegut. Wakefield's other novels include Starting Over (1973), Home Free (1977), Under the Apple Tree (1982), and Selling Out (1985).

In Returning: A Spiritual Journey (1988), he recounted using alcohol and drugs to fight off a "sense of blank, nameless pain in the pit of my very being." The next year, in an essay in the Times, he wrote that his way back to belief was marked by logic--he recalled a physicist asking, "Why is there something rather than nothing?"--as well as contemplation.

Wakefield lived his final years in Indianapolis, having moved back there in 2011 after living in Miami for 17 years as a writer in residence at Florida International University. He was still writing and at 90 published a biography for young adults, Kurt Vonnegut: The Making of a Writer.

"What is incredible about Dan is the experiences he had in his writing life and the number of people he called a friend, from Kurt Vonnegut to James Baldwin," Ken Bennett, his attorney, told the Indianapolis Star. "All these literary giants, he associated with them. He's written a number of books, both fiction and nonfiction, used as important refence tools for folks."

Asked to define his philosophy of life, Wakefield quoted Philo, the ancient philosopher of Alexandria, Egypt: "Be kind, for everyone you know is fighting a great battle." As for his life beyond writing, reading and reflecting, he said, "No golf, no horseshoes, no stamp-collecting, no hobbies.... No regrets."

G.L.O.W. - Galley Love of the Week
Be the first to have an advance copy!
Seriously HAPPY:
10 life-changing philosophy lessons from Stoicism to Zen to supercharge your mindset
by Ben Aldridge
illus. by Michelle Brackenborough
GLOW: Holler: Seriously HAPPY: 10 Life-Changing Philosophy Lessons from Stoicism to Zen to Supercharge Your Mindset by Ben Aldridge

Mental health matters are unpacked through philosophy and quirky challenges in Ben Aldridge's uplifting first YA title, Seriously HAPPY, which mixes personal stories and synopses of teachings from OG philosophers. Alongside Aristotle and Socrates, Aldridge includes insights from lesser-known great minds like Bao Gu, a female Chinese Taoist physician, and Nigerian philosopher Orunmila, to show readers how to be confident, decisive, and resilient. Aldridge personally "employed Stoicism and other philosophies as key strategies in overcoming severe and debilitating anxiety and panic attacks as a young man," says Holler publisher Debbie Foy, adding that Aldridge's conversational tone makes the subject matter accessible and inviting to a young adult audience. "He is clear that everyone deserves happiness in their lives but what constitutes 'happiness' is different for all of us." --Rachel Werner

(Holler, $12.99 Hardcover, ages 12-up, 9780711297807, 
September 3, 2024)


Shelf vetted, publisher supported


Image of the Day: Isabella Kamal's Launch at Banter Bookshop

Banter Bookshop in Fremont, Calif., had a great turnout to celebrate the release of debut novelist Isabella Kamal's (center, in dress) historical romance, The Temple of Persephone (Blackstone). 

Sales Floor Display: Zenith Bookstore

Zenith Bookstore, Duluth, Minn., shared a photo of the shop's "These books changed us!" sales floor display on Instagram, noting: "Zenith booksellers were asked to pick a book(s) 'that is important to you or changed your life is some way.' Check out our new store display to see what we came up with!"

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Christine Blasey Ford on Fresh Air

Fresh Air: Christine Blasey Ford, author of One Way Back: A Memoir (St. Martin's Press, $29, 9781250289650).

The View: José Andrés, author of Zaytinya: Delicious Mediterranean Dishes from Greece, Turkey, and Lebanon (Ecco, $45, 9780063327900). He will also appear on Bravo's Watch What Happens Live.

TV: Palm Royale

Palm Royale, loosely based on Juliet McDaniel's 2018 novel Mr. and Mrs. American Pie, will make its debut globally on March 20 on Apple TV+ with the first three episodes, followed by new episodes every Wednesday through May 8. 

Starring and executive produced by Kristen Wiig, the series features a strong ensemble cast that includes Laura Dern, Allison Janney, Ricky Martin, Josh Lucas, Leslie Bibb, Amber Chardae Robinson, Mindy Cohn, Julia Duffy, and Kaia Gerber. Bruce Dern and Carol Burnett guest star. 

The logline for the project: "Palm Royale is a true underdog story that follows Maxine Simmons (Wiig) as she endeavors to break into Palm Beach high society. As Maxine attempts to cross that impermeable line between the haves and the have-nots, Palm Royale asks the same question that still baffles us today: 'How much of yourself are you willing to sacrifice to get what someone else has?' Set during the powder keg year of 1969, Palm Royale is a testament to every outsider fighting for their chance to truly belong."

Produced by Apple Studios, the project is written, executive produced and showrun by Abe Sylvia for Aunt Sylvia's Moving Picture Company, executive produced by Laura Dern and Jayme Lemons for Jaywalker Pictures, Wiig, Katie O'Connell Marsh, Tate Taylor and John Norris for Wyolah Films, Sharr White, and Sheri Holman and Boat Rocker and Rock Shaink Jr. The series is directed by Taylor, Sylvia, Claire Scanlon, and Stephanie Laing.

Books & Authors

Awards: Publishing Triangle Finalists

Finalists have been chosen for the 36th annual Publishing Triangle Awards, honoring the best LGBTQ+ books published in 2023. See the many finalists here. Winners in the nine categories will be announced on Thursday, April 17, at a ceremony at the New School in New York City.

In addition, Kris Kleindienst, owner of Left Bank Books, St. Louis, Mo., will receive the 2024 Michele Karlsberg Leadership Award, which honors contributions to LGBTQ literature by those who are not primarily writers. Karlsberg praised Kleindienst's "unwavering dedication to the world of literature and social justice is an inspiration to us all. For five decades, her commitment to fostering community through the power of books has left an indelible mark on both the literary landscape and the hearts of those she serves. Kris embodies the spirit of resilience, integrity, and compassion, and her legacy at Left Bank Books stands as a testament to her profound impact. Here's to 50 years of enriching minds and empowering voices--a remarkable milestone achieved with grace, passion, and unwavering devotion."

Dorothy Allison will receive the $3,000 Bill Whitehead Award for Lifetime Achievement, which celebrates the recipient's lifetime of work and commitment to fostering queer culture. Allison is the author of numerous books, including Bastard Out of Carolina. David Groff, coordinator of the Whitehead Award selection committee, said: "As we discussed several worthy nominees for this award, the members of the committee kept coming back to Dorothy Allison. Her selection as the recipient of the award is a reflection not only of her consistent literary excellence, but of the important role she has played in the queer literary community."
Hilary Zaid is the winner of the Publishing Triangle's Betty Berzon Emerging Writer Award, given to an LGBTQ writer who has published at least one book but not more than two. She is the author of two books: Forget I Told You This: A Novel and Paper Is White. The Berzon Award judges noted that "Zaid impresses with the variety of her writing--her two novels are fiction, but in different genres, and she has published both nonfiction and short fiction," adding that they also commend her dedication to mentoring developing writers.

This year's Torchbearer Award, which is given to organizations or individuals "who strive to awaken, encourage, and support a love of reading, or to stimulate an interest in and an appreciation of LGBTQ literature" will be presented to Emily Drabinski, president of the American Library Association. Carol Rosenfeld, chair of the Publishing Triangle, said, "Today, literature is under attack, and libraries are our first line of defense. Emily Drabinski's leadership of the American Library Association and her fearlessness in standing up for the marginalized in our society are inspiring. She is truly worthy of receiving this award."

Book Review

Review: Cactus Country: A Boyhood Memoir

Cactus Country: A Boyhood Memoir by Zoë Bossiere (Abrams Press, $27 hardcover, 272p., 9781419773181, May 21, 2024)

Memoirist Zoë Bossiere writes, "I see a lone, barefooted boy with short blond hair walking along the road in Cactus Country... looking for something despite feeling uncertain it could ever be found." At age 11, Bossiere moved with their parents to a trailer park on the outskirts of Tucson, Ariz. Before leaving Virginia, Zoë gets a short haircut "like a boy's." "I'd thought I might need to go by a new name to pass as a boy in Tucson. But it quickly became apparent I was the only Zoë most people I encountered had ever met... so I kept it." Cactus Country: A Boyhood Memoir tells of living as a boy in the desert, struggling with gender, class, and a shortage of options for self-expression, and eventually taking a great leap in leaving for a wider world.

Although Bossiere's father introduced them as a daughter, they were on the whole able to make a fresh start in Cactus Country, inhabiting a long-held dream of boyhood. The version of masculinity they found in the desert is characterized by stoicism, camaraderie, and violence, as they learned from the trailer park's revolving cast of boys and men how to perform toughness through acts of cruelty and self-defense. Especially as their body entered puberty, Bossiere struggled with gender expression in a world where they never encountered the concept of transgender, and the only queer role model they met insisted on a gender binary and harbored suspicions about bisexuality. Bossiere for a spell accepted the feminine identity assigned by the outside world, without settling into a self-identity that felt right. After a troubled childhood and young adulthood, it was by studying creative writing that they eventually saw a way out of the Tucson area and into new spaces, geographic and otherwise, including the concept of genderfluidity.

Cactus Country is a wise and wonderfully crafted memoir, treating its characters and subjects with compassion in the face of assaults, addictions, dysfunction, and violence. The desert and Bossiere's experiences there are stark and severe but also include earnest attempts at connection. They must leave Cactus Country to grow and to find their truest self, but it's only by returning in memory that their journey begins to feel whole. After a childhood as harsh as the desert sun, they write tenderly about place and a past "where broken boys with sunburned faces could be beautiful, kings worthy of inheriting the place they called their home. A place where a Cactus Country boy would always be a Cactus Country boy."

Gorgeously written, thoughtful, and tough, this memoir of gender and a hardscrabble coming-of-age in the American Southwest excels at nuance. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Shelf Talker: This hard-edged, incisive memoir of gender-fluidity in a desert trailer park offers an essential perspective.

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