Also published on this date: Tuesday, January 10, 2017: Maximum Shelf: The Chilbury Ladies' Choir

Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Yen Press: The God of Nishi-Yuigahama Station by Takeshi Murase, Translated by Guiseppe Di Martino

Peachtree Publishers: Erno Rubik and His Magic Cube by Kerry Aradhya, Illustrated by Kara Kramer

Beacon Press: Kindred by Octavia Butler

Inkshares: Mr. and Mrs. American Pie by Juliet McDaniel

Tundra Books: On a Mushroom Day by Chris Baker, Illustrated by Alexandria Finkeldey

Simon & Schuster: Register for the Simon & Schuster Fall Preview!

St. Martin's Press: Sacrificial Animals by Kailee Pedersen


Strong Words--and Actions--for and Against Yiannopoulos Memoir

The controversy over Threshold Editions' decision to publish a book by Breitbart senior editor and "alt-right" hero Milo Yiannopoulos has continued into the new year, particularly online. Some in the book world continue to criticize Threshold parent company Simon & Schuster in harsh ways, while others are defending its right to publish political books from a broad variety of points of view.

Yiannopoulos--who was banned from Twitter for harassing actress Leslie Jones--is receiving a $250,000 advance for Dangerous, which Threshold will publish in March; the memoir has generated significant preorders online. Many critics say that publication of the book by a mainstream publisher makes acceptable racist, neo-Nazi views.

Yesterday, the National Coalition Against Censorship issued a statement criticizing efforts to boycott S&S or force the company to drop the book. "This kind of response will have a chilling effect on authors and publishers," the statement said. "Publishers and writers need the freedom to express ideas even if they are controversial and offensive to some." The statement was also signed by the American Booksellers Association, the Association of American Publishers, the Authors Guild, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, the Freedom to Read Foundation, the Index on Censorship and the National Council of Teachers of English.

NCAC maintains that censorship is not an effective way to address hate speech. "The suppression of noxious ideas does not defeat them; only vigorous disagreement can counter toxic speech effectively," the statement said. "Shutting down the conversation may temporarily silence disfavored views, but does nothing to prevent them from spreading and resurfacing in other ways."

In a similar vein, English PEN said yesterday that "Milo Yiannopoulos' right to freedom of expression must be respected," according to the Bookseller.

Robert Sharp, head of campaigns and communications for English PEN, said, "Offensive ideas should be debunked and discredited, not censored.... The right of Mr. Yiannopoulos to write and to offend is integral to the principle of freedom of expression. Likewise, Simon & Schuster U.S. has the right to make an editorial judgment over whether to publish his book. Demanding that the publisher cancels the book deal amounts to a call for censorship, and should be resisted."

He added, "PEN campaigns for the victims of censorship in many countries around the world. Often, the people we seek to support have been branded as 'dangerous' or corrupting to society. If we seek to silence people like Milo Yiannopolous on the same grounds, then we set a terrible example to more authoritarian governments."

Sharp drew a distinction between criticism of the deal and calls for the deal to be reversed, saying, "Many have simply expressed a negative opinion about Mr. Yiannopolous' writing and politics. Outrage is not in itself a form of censorship--it is also a manifestation of free speech."

Christin Evans and Praveen Madan at the Booksmith

Some outraged booksellers in the U.S. are taking action. In the strongest move against the Milo Yiannopolous book and S&S by a bookseller we've seen, the Booksmith, San Francisco, Calif., has decided not to stock or special order any titles published by Threshold Editions and "will reduce our orders with Threshold's parent company Simon & Schuster by 50% in order to communicate pressure to the corporation as a whole. While we respect Simon's decision to publish any book, we reserve the right to allocate our discretionary inventory dollars with publishers who act with ethical & moral standards consistent with our own." And "for the foreseeable future," the Booksmith will donate 40% of the sales of S&S books ("which is to say all of our profit") to the ACLU.

The store explained: "While we at Booksmith value free speech and democratizing information at our bookstores, we also believe that this author crosses a line by promoting hate speech & bullying (here is a good article detailing why his isn't just another conservative voice) and feel compelled to take action. We want to send a message; we also believe that our family of S&S writers should not be harmed by a boycott. So, over the past week, we've discussed with our staff and community the pros and cons of various responses at length, and we're proud to announce our decision."

Last week, Lambda Literary issued a statement that said in part, "We at Lambda Literary stand with the diverse writers and readers who believe that for a publisher to give this writer money and a megaphone is an affront to the values we all share. Furthermore, if Yiannopolous's forthcoming book, Dangerous, contains the same hateful rhetoric that got him banned from Twitter and earned him widespread censure--including from the LGBTQ community he claims to be part of--then Lambda Literary will have to condemn the work as hostile to our mission of advocacy for LGBTQ literature and affirmation of LGBTQ lives." The organization called on "readers and reviewers to ignore his book" and recommended 14 books published last year or forthcoming that "illuminate the LGBTQ experience with intelligence and compassion."

In an article today entitled "Publishers Encounter Political Storms in Turn to the Right," the New York Times wrote that the controversy over Yiannopolous's book "highlights the minefield that publishers face as they try to court an emerging market of young conservatives who identify with extreme right-wing stances on issues like immigration and gender equality--positions embodied with devious, irreverent glee by Mr. Yiannopoulos--that they feel are undermining the nation. Many liberals and moderates say, however, those positions amount to outright racism and misogyny.

"And the issue has cast an uncomfortable spotlight on a lucrative but often overlooked niche within the largely left-leaning publishing world. Every major publishing house has a conservative imprint--Penguin Random House has two, Sentinel and Crown Forum--and maintains a stable of right-wing authors who may not attend literary festivals or mingle at the National Book Awards but command a sizable audience in red state America."

Ironically, the election of Donald Trump as president and continued Republican control of the Senate and House will likely change the market. "Without conservatives filling the role as the voice of opposition, the urgency and potency of right-wing books will almost certainly be diminished," the Times wrote.

Adam Bellow, the editorial director of a new political imprint at St. Martin's Press, commented: "Conservative publishing is always a better business when the other side is in power."

BINC: Do Good All Year - Click to Donate!

Update: Bookmarks Bookstore in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Rendering of the new Bookmarks

Bookmarks, the nonprofit literary organization in Winston-Salem, N.C., that announced last fall it had found a location it wanted to turn into an independent bookstore and meeting place, will partner with Foothills Brewery, a for-profit hospitality business, "to create what they hope will be a public gathering space like no other" in the city, the Journal reported.

Ginger Hendricks, executive director of Bookmarks, signed a 10-year lease, with an option on another 10 years, in late December with Nash Building LLC to create a 4,600-square-foot bookstore and meeting place at 636½ W. Fourth St. Foothills Brewery co-owners Jamie Bartholomaus and Matt Masten are currently negotiating a lease on a contiguous space slightly southeast of the 10-year-old bar and restaurant.

"The partnership will give Bookmarks an experienced and established vendor to supply coffee, light food, beer and wine to their customers in a small cafe that will be operated by Foothills and shared by both businesses," the Journal wrote.

"It's a really cool, different partnership," architect Glenn Fulk said. "I've enjoyed seeing the success that Winston-Salem has become. When you get an indie bookstore, you have made it. To watch Bookmarks go from being nothing to being bricks and mortar--I want to be a part of that."

"We've been working with Glenn on every little detail," Hendricks said. Bookmarks plans to break ground February 1 and open in the summer.

GLOW: Torrey House Press: Life After Dead Pool: Lake Powell's Last Days and the Rebirth of the Colorado River by Zak Podmore

Novels and Novelties in Hendersonville, N.C., Closes

Novels and Novelties Bookstore in Hendersonville, N.C., which changed its name last year from Fountainhead Bookstore, has closed. The Times-News reported late last week that a "sign outside the store's front on North Main Street says the store is having a closing sale, and an employee confirmed the store will more than likely close its doors for good on December 31. A for rent sign is also taped to the front window."

On Facebook last month, owner Valerie Welbourn posted: "For the last seven years, I have been extraordinarily lucky to get to meet lots of wonderful, talented authors, enthusiastic and dedicated book lovers, and just overall nice people, such as yourselves :-) It has been a wonderful journey, and we hope we have contributed back as much as we have gained, although that doesn't really seem possible.

"As many of you know, the store has been for sale for the last year or so. Although we've had many almost-buyers, all of them have backed out. So we will be closing the store at the end of 2016."

Harpervia: Only Big Bumbum Matters Tomorrow by Damilare Kuku

PRH Selling Penguin Singapore and Penguin Malaysia

Penguin Random House has signed a conditional agreement to sell its sales and distribution offices in Singapore and Malaysia to Times Publishing, an Asian-Pacific media group owned by Fraser and Neave, the Bookseller reported.

Under the agreement, Penguin Singapore and Penguin Malaysia will be exclusive distributors in Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei for English-language books published by Penguin Books, the Random House Group, Dorling Kindersley and Penguin Random House and their subsidiaries, according to the Edge Markets.

The deal is for 8 million Singapore dollars (about $5.57 million).

Obituary Notes: Nadine Beck; Mel Bolen

Nadine Beck, who built and ran Beck Book Stores with her husband, died December 23. She was 94. The Chicago Tribune reported that "six years after opening their first college bookstore in 1955 near Loyola University's Water Tower Campus, Bob and Nadine Beck were busy with their young family when she came up with an idea to expand the business.... The couple opened their second store, and then another and another and another. The couple had 10 stores running before deciding to scale back and consolidate. Today, Beck Book Store, Inc. has six locations throughout the city and suburbs, half servicing colleges and half servicing high schools."

"Business was doing great with dad running the store and mom handling the bookkeeping from out of our basement," said daughter Linda Beck Olson, who has been running the business for the past 15 years. "Then one day mom had this great idea of opening a second store. It wasn't hard for her to convince dad, because he trusted her opinion.... Mom was the one behind the initial expansion that set everything into motion. When it came to the business, she was the brains money-wise."

Olson also noted that during the 1980s, Beck traveled with a group of friends to India to learn meditation from a maharishi: "I don't know how she did it while raising two kids, but she did. She was very open-minded and one of those moms that did things way ahead of her time. She was a free spirit."


Madeline ("Mel") Bolen, "who built one of Canada's largest independent bookstores," died December 21, CBC News reported. She was 72. "From its beginnings as a tiny shop in the Hillside Shopping Mall in 1975, Bolen Books became a favored Victoria destination for more than four decades of book hunters, from UVic students scouting for hard-to-find computer books in the 1970s to youngsters lined up for the midnight release of the latest Harry Potter offshoot," CBC News wrote.

In 1996, Bolen Books opened its current 20,000-square-foot store, and when she retired in 2010, Bolen sold the store to her daughter, Samantha. She also sponsored the Bolen Books Children Book Prize, which awards $5,000 (about US$3,780) to a local author every year.

"Mel made a real community book store and I think that paved the way for keeping people here when the big chain stuff was happening," said store manager Colin Holt.


Image of the Day: WNBA Celebrates 'The Woman Warrior in All of Us'

On Saturday, January 7, the Women's National Book Association kicked off its centennial celebration with a program called "The Woman Warrior In All of Us," featuring Maxine Hong Kingston in conversation with Vanessa Hua. The event was held in honor of the 40th anniversary of Hong Kingston's memoir The Woman Warrior, and was hosted by the WNBA's San Francisco chapter. Pictured: (l.-r.) Nina Lesowitz, Maxine Hong Kingston, Vanessa Hua, Brenda Knight, Kate Farrell and Sarah Wigglesworth of Green Apple Books, which sold copies of Hong Kingston's books and Hua's collection, Deceit and Other Possibilities, at the event.

Personnel Changes at Morrow and Dey Street, Abingdon Press

Heidi Richter has been promoted to director of publicity for William Morrow and Dey Street Books. She joined the company in 2012.


Effective January 17, Jonathan Tuseth is joining Abingdon Press as sales manager of key accounts. He was formerly director of international sales at Bookazine and earlier worked for 10 years in international sales at Ingram Content Group.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Thomas L. Friedman on Colbert's Late Show

CNN's Anderson Cooper 360: Frank Sesno, author of Ask More: The Power of Questions to Open Doors, Uncover Solutions, and Spark Change (AMACOM Books, $25, 9780814436714).

Daily Show: Jonathan Chait, author of Audacity: How Barack Obama Defied His Critics and Created a Legacy That Will Prevail (Custom House, $27.99, 9780062426970).

Late Show with Stephen Colbert: Thomas L. Friedman, author of Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist's Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $28, 9780374273538).

TV: The Handmaid's Tale Trailer

The first trailer has been released for The Handmaid's Tale, a new Hulu series based on Margaret Atwood's novel, Indiewire reported. Elizabeth Moss (Mad Men, Top of the Lake) stars as Offred, leading a cast that includes Samira Wiley, Alexis, Bledel, Joseph Fiennes, Yvonne Strahovski, Max Minghella, Madeline Brewer, Ann Dowd and O-T Fagbenle. The 10-episode series was created, executive produced and written by Bruce Miller, with the first three episodes directed and executive produced by Reed Morano. The Handmaid's Tale premieres April 26.

Books & Authors

Brian Sweany Buys the Ticket, Takes the Ride

When he was in his early 20s, author and longtime Recorded Books executive Brian Sweany experienced a "one-two punch" that upended his life: first, he lost his dad in a freak car accident. Then he outed his godfather as a serial child molester. Though Sweany said he never went to therapy or counseling to help work through this difficult period, he did write, and found composing his memoirs to be therapeutic. But something about it didn't sit quite right, and years later that memoir eventually became a semi-autobiographical novel called Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride, published in April 2016 by Rare Bird Books (dist. by PGW).

The novel follows the narrator from about the age of 15 to around 40, as he loses his father in a sudden accident, reveals to world that his godfather is a pedophile, and finds out "how to be a man when the men in his life are either gone or have turned out to be monstrous examples" of what men can be, Sweany said. He also stressed that though the book could be quite dark, it is "much more humorous than tragic."

"People often ask me how much of the book is true and how much of it is made up," said Sweany. The core tenets of the book and certain details of the narrator's life are all true. "But beyond that, I tell people not to worry about it."

Shortly after graduating college, Sweany became an editor for Macmillan Computer Publishing, when it was a division of Simon & Schuster. After working as an editor for a few years, he answered an ad for audiobook publisher Recorded Books looking for people "who like to read and are good with other people." Sweany became part of Recorded Books' library sales force and, after a year, moved to the corporate side. For the last 16 years, he has been the company's acquisitions director.

Sweany has written since he was in college, but it was for a long time more of a therapeutic hobby than a serious pursuit. "I wasn't one of those people who grew up knowing I'd be a writer," he said, though by the time he was attending Marian University, a Roman Catholic college in Indianapolis, Ind., he had "figured out that I had a way with words and could write poems." However, his interest in poetry was limited mostly to using his poems as a way to impress women. It wasn't until one of his professors, a nun at Marian University, took him to task that he started to think of writing seriously.

"She called me out one day at the end of class and said, 'I know you write little poems to catch the eyes of ladies. Your gift should not be wasted,' " Sweany recalled.

As he reworked his memoir into a roman à clef, Sweany drew inspiration from writers like Hunter S. Thompson, Truman Capote and other practitioners of "New Journalism." The book's title is part of a quote from Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: "No sympathy for the devil; keep that in mind. Buy the ticket, take the ride... and if it occasionally gets a little heavier than what you had in mind, well... maybe chalk it up to forced consciousness expansion: Tune in, freak out, get beaten."

Before it was published as Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride by Rare Bird Books, Sweany published a two-volume version of the story with Australian publisher Writer Coffee Shop. The first volume, called Exotic Music of the Belly Dancer, was a significantly pared-down version, with years removed from the narrative. It was available digitally or by print-on-demand in 2013, and a sequel, composed mostly of the cut material and titled Making Out with Blowfish, appeared about a year later. Though Sweany said he never quite agreed with WCS's editorial decisions, which resulted in a toned-down, lighter version of the story with a radically different ending from what he had originally envisioned, he went along with them, at least until Writer Coffee Shop was sued by some of its former employees for withholding royalties. Fearing that his story would be "stuck in some bankruptcy court," he got the rights back.

Sweany met Tyson Cornell, the founder and publisher of Rare Bird Books, through his job with Recorded Books. After their conversation turned to Sweany's own writing and his publication history, Cornell eventually asked him to send over his books. Sweany recalled: "He said he would like to publish me, but he didn't want to just republish these books." Cornell, he explained, wanted to give him the chance to publish his story the way he wanted.

Sweany launched Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride in April with a party at Books & Brews, a used bookstore and brewpub near Sweany's home in Indianapolis. Opened by Jason Wuerfel in 2014, following a successful Kickstarter campaign the year before that raised over $17,000, Books & Brews frequently names its beers with a literary theme (some past examples include Charlie and the Chocolate Milk Stout, Cream and Punishment and Clifford the Big Red Ale). For Sweany's launch party, Wuerfel created an Indiana session ale called Buy the Beer, Take the Ride that apparently tasted like Blue Moon but was about 7% abv.

The launch was a "smash hit," said Sweany. "When all was said and done, we had two copies remaining out of 80." –-Alex Mutter

Book Review

Review: The Refugees

The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Grove Press, $25 hardcover, 224p., 9780802126399, February 7, 2017)

Following his Pulitzer Prize-winning debut novel, The Sympathizer, Viet Thanh Nguyen shares eight short stories in The Refugees. Each entry in the collection examines a snapshot in the life of an individual straddling two disparate spheres--their homeland and their adopted country. Nguyen's penetrating gaze will mesmerize readers and open windows to the particular nuances of a population struggling to find its identity.

Nguyen constructs intricate relationships between his characters, whether it is a familiar connection, like the married professor and Mrs. Khanh from "I'd Love You to Want Me," or something more distant, like Arthur Arellano's link to his organ donor, Men Vu, in "The Transplant." Each word and action carries powerful significance; no detail is irrelevant. In "Someone Else Besides You," the souvenirs Thomas collected with his ex-wife while they were married--which she displays around her new home--send a starkly different message when he visits unannounced than her words, "Don't come back, Thomas." Because Thomas's identity is rooted in his struggling relationship with his father, a triangle of complication enhances the intensity of their story.

Attempts to redefine oneself in a new environment permeate The Refugees, but Nguyen digs especially deep in "Black-Eyed Women." A woman's traumatic journey to the United States left her so profoundly questioning who she is that she became a ghostwriter--she doesn't have to put her name on her work. Another young woman, who lives in Ho Chi Minh City, has the same name as her half-sister living in the United States. From birth she never had her a distinct identity and when she meets her sibling for the first time, she loses what little she had to begin with. The rich conflicts in each story arouse readers' empathy and engage them in the characters' struggles.

While Nguyen offers philosophical battles both internal and external, he also uses language that is delivered with reverence and grace, conjuring robust imagery. "Michiko was the one who wanted to see Vietnam, hearing from relatives who had toured there that it reminded them of Japan's bucolic past, before General MacArthur wielded the postwar hand of reconstruction to daub Western makeup on Japanese features."

The Refugees is simply a beautiful collection of captivating stories. Nguyen's flair with words and his genius at succinct, compelling plots and dynamic characters creates huge worlds in few pages. This is a book to savor again and again. --Jen Forbus, freelancer

Shelf Talker: Pulitzer Prize-winner Viet Thanh Nguyen offers a collection of short stories about people struggling to redefine themselves in new worlds.

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