Shelf Awareness for Thursday, June 25, 2020


Harper: The Night Always Comes by Willy Vlautin

Shadow Mountain: The Paper Daughters of Chinatown by Heather B Moore

Forge: My Brilliant Life by Ae-Ran Kim, translated by Chi-Young Kim

Shadow Mountain: Real by Carol Cujec and Peyton Goddard

St. Martin's Press: Believe in People: Bottom-Up Solutions for a Top-Down World by Charles Koch and Brian Hooks

Wednesday Books: Amelia Unabridged by Ashley Schumacher

Quotation of the Day

'Let Our Legacy Be Justice'

"We are called to be as vigilant against racism as we are about the spread of disease. Our resistance in both of these struggles requires our resilience. Progress and change are the birthrights of this organization."

--Tracie D. Hall, new executive director of the American Library Association, in her opening remarks to the 2020 ALA Annual conference yesterday. This is the first time the conference has not been held in person since 1945.

 


Celebrate 124 Years of F. Scott Fitzgerald: Enter for Your Chance to Win!


News

Major Buyer Layoffs at Barnes & Noble

Barnes & Noble has laid off many of its buyers and plans to reconfigure its buying approach in the Waterstones' style, which shifted to a more centralized model last year, Shelf Awareness has learned. Other headquarters staff and "some" store employees have apparently also been let go.

The B&N buyers, many or all of whom have been furloughed since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S., include such longtime employees as literary fiction buyer Sessalee Hensley, who had been with B&N about 35 years; SF/fantasy and graphics novel buyer James Killen, who had been with B&N 41 years; buyer David Garber, a 25-year veteran; and Lisa Echenthal, a 28-year veteran.

Asked for comment, B&N stated: "It is with great regret that a number of employees in the corporate office have left our employment. As with so many companies, we evaluate our needs in circumstances much changed by the Covid-19 pandemic. We now have almost all of our bookstores reopened and must align our head office requirements to our store priorities. These are wonderful employees whose dedication and service over the years to Barnes & Noble has been exemplary. We thank them sincerely and are working with them to help them through this transition."

Last year, Waterstones managing director James Daunt, who is now also CEO of B&N, told the Bookseller that Waterstones would centralize buying "into two roles." As we reported at the time, "Under the proposed buying changes, 'an initial sub would be agreed earlier in the publication process by a Waterstones' buyer, but a new category manager would then manage the roll-out of the books within the estate,' the Bookseller wrote. 'The category manager would be able to increase the level of stock made available to individual bookstores, but also make sure the merchandising matched the order levels.' Currently, publishers meet with many different buyers at Waterstones, depending on the sectors they publish into, and buying decisions are delayed until all of the buyers meet for a monthly review of these titles.

" 'I am telling publishers this is coming down the tracks. But this will be an evolutionary change, not a Big Bang,' Daunt said. 'We will buy titles in a much more centralized, focused and holistic way.... So there won't be a case anymore of the history buyer not knowing what the biography buyer has bought. But we will no longer be ordering it six weeks ahead but 12-14 weeks ahead, so publishers will have greater certainty earlier.' "


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PRH's Two-Day Transit Program Returns, Earlier Than Ever

To support independent booksellers, who are working under "extraordinary circumstances," Penguin Random House has expanded its annual two-day transit program yet again, so that now, in its ninth year, it will run for eight months, from July 1 until March 1, 2021. The program was originally designed to cover the fall holiday season, but has been expanded regularly, and last year began in September.

Under the program, weather and transport conditions permitting, the company's Westminster, Md., and Crawfordsville, Ind., operations centers will ship indie orders received by 3 p.m. Eastern, Monday-Friday, on the next business day, to arrive in two days.

And, for the first time, the two-day transit program will launch from PRH's new facility in Reno, Nev., when the transition to Penguin Random House operating systems is completed in mid-August. After assuming management of the former Baker & Taylor warehouse earlier this year, PRH has been designing and installing state-of-the-art systems that will bring the warehouse into alignment with its Westminster and Crawfordsville facilities. The Reno facility will expand services to West Coast retailers and provide capacity for new services and projects. All three facilities have been operating under strict Covid-19 guidelines, with employee safety the top priority.

The two-day transit offer includes every frontlist and backlist title from the imprints of Knopf Doubleday, Penguin Publishing Groups, Random House, Random House Children's Books, Penguin Young Readers, Penguin Random House Audio divisions, and DK Publishing, plus the many clients of Penguin Random House Publisher Services. Those clients include America's Test Kitchen, Beacon Press, Candlewick Press, Charlesbridge, Dark Horse Comics, DC, Hay House, Highlights, Holiday House, Kensington, Kodansha Comics, Library of America, Melville House, National Geographic, New York Review Books, North Atlantic Books, Other Press, Quirk Books, Rizzoli, Sasquatch Books, Seven Stories, Shambhala, Soho, Steerforth Press, Verso and Wizards of the Coast.

Jaci Updike, president, U.S. sales, Penguin Random House, said, "We know that rapid replenishment is a major driver of profit for retailers, so we decided to relaunch Penguin Random House Two-Day Transit much earlier this year. So much is unpredictable right now; we want to support booksellers by making our supply chain as predictable--and speedy--as possible. We have many important books that are at the heart of the national conversation, and we want booksellers to be able to spend more time selling books, and less time online and on the phone worrying when their reorders will arrive. We kicked off this program almost 10 years ago to support indies at the holidays, and we remain committed to that goal. It's just that this year, the holiday we're starting with happens to be in July--Happy Independents Day!"


BINC: Help a Bookseller, Save a Bookstore - Give to BINC


Some Trumps Try to Block Book by Another Trump

Another Trump tell-all book, another attempted book ban.

President Trump's family has sought a temporary restraining order to stop publication of Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man by Mary L. Trump, the president's niece. The book will be published by Simon & Schuster on July 28.

President Trump and his brother Robert S. Trump have charged that their niece--whose father was the late Fred Trump Jr.--signed a nondisclosure agreement in connection with a 2001 lawsuit over the will of Fred Trump, the president's father and Mary L. Trump's grandfather, who died in 1999 and left only a small cash bequest to Mary L. Trump and her brother, Fred Trump III.

According to the New York Times, Robert Trump said in a statement in part: "Her attempt to sensationalize and mischaracterize our family relationship after all of these years for her own financial gain is both a travesty and injustice to the memory of my late brother, Fred, and our beloved parents. I and the rest of my entire family are so proud of my wonderful brother, the president, and feel that Mary's actions are truly a disgrace."

Theodore J. Boutrous Jr., a lawyer for Mary L. Trump, said in a statement that the president and his family were trying "to suppress a book that will discuss matters of utmost public importance. They are pursuing this unlawful prior restraint because they do not want the public to know the truth. The courts will not tolerate this brazen violation of the First Amendment."

And S&S commented, "As the plaintiff and his attorney well know, the courts take a dim view of prior restraint, and this attempt to block publication will meet the same fate as those that have gone before. In Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man, Mary Trump has written a compelling personal story of worldwide significance, and we look forward to helping her tell her story."

S&S's catalogue copy for the book begins: "In this revelatory, authoritative portrait of Donald J. Trump and the toxic family that made him, Mary L. Trump, a trained clinical psychologist and Donald's only niece, shines a bright light on the dark history of their family in order to explain how her uncle became the man who now threatens the world’s health, economic security, and social fabric."


Rick Riordan Presents: City of the Plague God by Sarwat Chadda


Village Well Coming to Culver City

The Village Well, an independent bookstore and cafe, will open in downtown Culver City, Los Angeles, later this summer. 

Owner Jennifer Caspar has already launched the store's e-commerce site in advance of the physical store's opening, and she's selling books for all ages across many genres. Caspar plans to make social justice a major part of the store by focusing on a different cause each month. She'll invite guest speakers to talk about the subject and provide reading lists and links to organizations involved. For the month of June, the store is focused on economic inequality.

"I have dreamed about opening this business for a long time, but I never imagined I'd be launching under these circumstances, with not just one but two major crises shaking our economic foundation," Caspar said. "But we're not shying away--we understand that people don't stop reading during crises, and definitely never stop needing community. The Black Lives Matter movement has started an important, complex and difficult conversation, and I want the Village Well to be a place that will facilitate conversations like that."

The cafe will serve coffee, tea, beer and wine, along with a selection of food items. When the store opens for browsing and dining, there will be a variety of social-distancing precautions, including hand sanitizer, reduced indoor seating and frequent cleaning, with curbside pick-up and home delivery available as alternatives.


Soho Press: This Time Next Year We'll Be Laughing by Jacqueline Winspear


Sasquatch Books Launches YA Imprint

Seattle publisher Sasquatch Books has launched a new imprint called Spruce Books, with Sharyn Rosart as publisher. Spruce Books will publish nonfiction titles for young adults meant to "encourage self-expression and personal growth in teens and tweens," with its first three titles due out this summer and fall. 

The imprint's first title, Anti-Racism: Powerful Voices, Inspiring Ideas, will appear in July and features a collection of quotes compiled by activist and journalist Kenrya Rankin. In September, Spruce Books will release the guided journal Best Worst Grateful, and in October the imprint will publish Write It! 100 Poetry Prompts to Inspire, from poets Jessica Jacobs and Nickole Brown.

"Today's young adults are empathetic, motivated, and committed to self-knowledge," said Rosart. "Despite their eagerness for books, they are an underserved readership, sandwiched between children and adults."


Beach Lane Books: The Farmer and the Monkey by Marla Frazee


How Bookstores Are Coping: Moving During the Pandemic

In early April, Julie Beddingfield, owner of Inkwood Books in Haddonfield, N.J., decided to go ahead with a move that she'd been planning since 2019; she reported that Covid-19 has "caused delays at every level."

The new storefront is not far from the old one, and the original plan had been to make the move almost a party, with dozens of community volunteers helping out and Inkwood providing live music, quizzes, prizes and more. Instead, the experience has been "slow, lonely and scary," with only Beddingfield and her immediate family, and hired movers for the larger items.

Getting everything into the new space took a few weeks rather than a few days, and Beddingfield and her team had to leave the old space before the interior work was done in the new. It took almost two months for that work to be completed, and Beddingfield is still unpacking.

Beddingfield explained that she had some serious doubts about whether moving was the right thing to do, but every time she posted photos or videos to give her customers updates, the responses were so overwhelmingly positive that she and her team "slowly started to think we'd made the right decision."

Recently the store has been open only for curbside pick-up and delivery, but Beddingfield is doing a shopping-by-appointment soft opening today through Saturday. If all goes well, Inkwood will continue to do shopping by appointment on Monday, and there will be a 10-person cap and limited hours.

One of the nice things about the new space, she added, is that it's larger than the old one and allows for more social distancing. Masks are mandatory, and hand sanitizer is located at the front door and around the shop. She and her team have reduced the number of extra displays, small tables and the like in order to keep the aisles as wide as possible, and there is a plexiglass shield at the register.

Beddingfield noted there have been some small, peaceful protest marches nearby, and while still unpacking the store she created a window display featuring books from Black authors. Initially she was displaying nonfiction titles, but as those increasingly sold out she broadened the display to include books by Black authors in all genres.

---

In Seattle, Wash., Queen Anne Book Company has yet to reopen for browsing, and manager and co-owner Janis Segress reported that the store is continuing to do a brisk business through web, e-mail and phone orders, front door pick-up and free home delivery in the Queen Anne neighborhood. The plan is slowly to allow customers back in the store by offering "book appointments." Customers will be able to go to the store's website and schedule an appointment with a QABC bookseller. Segress said they'll do this for however long it feels necessary before eventually opening up at with reduced occupancy.

Once QABC starts offering appointment shopping, masks will be required and hand sanitizer stations will be set up throughout the store. Segress and her staff will use tape to illustrate six-foot spacing, the store will accept payment only by credit card, and furniture will be removed to allow for more space. Bathrooms will be open only to staff. Generally speaking, Segress added, her community seems to be on board with wearing face masks and following social distancing guidelines, at least based on the customers who have come by to pick up orders.

Segress said the store has seen a massive amount of orders for titles such as How to Be an Antiracist, White Fragility and The New Jim Crow since late May, and in early June the store sent out a customer e-mail with a "Justice and Change" reading list. They also set up a full window display featuring those titles, and they've been heartened to see customers continuing to take pictures of it.


Obituary Note: George Markey Keating

George Markey Keating, a longtime Simon & Schuster employee, died on June 22 from a heart condition. He was 71.

Keating worked at several bookstores during and right after graduating from college and then joined Brentano's, where he managed stores in Connecticut and New York. In 1978, he joined S&S as a sales representative, rising through the ranks over a 30-year career to become Eastern Divisional sales director. After leaving S&S, he became director of sales & marketing at the Naval Institute Press. He retired several years ago. His sons are both in the business: Brendan is sales analyst manager at HarperCollins and Owen is a package designer at Klutz.

Literary agent and publisher Roger Williams said in a tribute to Keating: "George's skills as a manager, his good humor, and steady logic, earned him the respect of his reps, his booksellers, his superiors, and the legions of authors whose careers George helped to launch. To his reps, George was a mentor, a leader and a friend. To his booksellers, George was an advocate, a partner, and a friend. To his superiors, George was a faithful lieutenant, a resolute professional, and a friend. To his authors, George was a champion, and a friend. After hours, George was a master storyteller, full of good cheer, and a friend to all. Through all the bestsellers, all the celebrities, all the famous politician authors, everyone always knew, George was most devotedly proud of his 47-year marriage to Ellen, their sons, daughters-in-law, and grandchildren."


Notes

Cool Idea of the Day: Teacher Buys Bookshop Gift Cards for Students

To support newly opened Oliver & Friends Bookshop and Reading Room, Belgrade, Maine, local fourth-grade teacher Shawna Lachance started a fundraising effort to purchase gift cards from the bookstore for all of her students, News Center Maine reported.

"Typically I would have an ice cream party on the playground on the last day of school, but obviously that could not happen, so I was just trying to think of what I could do for the kids to bring them some joy," said Lachance. "Originally I had thought a $5 gift card, and then someone was like, 'well why don't you do a $10 gift card?' I said, 'that sounds great,' so I posted it on my Facebook and within 55 minutes, I have received double of what I had originally planned."

She was able to raise enough to buy $25 gift cards for each of her 19 students.

Bookshop owner Renee Cunningham said, "When I decided to open my own bookstore, I never dreamed I would be doing so in the middle of a pandemic. To have this kind of support from the community means everything. I'm so grateful to Shawna and those who donated, and I can't wait to have the kids in my store!"


Building Mural in the Works for Milwaukee's Rainbow Booksellers

illustration: The Heights Dream Library

"The side of the building that has been home to Rainbow Booksellers since 1994 will soon be painted with a mural called the Heights Dream Library, a reference to its Washington Heights neighborhood on the West Side of Milwaukee," OnMilwaukee.com reported. Artist Fred Kaems, who lives in the neighborhood, is painting the mural, which will depict books on shelves.

"We have owned this building for over 20 years, and this wall has been calling out to me," said co-owner Dan Schley. "As my wife (Barbara Haig) and I thought about what we find important, literacy and art rose to the top. I pictured an enormous bookcase filled with glorious books! Through an RFP, we connected with Fred Kaems, a wonderful muralist who lives here in Washington Heights. The grant from the Milwaukee Arts Board brought us to the starting gate, but what we really need now is book title ideas. We want anyone, anywhere to submit ideas on the form. We're confident that enough people will also want to become a Book Sponsor and dedicate a book to someone so that we can match the Board's funds."


Liz DeVeau Tan New General Manager at Greenlight Bookstore

Liz DeVeau Tan has joined Greenlight Bookstore, Brooklyn, N.Y., as general manager of all of its stores and operations. She was most recently operations director/assistant general manager at the Strand Book Store, and has worked in management at other independent and chain bookstores. She replaces longtime Greenlight general manager Alexis Akre, who is leaving to become executive director of a nonprofit charitable organization.



Media and Movies

This Weekend on Book TV: Robert M. Gates

Book TV airs on C-Span 2 this weekend from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Monday and focuses on political and historical books as well as the book industry. The following are highlights for this coming weekend. For more information, go to Book TV's website.

Saturday, June 27
9 a.m. Librarians discuss the impacts of coronavirus on libraries across the country, at virtual BookExpo. (Re-airs Monday at 4 a.m.)

4 p.m. Matt Ridley, author of How Innovation Works: And Why It Flourishes in Freedom (Harper, $29.99, 9780062916594). (Re-airs Sunday at 9:30 a.m.)

5 p.m. Samantha Irby, author of Wow, No Thank You.: Essays (Vintage, $15.95, 9780525563488).

6:10 p.m. Robert M. Gates, author of Exercise of Power: American Failures, Successes, and a New Path Forward in the Post-Cold War World (Knopf, $29.95, 9781524731885). (Re-airs Sunday at 10 p.m.)

7:20 p.m. Ralph Reed, author of For God and Country: The Christian Case for Trump (Regnery, $28.99, 9781684510573). (Re-airs Sunday at 3:30 p.m.)

Sunday, June 28
2:30 p.m. Tevi Troy, author of Fight House: Rivalries in the White House from Truman to Trump (Regnery, $29.99, 9781621578369).

4:10 p.m. Priscilla Painton, v-p and executive editor at Simon & Schuster, discusses the future of book publishing.

7:20 p.m. Nikita Stewart, author of Troop 6000: The Girl Scout Troop That Began in a Shelter and Inspired the World (Ballantine, $27, 9781984820754), at Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn, N.Y.

8:45 p.m. National Security Archive director Tom Blanton discusses the ongoing battle over publication of John Bolton's new memoir, The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir (Simon & Schuster, $32.50, 9781982148034).

9 p.m. Wes Moore, co-author of Five Days: The Fiery Reckoning of an American City (One World, $28, 9780525512363). (Re-airs Monday at 12 a.m. and 3 a.m.)

11:10 p.m. Roger Rosenblatt, author of The Story I Am: Mad About the Writing Life (Turtle Point Press, $18, 9781885983787).


Books & Authors

Awards: Oregon Book Winners

The winners of the 2020 Oregon Book Awards, presented by Literary Arts (via Powell's), are:

Fiction: No God Like the Mother by Kesha Ajọsẹ Fisher
General Nonfiction: Aloha Rodeo: Three Hawaiian Cowboys, the World's Greatest Rodeo, and a Hidden History of the American West by David Wolman and Julian Smith
Creative Nonfiction: Anxious Attachments by Beth Alvarado
Poetry: Spectra by Ashley Toliver
Children's Literature: Lowriders: Blast from the Past by Cathy Camper
Young Adult Literature: How I Became a Spy: A Mystery of WWII London by Deborah Hopkinson
Graphic Literature: Penny Nichols by MK Reed and Greg Means


Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, June 30:

Rigged: America, Russia, and One Hundred Years of Covert Electoral Interference by David Shimer (Knopf, $29.95, 9780525659006) explores efforts to influence elections from the Cold War to 2016.

Home Before Dark: A Novel by Riley Sager (Dutton, $27, 9781524745172) is a thriller about a woman returning to a house made famous by her father's horror book.

I Killed Zoe Spanos by Kit Frick (McElderry/Simon, $18.99, 9781534449701) is a YA mystery featuring two teens who become linked after one confesses to murder.

There's an Alien in Your Book by Tom Fletcher, illus. by Greg Abbott (Random House, $17.99, 9780593125120), is an interactive picture book from the same author as There's a Monster in Your Book and There's a Dragon in Your Book.

Paperbacks:
The Nickel Boys: A Novel by Colson Whitehead (Anchor, $15.95, 9780345804341).

Wow in the World: Two Whats?! and a Wow! Think & Tinker Playbook: Activities and Games for Curious Kids by Mindy Thomas and Guy Raz (HMH Books for Young Readers, $8.99, 9780358470151).


IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites

From last week's Indie bestseller lists, available at IndieBound.org, here are the recommended titles, which are also Indie Next Great Reads:

Hardcover
You Exist Too Much: A Novel by Zaina Arafat (Catapult, $26, 9781948226509). "Zaina Arafat's You Exist Too Much is one of my favorite books of the year. This debut novel blew me away. Arafat's narrator is confident in her vulnerability; her desire to be seen and understood is visceral and uncomfortably familiar. The intoxication of unrequited love and the disconcerting feeling that can accompany settling down are recognizable, yet in Arafat's capable hands, I was transported. This book is for anyone who has struggled to fit into society's neat boxes, who has been frustrated when emotions don't follow a logical path, or who has been disappointed to find that sometimes the love of others isn't enough." --Margaret Leonard, Dotters Books, Eau Claire, Wis.

Pizza Girl: A Novel by Jean Kyoung Frazier (Doubleday, $24.95, 9780385545723). "Jean Kyoung Frazier's Pizza Girl breathes honesty into narratives surrounding pregnancy and motherhood, and faces the desperate ambivalence that often accompanies these experiences but is left unspoken. We explore this through characters who cling to one another in an attempt to escape the disappointment and stresses of their own personal lives. Pizza Girl presents us with an important sentiment: You cannot outrun the fact that the people who created you will always be a part of you to some degree or another. But you can work to grasp the ways in which you manifest that into who you are as an individual." --Jack Hawthorn, Raven Book Store, Lawrence, Kan.

Paperback
Evvie Drake Starts Over: A Novel by Linda Holmes (Ballantine, $17, 9780525619260). "Evvie Drake is young and newly widowed, but no one knows that on the day her husband died, she had finally worked up the nerve to leave him. Dean Tenney is a major league baseball pitcher who has inexplicably lost the talent that made him a star. When Dean moves to Evvie's small town to escape the humiliating sports headlines, their friendship proves to be just what both of them need. This is an absolute treasure of a novel--big-hearted, funny, sweet, and utterly satisfying. I cannot wait to sell this charming gem." --Emilie Sommer, East City Bookshop, Washington, D.C.

For Ages 4 to 8
Tad by Benji Davies (HarperCollins, $17.99, 9780062563590). "Growing up, my brother and I would always go looking for frog eggs in ponds during the spring and summer, then watch them evolve into tadpoles and frogs. Benji Davies illustrates this life cycle while telling a thrilling tale about Tad, a tadpole who is just a little smaller than all the others and might need to escape a giant fish--or else. The bold illustrations will draw kids in!" --Nikki Silvestrini, Zenith Bookstore, Duluth, Minn.

For Ages 9 to 12
Doodleville by Chad Sell (Knopf, $20.99, 9781984894700). "A fascinating premise combines with Chad Sell's signature empathy in a sweet story about self-expression and friendship. Sell clearly admires both kids and the communal nature of art. A diverse cast of characters and a nuanced, compassionate view of childhood anxiety make this graphic novel stand out from its peers." --Olivia Morris, Harvard Book Store, Cambridge, Mass.

For Teen Readers
House of Dragons by Jessica Cluess (Random House, $18.99, 9780525648154). "First: dragons. Need I say more? Fine; then let's throw five competitors from rival houses into a top-secret competition for the emperor's throne where only one will emerge victorious... and the others will die. But this time the calling seems to have gone terribly wrong, and the candidates range from a stablehand to a bastard to a girl with illegal magic. Yet none can escape their fate, and so the games begin. There will be betrayal, there will be blood, and there will be fire. Cluess has created a sweeping start to a series that is sure to enthrall fans everywhere." --Cailey Neuschaefer, Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, N.C.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]


Book Review

Review: Looking for Miss America: A Pageant's 100-Year Quest to Define Womanhood

Looking for Miss America: A Pageant's 100-Year Quest to Define Womanhood by Margot Mifflin (Counterpoint, $28 hardcover, 320p., 9781640092235, August 4, 2020)

The women's movement has always had a problem with the Miss America pageant, but Looking for Miss America: A Pageant's 100-Year Quest to Define Womanhood makes clear that second-wave feminism owes a debt to the annual competition. During the sensation-causing feminist protest at the 1968 pageant, a bedsheet emblazoned with the words "WOMEN'S LIBERATION" got the press to introduce the phrase into the national lexicon. The pageant, with its "ever-conflicted identity," is a marvelous subject for dissection on the eve of its centennial, and Margot Mifflin (Bodies of Subversion: A Secret History of Women and Tattoo) proves herself an intrepid scholar of this American institution.

The Miss America pageant grew out of the beauty contest held at Atlantic City's Fall Frolic of 1920. It began offering scholarship money to winners in 1945--a signal that the competition was to be viewed as more than a skin show. In the 1950s, the overseers finally nixed the grotesque Rule Seven, which said that contestants had to be "in good health and of the white race." This wasn't high-mindedness at work: Mifflin shows that existential threats are typically the motivating force when the pageant updates its rules, as when, after literally decades of debate, it finally phased out the swimsuit portion of the competition in 2018. (The number of entrants had been in free fall for years. A lot of women just didn't want to wear the suit.) But one regulation remains enshrined: the requirement that contestants not be married, divorced or widowed--in other words, they must be perceived as virgins. Writes Mifflin, "It was as American as apple pie: cranking up interest in female sexuality while punishing women who acted on it."

Looking for Miss America is, in the language of pageantry, lavish in its research, and its prose is sparkling. A 16-page photo insert provides bonus shimmer. And the host is most congenial: it's with not a hint of schadenfreude that Mifflin reports on the pageant's enduring problems, including declining viewership and infighting among contestants. (Readers may lose count of the number of memoirs Mifflin cites by disgruntled and/or disillusioned Miss America contestants, some of whom she interviewed for her book.) Full of mini bios of the competition's taste, change and headline makers, Looking for Miss America is a riveting, multivalent history. About this, if nothing else, most feminists and pageant enthusiasts will agree. --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer

Shelf Talker: This history of the Miss America pageant is probing, scintillating and tremendously entertaining--a pleaser for feminists and pageant devotees alike.


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