Also published on this date: Monday, July 20 Dedicated Issue: BOOM! Studios

Shelf Awareness for Monday, July 20, 2020

William Morrow & Company: Polostan: Volume One of Bomb Light by Neal Stephenson

Shadow Mountain: The Legend of the Last Library by Frank L Cole

Atlantic Monthly Press: The Elements of Marie Curie: How the Glow of Radium Lit a Path for Women in Science by Dava Sobel

Ace Books: Dungeon Crawler Carl by Matt Dinniman

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: The Millicent Quibb School of Etiquette for Young Ladies of Mad Science by Kate McKinnon

Annick Press: Bog Myrtle by Sid Sharp

Minotaur Books: Betrayal at Blackthorn Park: A Mystery (Evelyne Redfern #2) by Julia Kelly

Quotation of the Day

'I Don’t Feel as Homesick Now'

"Last week, I put on my mask, applied some hand-sanitizer and stepped into a bookstore for the first time since March. I went from shelf to shelf. I browsed to my heart’s content. I didn’t take one second of the experience for granted. On the way out the door, I heard a young girl say to her mother, 'I don't feel as homesick now.' That's it exactly, I thought. I don't feel as homesick now, either."

--Author Kate DiCamillo, in a recent Facebook post

Running Press Kids: Your Magical Life: A Young Witch's Guide to Becoming Happy, Confident, and Powerful by Amanda Lovelace


The Salt Eaters Bookshop Planned for Inglewood, Calif.

Early last week, Asha Grant launched a GoFundMe campaign to help bring The Salt Eaters Bookshop, an independent, Black-owned bookstore, to downtown Inglewood, Los Angeles, in 2021.

Grant plans to make The Salt Eaters Bookshop a Black feminist literary hub, emphasizing books by and about Black women and girls, femmes and non-binary folks. She is eyeing a 1,000-square-foot space in Inglewood that she called her "dream space," noting that it is located on Queen St., which "just feels right."

When in-person events can be held again, she intends to host plenty of children's events, including storytime sessions and book clubs for middle schoolers and high schoolers, along with poetry readings, author talks, teach-ins and watch parties. She also hopes The Salt Eaters will become a community hub for artists, activists, creatives and others interested in liberation practice.

Asha Grant

Grant set an initial fund-raising goal of $65,000, and in less than seven days the campaign was almost entirely funded (including support from actor Mandy Patinkin and author Roxane Gay). In just the first 48 hours, in fact, the campaign brought in more than $20,000, and as of this morning, it's raised more than $71,000. Grant called it an "incredibly humbling experience," adding that there's been "lots of crying."

"The love and support for our local community and from folks in different parts of the country has surpassed all my expectations," she continued. "People have donated proceeds from their businesses to us, sold clothes in their closet and donated the funds, offered résumé services in exchange for GoFundMe donations--it has been so much. I've never experienced such a widespread, collective, action-oriented effort around Black women, femmes and non-binary people. It makes me so hopeful."

Grant explained that owning a bookstore is a dream that she's kept "in my box of childhood dreams" for a long time. While she has no formal bookselling experience, she is not new to the book world. She described herself as a "humanities girl," with a degree in English and two minors, in Comparative Women's Studies and African Diaspora Studies. She also holds a Master's in education from Columbia University Teacher's College, with a concentration in Black Female Education and Literacy. 

As for her professional background, she said she's "worked all over the place" and in a variety of roles--in retail, as a creative writing teacher, a digital media manager and a student services coordinator for a high school, to name just a few. In January 2019, she launched the Los Angeles chapter of the Free Black Women's Library, a pop-up book swap event where visitors can engage and trade books written by Black women, which met with huge support and pushed Grant "even deeper into the book and publishing sphere."

Grant has been looking for a space for a bookstore since last fall. As the community of the Free Black Women's Library continued to grow, the need for a physical space devoted to books written by and for Black women, femmes and non-binary people became abundantly clear. When the coronavirus pandemic hit earlier this year, Grant began to wrestle with the decision of putting this venture on hold. But the deaths of Breonna Taylor, Oluwatoyin Salau and an increasing number of Black trans women "lit a fire" under her.

When all is said and done, she hopes to create a "grounding and resting place" for Black women, femmes and non-binary people where their stories and voices are celebrated and no harm can come to them. --Alex Mutter

G.P. Putnam's Sons: William by Mason Coile

Layoffs at Foyles as Buying Centralized at Waterstones

Similar to the layoffs of longtime buyers at Barnes & Noble last month, Foyles--the small British chain also owned by Elliott Management and run by Waterstones managing director/B&N CEO James Daunt--has let go several buyers, as well as a group store manager, according to the Bookseller. The moves follow the layoffs at Foyles of three category buyer roles last October, when the company said that Foyles' buying would be integrated with and centralized at Waterstones with "a bespoke layer of ordering placed on top of this by the Foyles team."

Among those let go from Foyles last week was Jasper Sutcliffe, head of buying and an employee for more than 20 years; Abel Dos Santos, gifts and stationery buyer; and area manager Patrizia Sorrentino, responsible for all Foyles shops except the Charing Cross Road flagship location.

Jasper Sutcliffe

Waterstones confirmed that "a small number of roles" had been eliminated, adding, "This was not an easy decision and we would like to thank all those affected for all their hard work. Foyles will retain its unique identity in the same way Hatchards and Hodges Figgis [other bookshops acquired by Waterstones] have retained theirs, through good bookselling and catering to each shop's customer base. The central books team will be on hand to support bookshop managers and booksellers to achieve this, whilst bespoke replenishment and range work for Foyles will continue to be done at a local level."

Less than a month ago, Barnes & Noble instituted a range of permanent layoffs, including 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.

ABA: Board Changes; Black Bookseller Nominations; Demographic Survey

Nearly 300 members of the American Booksellers Association voted to approve four bylaw changes that include two intended to "further diversity, equity, and inclusion and to establish a more representative Board of Directors": the proposal to expand the board to 13 members from 11 and the proposal that the board include at least four booksellers who are Black, Indigenous or People of Color (BIPOC), at least two of whom are Black. According to Bookselling This Week, the votes in favor were 270-17 on the first bylaw change and 264-26 on the second.

The other bylaw changes dealt with how to deal with a tie vote on the board (the president can break it by voting a second time) and ratified the June board elections.

Following approval of the bylaw changes last week, the ABA's nominating committee is asking ABA member booksellers to nominate Black bookstore owners or employees to fill the two new board seats, BTW wrote. Any ABA member may nominate a candidate, and self-nominations are also welcome. Once appointed, the two new board members will serve until the next election, in April 2021, at which time they will be eligible for three-year terms.

The ABA is also conducting a demographic survey of members that concludes today and is intended, BTW reported, "to help ABA better understand its membership and ensure appropriate representation of the membership is present across all facets of the association's programming, services, committees, board, and education."

The survey, as well as individual questions within it, are entirely optional, BTW added. "Questions included ask about preferred pronouns, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability status, and ethnicity. The survey is not anonymous."

How Bookstores Are Coping: Browsing from Outside; Hesitant to Reopen

Last week, Madison Books in Seattle, Wash., began booking appointments for in-store shopping after being closed to browsing since the middle of March. Manager James Crossley reported that the appointments are limited to one person at a time, or a pair if they're from the same household, and are scheduled in 25-minute blocks. More people could be allowed in the store at the same time, given Seattle's restrictions, but the store is only 400 square feet and Crossley and his booksellers are not comfortable with more. So far, he said, the appointments have gone well.

In addition to appointment shopping, the store is still set up for window shopping and front door pick-up. With the store being so compact, almost all of it is available from the roped-off front door, so customers can more or less browse while standing outside. Madison Books has done some e-mail invoicing but most transactions are being handled through the contactless credit card processor.

Crossley said only one staff member is in-store at a time, and everyone must wear masks. So far the store's mask requirement has not met with any resistance, and he noted that, anecdotally, the amount of people wearing masks in the neighborhood seems to have increased. Staff members are washing their hands frequently and there is routine surface cleaning, and everyone who enters the store must use hand sanitizer.

Madison Books has obviously not hosted an in-person gathering or event for months, but Crossley and the team have been doing frequent online events. They've done storytime sessions, book club meetings over Zoom and a very successful weekly series of author events called Books in Common NW launched in partnership with Paulina Springs Books in Sisters, Ore., and Country Bookshelf in Bozeman, Mont. The first of these events, Crossley said, featured mystery novelists Iona Whishaw and Elizabeth George and drew nearly 100 viewers.

On the subject of the protests against systemic racism and police brutality that began in late May, Crossley said they were disruptive to the store "only in the positive sense." For Madison Books it was a great opportunity to affirm their support of the movement, and from the end of May into the middle of July, the store's front windows were filled with books by Black authors. On June 12, Crossley closed the store for an entire day to honor a general strike called by Seattle's Black Lives Matter chapter. One major march numbering in the thousands came through the store's neighborhood, and Crossley said that while some nearby stores were apprehensive and at least one boarded up its windows, he and his team found the experience inspiring.

Equally inspiring, Crossley continued, has been seeing his bookseller colleagues around the country grapple with all the difficulties 2020 has thrown at them. "None of us are doing things the way we were taught or the way we wish we could, and we all feel like we're working three times as hard to keep up." But whenever he feels beleaguered, there's a PNBA virtual forum or an event like "Indies Press Night at the End of the World" that helps keep him going.


In Nashville, Tenn., Parnassus Books has not reopened for browsing, said co-owner Karen Hayes. The store is still sticking with curbside pick-up, online orders and shipping. Hayes reported that initially the store saw extremely strong online sales, to the point that she began to wonder if people were stocking up on books the way so many people were hoarding things like toilet paper. She added that online sales have begun to slow recently, which is a concern.

All staff members are wearing masks in-store and are encouraged to wash their hands regularly. Work stations have been spread apart so booksellers can work at safe distances. While some customers seem to be getting a little antsy about being able to browse again, most people have been supportive and are glad that the store is being so cautious. Hayes noted that if the store did reopen for browsing, they would have to move all the workstations into the back, which would not allow for proper distancing.

When asked when she might feel comfortable reopening, Hayes answered, "I wish I could say it was scientific." State guidelines would actually have given her the greenlight to reopen in June. Because the store has such a strong online presence and is fortunate to have Ann Patchett as a co-owner, Parnassus has been able to make do with online sales. On the subject of mask-wearing and social-distancing, meanwhile, Hayes said in her store's neighborhood, people seem to be pretty diligent about wearing masks. But in downtown Nashville, which is extremely touristy, there are lots of violations.

Hayes said her store had a "really hard time" keeping up with orders of antiracist titles after demand skyrocketed in early June. Parnassus got several days behind, and while there were some cancellations, people were patient for the most part. She noted that she and the Parnassus team "didn't feel good" about profiting off of those titles, and donated the profits from the top 20 antiracist books to a local organization called Gideon's Army. And this month, Parnassus is donating 10% of sales from its bestselling titles to Gideon's Army.

Obituary Note: John Lewis

John Lewis at BookExpo in 2018

John Lewis, the civil rights icon and longtime Representative called the "conscience of the Congress," died on Friday at age 80.

A speaker at the 1963 March on Washington, one of the first Freedom Riders, and a founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, he was best known as the leader of the voting rights march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., on March 7, 1965, when he was brutally beaten by state troopers--a scene repeated on television that helped passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 into law several months later.

He told his story and the history of the civil rights movement in several books, including Walking With the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement (1998), Across That Bridge: Life Lessons and a Vision for Change (2012), Wake Up America 1960-1963 with Andrew Aydin (2015), Civil Rights and the Promise of Equality (2015) and Run: Book One with Andrew Aydin (2018). The most enduring and powerful of his books was the series March, done in graphic novel form, with Andrew Aydin, illustrated by Nate Powell and published by Top Shelf Productions.

Published in 2013, March: Book One received an Author Honor from the American Library Association's 2014 Coretta Scott King Book Awards and was the first graphic novel to win a Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, receiving a Special Recognition bust in 2014.

Appearing in 2015, March: Book Two won the Will Eisner Comic Industry Award for Best Reality Based Work at San Diego Comic Con in 2016.

In 2016, March: Book Three appeared and won the 2016 National Book Award in Young People's Literature, becoming the first graphic novel to receive a National Book Award. The book also won the 2017 Printz Award, the Coretta Scott King Award, the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction, and the Sibert Medal, marking the first time a single book won four ALA awards.

In accepting the National Book Award, Lewis recalled that in 1956, when he was 16 and living in rural Alabama in a home with very few books, he and some of his brothers, sisters and cousins went to the local public library to get library cards but were refused, told that the library was for whites only. Breaking up momentarily, he said, "And to come here and receive this award, this honor--it's too much." He also remembered "a wonderful teacher in elementary school who told me, 'Read, my child, read.' And I tried to read everything. I love books."

See his moving acceptance remarks here.


Image of the Day: Stephen Graham Jones at Boulder Book Store

Stephen Graham Jones, author of The Only Good Indians (just published by Saga Press/Gallery), did a rare in-person event at Boulder Book Store, Boulder, Colo., last week. Jones was in conversation with lead buyer Arsen Kashkashian and Maeve Conran of KGNU's Radio Book Club. The store allowed a limited number of attendees, to maintain social distancing.

Video: 'How a Bookstore Kept Business Going During the Pandemic'

"I'm a purveyor of books," Janet Webster Jones, co-owner of Source Booksellers in Detroit, Mich., told the Gander in a recent video feature on what it takes to keep the spirit of small business alive and still foster a sense of community during a pandemic.

"I heard an author say some years ago, you have to read a lot of books to find your truth," Jones recalled. "You have to say, 'Self? What's making me mad?' And if you can identify it, then you can go read about it. And then you say, 'Self? What's making me sad? Maybe I better go and read what sadness is about. What makes for sadness.' You have a literary life. Everybody has a literary life; and that's the life you have to follow."

When Michigan's Stay-at-Home order was enacted, Source Booksellers shuttered the door, Jones said. "We pivoted quite quickly to online sales. We're following the CDC guidelines and the governor's lead. I told [Governor Whitmore] I think she's been handling this very, very well and very admirably. She sounds to me and looks to me like a very thoughtful, competent, able, understanding type person and governor."

Jones observed: "We're all interconnected. And to think that we can sort out and separate people, that's the big question that's going on now. Why has America participated so deeply in sorting and separating out human beings? And we're paying dearly for it now. I say community is anybody that comes in the door. It's no magical group of people. I think it's an error to try to pinpoint some group and call that community. It's everybody. Whether they know it or not. It's everybody."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Jim McCloskey on Fresh Air

Good Morning America: Patricia Heaton, author of Your Second Act: Inspiring Stories of Reinvention (Simon & Schuster, $26, 9781982141608). She will also appear tomorrow on the View.

The Talk: William Shatner, co-author of Live Long and . . .: What I Learned Along the Way (St. Martin's Griffin, $16.99, 9781250166708).

Late Night with Seth Meyers: Colin Jost, author of A Very Punchable Face: A Memoir (Crown, $27, 9781101906323).

Fresh Air: Jim McCloskey, author of When Truth Is All You Have: A Memoir of Faith, Justice, and Freedom for the Wrongly Convicted (Doubleday, $26.95, 9780385545037).

Late Show with Stephen Colbert: Greta Thunberg, co-author of Our House Is on Fire: Scenes of a Family and a Planet in Crisis (Penguin Books, $17, 9780143133575).

Movies: The Gray Man

Netflix is planning its "most financially ambitious feature film so far," Deadline reported, adding that Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans will star in The Gray Man, based on the 2009 Mark Greaney novel that "introduced the freelance assassin and former CIA operative named Court Gentry." AGBO's Joe & Anthony Russo (Avengers: Endgame) are directing the project with the goal of creating "a new franchise with a James Bond level of scale and a budget upward of $200 million." The script is by Joe Russo, with polishing by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely.

"The movie is a real mano a mano between those two great actors who represent two different versions of the CIA, in what it can be, and what it can do," Anthony Russo said. "For those who were fans of Captain America: Winter Soldier, this is us moving into that territory in more of a real-world setting."

Joe Russo added: "The intention is for it to be competitive with any theatrical, and the ability to do with Gosling and Evans is a dream for us. The idea is to create a franchise and build out a whole universe, with Ryan at the center of it. We have all committed to the first movie, and that's got to be great to get us to the second movie.... We formed AGBO to be an agnostic storytelling company, where we figure out the best platform. We think Netflix is the perfect place for this film."

Books & Authors

Awards: Sisters in Crime Davitt Shortlists

Shortlists have been released for the 2020 Davitt Awards, presented by Sisters in Crime to recognize the best crime books by Australian women. Six category winners--adult novel, YA novel, children's novel, nonfiction book, debut (any category) and Readers' Choice (as voted SiC members)--are expected to be announced at a September awards ceremony on Zoom. Check out the complete Davitt Award shortlists here.

Book Review

Review: Luster

Luster by Raven Leilani (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26 hardcover, 240p., 9780374194321, August 4, 2020)

Raven Leilani's first novel, Luster, is a rocket-paced, sensual fever dream of sex, trauma, relationships and conflicting perceptions.

Edie is in her 20s and struggling, with her crappy shared Bushwick apartment, her low-level position in children's publishing, her uninspired sexual choices and her irritable bowel syndrome. Her parents are dead, but the psychic wounds they inflicted are not. Her painting is not going well, and she is a Black woman in New York City. "Racism is often so mundane it leaves your head spinning, the hand of the ordinary in your slow, psychic death so sly and absurd you begin to distrust your own eyes." Early on, her affair with Eric seems different, refreshing, in spite of, or because of, the 23-year age gap. Then Edie gets fired and evicted, and she spirals, landing, weirdly, in the middle of someone else's marriage. She knew from the start that Eric was in an open marriage--his wife set a lot of rules for his relationship with Edie. But suddenly she finds herself taken in, literally, by Rebecca, living in their guest room in New Jersey, asked to mentor this white couple's adopted Black daughter, Akila. Surreality seems to be Edie's default, but now the funhouse mirror tilts again.

Edie's first-person narration is nearly stream-of-consciousness, long sentences overflowing with imaginative visual impressions and self-deprecation: "as the car is pulling away he is standing there on the porch in a floral silk robe that is clearly his wife's, looking like he has not so much had an orgasm as experienced an arduous exorcism, and a cat is sitting at his feet, utterly bemused by the white clapboard and verdant lawn, which makes me hate this cat as the city rises around me in a bouquet of dust, industrial soot, and overripe squash, insisting upon its own enormity like some big-dick postmodernist fiction and still beautiful despite its knowledge of itself, even as the last merciless days of July leave large swaths of the city wilted and blank." Edie's particular blend of despair, panic and self-destruction is spellbinding. As she hesitatingly helps Akila with her hair and accompanies Rebecca to work (conducting autopsies at the VA) and to a midnight mosh pit, Edie begins to paint again. She is inspired by the minutiae of this family home: lightbulb, dinner plate, Rebecca's body.

Luster is intoxicating and surprising, never letting readers settle into recognizable patterns. Leilani has crafted an unforgettable novel about a young woman making her own way. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Shelf Talker: Race, sex, shifting social rules, art, inspiration and digestive troubles plague the compelling protagonist of this debut novel.

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