Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Atlantic Monthly Press: Those Opulent Days: A Mystery by Jacquie Pham

Feiwel & Friends: The Flicker by HE Edgmon

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: The Pumpkin Princess and the Forever Night by Steven Banbury

St. Martin's Griffin: Murdle: The School of Mystery: 50 Seriously Sinister Logic Puzzles by GT Karber

Carolrhoda Lab (R): Here Goes Nothing by Emma K Ohland

Allida: Safiyyah's War by Hiba Noor Khan

Ace Books: Servant of Earth (The Shards of Magic) by Sarah Hawley


A Novel Concept Opens in Downtown Lansing, Mich.

Christine Bennett and Elise Jajuga (photo: Fox47)

Christine Bennett and Elise Jajuga have opened a  bookstore in downtown Lansing, Mich., called A Novel Concept. Jajuga and Bennett told Fox 47 that the store focuses on "underrepresented voices, specifically those of women, BIPOC and LGBTQ+ authors."

Located in the new Middle Town Village Micro Market at 112 S. Washington Square, A Novel Concept sells new and gently used titles along with tote bags, stickers and custom book covers. It's staffed by Bennett, Jajuga, and some friends and family members on a volunteer basis. The owners also run a book club for avid readers.

The store began as a pop-up shop that the owners launched over the summer, after going on a hike and discussing "what Lansing was missing in the literary scene and what we would like to see," Bennett explained.

While they'd always hoped to have a permanent space one day, it came about much quicker than Bennett or Jajuga ever expected. Julie Reinhardt, community director for Downtown Lansing Inc., which owns Middle Town Village Micro Market, approached them about setting up shop in the new retail space, and the pair couldn't pass up the opportunity.

PM Press: P Is for Palestine: A Palestine Alphabet Book by Golbarg Bashi, Illustrated by Golrokh Nafisi

The Indy Reads Bookstore Debuts in Indianapolis

Indy Reads, a nonprofit that runs adult literacy programs in Indianapolis, Ind., has opened a general-interest bookstore in downtown Indianapolis. While the store's inventory consists mainly of used books, there is an ample selection of new releases. Per Indianapolis Monthly, all proceeds from book sales go to funding the organization's literacy programs.

Located at 1066 Virginia Ave., the Indy Reads bookstore resides in a corner space that previously belonged to the Fountain Square Branch Libary. Bookstore program director Cat Cardwell manages the bookstore, which carries titles for all ages and across all genres. There is a children's area as well as a rare books section, and space for customers to sit and read. The store also features a digital kiosk near the counter that customers can use to order digital audiobooks and new titles that might not be on display.

"The online store allows for a more extensive catalogue and new releases," said v-p of programs Christina Binhack.

Indy Reads used to have a bookstore that opened on Massachusetts Avenue in 2012 and was separate from the nonprofit's headquarters. Now, the bookstore and the literacy organization are all in one building. Binhack added that Indy Reads "wanted to find a space to illustrate our mission as a whole. It's more than a store, it's an opportunity to create a community hub for families."

Over the coming months, the bookstore will start hosting events for children and adults.

Farrar, Straus and Giroux: Intermezzo by Sally Rooney

S.F.'s Alley Cat Bookstore & Gallery Becomes Medicine for Nightmares Bookstore

Medicine for Nightmares owners J.K. Fowler, Tân Khánh Cao and Josiah Luis Alderete.

Alley Cat Bookstore & Gallery, San Francisco, Calif., has closed, and has been replaced by a new bookstore called Medicine for Nightmares, which has taken over the lease for the space, Mission Local reported.

In August, owner Kate Razo put the 10-year-old store up for sale, noting that it was "in the center of the Calle 24 Latino Cultural District" and sold new, used and remaindered titles "with a Latinx flavor." There was also a robust selection of vinyl.

Razo said she wanted to get the store "into the next, rightful hands," which turn out to be a trio: Chicano poet and City Lights bookseller Josiah Luis Alderete, J.K. Fowler of Nomadic Press, and Tân Khánh Cao, a former Dog Eared Books staff member.

"It would be a BIPOC collective," Razo said, and "what would be better than that, right? In my mind, with all hope, prayers and confidence, they are going to take it to its next rightful place in the community."

Razo, who sold the Dog Eared Books location in the Castro in September (it reopened as Fabulosa Books), still owns Dog Eared Books on Valencia Street. She noted that the pandemic, which caused her three stores to shut their doors for a while, also "afforded me an opportunity to reprioritize my priorities" and reevaluate how she wanted to live the rest of her life, especially considering that she is 60 and her husband 65. She plans to focus on her "beloved" Dog Eared.

Graywolf Press Director & Publisher Fiona McCrae to Retire

Fiona McCrae

Graywolf Press director and publisher Fiona McCrae plans to retire, effective June 2022, after 27 years in the position. She joined the company in 1994, only the second publisher to lead the press after its founding by Scott Walker in 1974. Previously she had been an editor at Faber & Faber in London and then Boston.

A committee led by Cathy Polasky, chair of the Graywolf board of directors, will lead the search for a successor. "We celebrate Fiona's 27 years of dedication to the organization and recognize the enormous future potential of Graywolf," Polasky said. "Fiona herself has often told us that change is opportunity, so we look forward to ensuring that new leadership builds on the strength that she has helped to create while forging new paths for Graywolf."

McCrae observed: "It's an emotional moment to think about stepping away from this beloved press that has allowed me to flourish over so many years. It's been a marvelous adventure and I am so grateful to all the incredible individuals I have had the pleasure of working with, from the exceptional staff and board to all our cherished and talented writers. Their words have changed and enriched me in countless ways. I have loved it all: discovering new writers, seeing new covers come together, traveling to meet national and international colleagues, the successes--large and small, the readings, the conferences and book fairs. Such riches--I have been so lucky. Thanks to the generosity of our supporters the press is in robust shape, ready for a fresh vision to guide it to its new chapter."

During her tenure at Graywolf, McCrae and the team of editors she put together have published writers who have been recognized with a wide range of awards and nominations, including the National Book Award, Pulitzer Prize, Nobel Prize, Booker Prize, Booker International Prize, National Book Critics Circle Award and International Dublin Literary Award. 

Those writers include Elizabeth Alexander, Eula Biss, Jamel Brinkley, Anna Burns, Tsitsi Dangarembga, Natalie Diaz, Percival Everett, Jakob Guanzon, Leslie Jamison, Layli Long Soldier, Carmen Maria Machado, Maggie Nelson, Dorthe Nors, Max Porter, Claudia Rankine, Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, Vijay Seshadri, Danez Smith, Tracy K. Smith, Mary Szybist and Kevin Young.

McCrae expanded the reach of the press by forging partnerships with other organizations, including the College of St. Benedict, the Bread Loaf Writers' Conferences, the Library of Congress, the Academy of American Poets, the Poetry Foundation, Cave Canem, A Public Space and Farrar, Straus and Giroux, which has distributed Graywolf's titles since 2002. She oversaw the creation of Graywolf's National Council, the Citizen Literary Fellowship, and the Art of series of short books on the craft of writing, as well as the launch of prizes like the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize and the African Fiction Prize.

She is currently vice-chair of the National Book Foundation board, serves on the boards of the Anderson Center and the literary journal Fence, and is an adviser for Orion magazine. She was awarded the CLMP Golden Colophon for leadership in 2014, and received the Poets & Writers Editor's Award with Graywolf Press executive editor Jeff Shotts in 2017.

First Part of CALIBA E-Holiday Catalog Delivered

On Sunday, the first part of the e-newsletter edition of the 2021 California Independent Booksellers Alliance holiday catalog was sent to 108,862 bookstore customers of 32 participating stores. The second of the four parts of the catalog will be sent this coming Sunday, November 14.

The e-newsletter, powered by Shelf Awareness, features holiday titles from CALIBA, is branded with each participating store's logo, and has "buy now" buttons that lead directly to the purchase page for the title on the sending store's website.

For a sample of the newsletter, see this one from Poet's Corner Bookshop, Duncans Mills, Calif., "the smallest bookshop in the country."


Will Smith Launches Memoir at Harriett's Bookshop in Philadelphia

Actor, producer, musician and now author Will Smith launched an international book tour Monday for his new memoir, Will (Penguin Press), at Harriett's Bookstore in Philadelphia, Pa. WHYY reported that "about a hundred people waited for him to arrive, listening to a DJ spin old-school hip-hop on the sidewalk.... An entourage of five black SUVs pulled up outside the store. As everyone's attention swung to the street, security guards opened the door for Smith who pushed through the crowd, dutifully taking selfies with fans and autographing vinyl records, CD cases, and sundry merchandise related to his 35-year career in music, television, and movies."

"The only book for sale in our shop for the next few days is Will's book," said owner Jeannine A. Cook. "Our bookshop was only six weeks old when the pandemic hit. Right? For somebody like that to come in and make sure that a Black woman-owned bookshop is doing well and thriving, it means a whole lot to us."

Once inside Harriett's, he signed copies of his book while broadcasting an interview on Instagram Live. WHYY noted that the "crowd had dissipated a bit when Smith re-emerged from the bookstore, but the crush of fans wanting selfies and autographs had not abated. Back in his black SUV, he drove off into the night. The whole event, lasting about two hours, was billed as a protest by the owner, Cook. She put some of her employees on the street holding signs among Smith's fans: 'This Is A Protest.' "

"The word protest has been minimized. It has lost a way. A protest could be many things," she said. "Why can't a book launch be a protest? Why can't me telling my story be a protest? It's really about a protest of one: me walking my walk and doing things the way that I feel called to do them is my personal protest. That's what Will has done with the book."

Personnel Changes at Sourcebooks

Brittney Mmutle has joined Sourcebooks as marketing manager.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Will Smith on Fresh Air

Fresh Air: Will Smith, author of Will (Penguin Press, $30, 9781984877925).

Drew Barrymore Show: Andy Cohen, author of Glitter Every Day: 365 Quotes from Women I Love (Holt, $24, 9781250832399).

The Real: Michael Eric Dyson, author of Entertaining Race: Performing Blackness in America (‎St. Martin's Press, $32.50, 9781250135971).

Watch What Happens Live: Emily Ratajkowski, author of My Body (Metropolitan, $26, 9781250817860).

Movies: Vulcan's Hammer

Francis Lawrence and New Republic Pictures are teaming up to adapt Philip K. Dick's 1960 novel Vulcan's Hammer, with Lawrence (Hunger Games and Legend movies, Constantine) directing and producing the film. The Hollywood Reporter wrote that the title "was picked up from the Dick estate under About:blank's first-look deal with New Republic, which recently wrapped shooting the latest Michael Bay action movie, Ambulance."

Brian Oliver and Bradley Fischer of New Republic will produce alongside Lawrence and Cameron MacConomy of About:blank. Also producing is Isa Dick Hackett from Electric Shepherd.

Books & Authors

Awards: Scotiabank Giller Winner, Diagram Oddest Book Title Shortlist

Omar El Akkad won the C$100,000 (about US$80,780) Scotiabank Giller Prize for his novel, What Strange Paradise. El Akkad will be honored with a virtual interview as part of the online 2022 San Miguel Writer's Conference & Literary Festival, on February 13, 2022.

The jury said: "Amid all the anger and confusion surrounding the global refugee crisis, Omar El Akkad's What Strange Paradise paints a portrait of displacement and belonging that is at once unflinching and tender. In examining the confluence of war, migration and a sense of settlement, it raises questions of indifference and powerlessness and, ultimately, offers clues as to how we might reach out empathetically in a divided world."

Elana Rabinovitch, executive director of the prize, said that What Strange Paradise "is unflinching in its examination of our current refugee crisis and the lengths to which people will go to find home, safety and belonging. A brilliant book by a brilliant author to whom I wish continued success and ongoing recognition."


A six-book shortlist has been released for the 2021 Diagram Prize for the Oddest Book Title of the Year. Begun in 1978 by Trevor Bounford and the late Bruce Robertson, co-founders of publishing solutions firm the Diagram Group, "as a way to avoid boredom at the annual Frankfurt Book Fair," the award has been administered by the Bookseller and with legendary diarist Horace Bent since 1982. The winning title will be chosen by members of the public via an online vote, and a winner announced December 3. This year's shortlisted titles are:

Curves for the Mathematically Curious
Handbook of Research on Health and Environmental Benefits of Camel Products
Hats: A Very Unnatural History
Is Superman Circumcised?
The Life Cycle of Russian Things: From Fish Guts to Fabergé
Miss, I Don't Give a Shit: Engaging with Challenging Behaviour in Schools

There is no prize for the winning author or publisher, but traditionally a "passable bottle of claret" is given to the nominator of the winning entry. If a title wins that was nominated by the Bookseller staff, the claret will be given at random to a member of the public who participated in the online voting. 

Reading with... Glory Edim

photo: Tiffany A. Bloomfield

Glory Edim is the founder of Well-Read Black Girl, a book club and digital platform that promotes Black literature and sisterhood. She won the Innovator's Award at the 2017 Los Angeles Times Book Prizes and is the editor of On Girlhood: 15 Stories from the Well-Read Black Girl Library (Liveright, October 26, 2021), an anthology featuring contributors ranging from Toni Morrison and Dorothy West to Edwidge Danticat and Danielle Evans.

On your nightstand now:

The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers--reading it right before I go to bed is a lush experience. Honorée has such a beautiful way with prose. The book is brilliant and I don't want it to end! I love how she captures this indelible portrait of an American family.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Honey, I Love and Other Love Poems by Eloise Greenfield. I picked up that book because of LeVar Burton--it was selected as a Reading Rainbow pick--and I was so captured by it when he held it up on screen that I insisted my mom take me to the library so I could get a copy.

When I did check it out, I was so thrilled to see a reflection of myself in the book--these beautiful pencil drawings of Black girls with big eyes and curly hair. As a kid, I was really drawn to poetry. I tried my best to imitate Greenfield's lyricism but it was a lot of roses are red and violets are blue.

For me, that moment of recognition helped shine a light on how important it is for all of us--regardless of our gender or race--to have an opportunity to find ourselves. I really held on to it; it was a formative experience. From that point on, I was always looking for myself in the pages of a book. My experiences as a young girl are bookmarked by that moment, from Greenfield I traveled to Zora Neale Hurston and Toni Morrison, and so much of the work I try to champion in my new book On Girlhood.

Your top five authors:

Toni Morrison
Maya Angelou
Alice Walker
Edwidge Danticat
Jacqueline Woodson

Book you've faked reading:

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. Austen is this iconic novelist, and there was a moment in high school we had to read Sense and Sensibility, and I was so over the critique of the British empire. Even though Austen was exploring marriage and this idea of female independence, I couldn't fall in love with the characters. I turned to Cliffs Notes for this one!

Book you're an evangelist for:

Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde. I read Sister Outsider numerous times in college and it provided a blueprint for understanding the Black radical tradition and Black feminism; I was so drawn to how Lorde was able to dedicate her life and her writing to address injustice of all kinds. She was one of the first writers who helped me understand how powerful the word could be--not just in the sense of enjoying a work of writing, and sitting within it, but that words can radicalize you. I don't think I had that understanding until I read her work.

Book you've bought for the cover:

There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé by Morgan Parker. Morgan Parker is a phenomenal poet and this collection features the photography of Carrie Mae Weems. When you buy this poetry collection, it's like you're getting two works of art: this provocative photo and this beautiful work of poetry. The photo beckons you to read what's inside; it's this perfect pairing.

Book you hid from your parents:

The Coldest Winter Ever by Sister Souljah--the main character, Winter, is completely unpredictable and does things on her own accord. There's sex and drugs and violence, and it's a suspenseful page-turner. If my mom saw me reading that, she would not have been happy. It introduced me to this whole other world I wasn't privy to.

Book that changed your life:

Migrations of the Heart by Marita Golden. It's an autobiography, her own story about being a young woman and finding self-awareness and coming to terms with family and identity. It takes place in D.C., where I'm from, and I was so taken by her ability to tell her story with such vulnerability. For me, it was one of the first things that made me think about my own journey and what it means to create a home--whether that means a physical home, or an emotional home. There are moments where I saw myself; I was taken in by the parallels in our own personal journeys. She was married to a Nigerian man and moved from D.C. to Africa; my parents are Nigerian and I'm from D.C. She tells the story with such introspection, she does a great job of exploring racial and cultural identity.

Favorite line from a book:

"What's the world for you if you can't make it up the way you want it?" --Toni Morrison, Jazz

Five books you'll never part with:

Jazz by Toni Morrison
Breathe by Imani Perry
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work by Edwidge Danticat
There Was a Country by Chinua Achebe

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

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis. I think this is such a good book and I feel like not enough people know about it. It reminds me a lot of The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois. It goes through the story of this one family and how they're impacted by the Great Migration, and you really get an understanding of one woman's coming of age against that historical backdrop.

I want more people to read her work and understand what an incredible writer Ayana is. It was picked as an Oprah's Book Club book, but I feel like it could still get more attention.

Favorite short story collection:

Drinking Coffee Elsewhere by ZZ Packer. I am so drawn to short stories because the craft really illustrates the author's command of language, and it allows the reader to fall into these unexpected turns. When you're writing a short story, you really must understand how to capture the reader's attention quickly and leave them with something that they feel satisfied at the end. I like that juxtaposition--the use of brevity and the unexpected. There's something about short stories that always seems fresh and versatile. Drinking Coffee Elsewhere is a truly unforgettable collection--to me, it stands out as one of the best short story collections ever written.

Book Review

Children's Review: Light for All

Light for All by Margarita Engle, illus. by Raúl Colón (Paula Wiseman Books, $17.99 hardcover, 40p., ages 4-8, 9781534457270, December 7, 2021)

Former Young People's Poet Laureate Margarita Engle (Your Heart, My Sky) masterfully blends inspiring symbolism with sobering reality in Light for All, a picture book that both celebrates and exposes the hardships of the immigrant experience. Pura Belpré Award-winning illustrator Raúl Colón (Imagine!) splendidly fills the pages with his signature colored-pencil art, inviting readers into landscapes and locations near and far.

"From land to land/ brave travelers arrive/ with hopes, dreams, skills/ and determination," Engle's text begins. Colón populates the opposite page with an international cast presented in sepia tones, with the funnels of a large ship in the background. Colón's point of view pulls outward with the page turn to show the ship heading into New York Harbor. Full color brightens the spread, as if lit by the iconic Statue of Liberty's torch: "The powerful light/ of a mighty lamp/ shines/ for all!" U.S. shores enable "wondrous" reunions, but reminders of destruction and devastation loom: "From land to land/ survivors arrive/ escaping from war,/ storms, earthquakes,/ hunger." Colón embellishes each scene with deft details--hard-hatted aid workers surveying collapsed housing, a lone dog sniffing for hope. Engle projects "the promise of jobs" that beckon the next talented generations of "doctors, scientists,/ artists, singers, students, cooks,/ and farmers," but also realistically reveals "we have to struggle to be accepted,/ because some people don't understand/ the need/ for equality." Colón places the young immigrants on the left, scrutinized by a diverse crowd of young Americans.

Immigrants who speak more than English who "still love the lands/ where we were born" are also the same citizens who will "love this new homeland." Colón's illustrations emphasize a United States that is comprised of global backgrounds--featuring Chichén Itzá, Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China, Mount Kilimanjaro--while Engle acknowledges the "long, bitter story of the U.S., a history/ that began with cruel invasions,/ stealing from Native people,/ and bringing enslaved captives." And yet "gentler waves of arrival followed,/ with newcomers welcomed, so that now/ we're part of the Statue of Liberty's/ promise."

Although both were born in the U.S., Cuban Ukrainian Engle and Puerto Rican American Colón's prolific artistic outputs have repeatedly emphasized their Latinx backgrounds and experiences. That heartfelt empathy is clearly reflected here, in lingering words and vibrant art as they embody Liberty's light, "creating/ shared hope/ for all." --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon

Shelf Talker: This vibrant picture book both celebrates and elucidates the challenges of the immigrant experience for youngest readers.

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