Shelf Awareness for Friday, April 14, 2023

 Kokila: Everything We Never Had by Randy Ribay

Nancy Paulsen Books: Sync by Ellen Hopkins

Running Press Adult: Cat People by Hannah Hillam

Beaming Books: Must-Have Autumn Reads for Your Shelf!

Dial Press: Like Mother, Like Mother by Susan Rieger

Severn House: A Messy Murder (Main) (The Decluttering Mysteries #4) by Simon Brett

Forge: My Three Dogs by Bruce W Cameron


For Sale: Our Town Books, Jacksonville, Ill.

Our Town Books, Jacksonville, Ill., has been put up for sale by Jessica Gale, who has owned the new and used bookshop since 2019. In a Facebook post noting that the decision was made "with many mixed emotions," Gale wrote that she is "moving back to Western New York, where we lived before coming to Jacksonville for work, almost ten years ago.... 

"With so many new retail spaces and restaurants opening, and old storefronts and buildings being revitalized and repurposed, we believe this is a really special time in Jacksonville's Historical Downtown. The Bookstore has already felt the benefits of the growth and renovation around us, and this is an opportune time for someone new to take the reins of this unique and thriving small business that has held a place in Jacksonville's historical downtown for over a decade. We'd love to find a person (or persons!) who is able to maintain the presence of the bookstore in Jacksonville's Downtown, while making it their own--Someone who not only loves books, but has an interest in running a small business!"

Gale told the Journal-Courier that she has had a lot of interest in the store and is hoping one of the prospects will be a great candidate to purchase the bookshop. Though the business is for sale, the building space is leased and any purchaser would have to sign a lease to remain there. 

"I really am excited to see who the new owner will be and I am really grateful for the support I've had in my ownership of the bookstore," she noted, adding that if a buyer isn't found by the time she moves, she will keep the store open under the supervision of a manager until it sells.

In her Facebook post, Gale also observed: "Our Town Books didn't begin with me, though, and since its opening by Sally and Jim Nurss--then through its ownership by Andy Mitchell--it has experienced incredible sustainability and support from a town that values community, books and literacy. This bookstore and the community that have supported it are truly one-of-a-kind! I know the next right owner of Our Town Books is out there, so please share this notice far and wide and help us find them!!"

For more information, contact Gale at

G.P. Putnam's Sons: The Restaurant of Lost Recipes (A Kamogawa Food Detectives Novel) by Hisashi Kashiwai, Translated by Jesse Kirkwood

ABA Votes in New Board Members

American Booksellers Association members have voted in favor of the nominating committee's recommendations for new board members, Bookselling This Week reported.

Top: Capriola, Stockton Bagnulo, Swayze, Weinkauf; bottom: Tegani, Compton, Cohen

ABA board members elected to three-year terms (2023-2026) are:

Diane Capriola, Little Shop of Stories, Decatur, Ga. (previously served as an appointee)
Jessica Stockton Bagnulo, Greenlight Bookstores, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Lisa Swayze, Buffalo Street Books, Ithaca, N.Y.
Holly Weinkauf, Red Balloon Bookshop, St. Paul, Minn

The ABA board's new officers are:
President: Tegan Tigani, Queen Anne Book Company, Seattle, Wash.
Co-vice-president & secretary: Cynthia Compton, 4 Kids Books & Toys, Zionsville, & MacArthur Books, Carmel, Ind.
Co-vice-president: Jenny Cohen, Waucoma Bookstore, Hood River, Ore.

The board transition will occur after ABA's Annual Meeting and Community Forum on May 25. New board members will be present at the meeting as part of the transition.

Harpervia: Only Here, Only Now by Tom Newlands

Biden's Appointments to President’s Committee on the Arts & the Humanities Include Indie Bookseller

President Joe Biden has announced 24 appointments, including an independent bookseller, to the restored President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, which advises the president and the heads of U.S. cultural agencies on policy, philanthropic and private sector engagement, and other efforts to enhance federal support for the arts, humanities, and museum and library services. Biden named Oscar and Tony-winning, Emmy-nominated producer Bruce Cohen and singer, songwriter, actress, and philanthropist Lady Gaga as PCAH co-chairs. 

In August 2017, during the Trump administration, the committee had disbanded "when its members resigned in protest following the deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., but was restored by the Biden administration last September," the New York Times reported.

Steve Israel

One notable appointee is Steve Israel, who served in the U.S. Congress between 2001–2017, including four years as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee from 2011–2015. He left Washington to pursue new passions, including opening an independent bookstore, Theodore's Books, in Oyster Bay, N.Y., fulfilling a lifelong dream. 

Israel also directs the nonpartisan Institute of Politics and Global Affairs at the Jeb S. Brooks School of Public Policy at Cornell University, which serves as a platform for civic engagement and bipartisan dialogue. He has published two satires of Washington: The Global War on Morris and Big Guns. He serves on the Library of Congress Madison Council as well as many other boards of directors.

In Congress, Israel served on the House Appropriations Committee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, which has jurisdiction on historic preservation, fine arts, cultural arts, museums, and related activities. He also served on the Subcommittee on Defense and the House Armed Services Committee. Israel’s written commentary has appeared in several major publications, and he writes a biweekly column for The Hill

Sidelines Snapshot: Chocolates, Cards, Puzzles and Board Games

At Eagle Eye Book Shop in Decatur, Ga., bookseller and events manager Jamille Christman recently expanded the store's game section. It includes more expensive games from Asmodee (publisher of games such as Pandemic, Ticket to Ride, and Catan), which Christman described as "a slow burn but a good money maker on each item." She will also sometimes mix board games into different sections, such as putting a gardening game in the gardening section.

From Wild Republic

Continuing on the subject of recent additions, Christman said she's brought in art supplies by Peter Pauper Press that "fly off the shelf," and Magnetic Poetry is "doing really well" thanks to a new location and interesting merchandising. Other new products include Éccolo gift mugs (the company also makes nice journals, Christman said) and Wild Republic Audubon plush birds, which make accurate calls. Christman described the birds as "no-brainers," given the number of events the store does with the Georgia Audubon society.

Though the Eagle Eye team has always been "wary" of candy, the store has had success recently with Seattle Chocolate, and Stuckey's Candy has been a "very big surprise for us." They are especially popular with those who remember the old Stuckey's candy shops, Christman noted, and they have good display racks.

Asked about any locally or regionally made sidelines, Christman pointed to Charleston Tea, which is grown in the U.S., and on the topic of perennial favorites, she said cards have always been extremely popular. While the store carries many different lines, Papyrus, American Greetings, Lovepop, Up with Paper and Quotable are some that do very well. Socks also do a brisk trade, and Christman likes to carry socks from suppliers like Hotsox as well as Out of Print. Lastly, Christman added that she's experiencing fewer supply-chain issues now than earlier in the pandemic, but the store has been affected by prices going up "both with merchandise and shipping."


From Mincing Mockingbird

Ari Gersen, owner of Longfellow Books in Portland, Maine, reported that journals and note cards always sell well, with Mincing Mockingbird and Decomposition notebooks being particularly popular at the moment. Booklights and puzzles are also doing very well; Gersen noted that the store has increased its puzzle section to meet demand and specifically has brought in a lot more puzzles from Pomegranate.

Longfellow Books carries cards and calendars made by local artists, including the popular artist Blue Butterfield, and the team is excited about a new Portland-themed Monopoly game that will come out soon. In addition to cards and journals, Chocolove chocolates have become "continual sellers for us." Asked about any supply-chain issues, Gerson said most of the recent problems he's faced have resulted from mergers or major changes at distributors. --Alex Mutter

If you are interested in having your store appear in a future Sidelines Snapshot article, please e-mail

Obituary Note: Rachel Pollack

Rachel Pollack
(photo: Joyce Tudrin)

Rachel Pollack, the prolific author who wrote award-winning science fiction and fantasy, as well as bestselling books on tarot, died on April 7. She was 77.

In 1980, Pollack published Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom, a guide to tarot that has never gone out of print and has been described as the "bible of tarot." In 1989 she won the Arthur C. Clarke Award for her novel Unquenchable Fire, and its sequel, Temporary Agency, won the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1994. Her book Godmother Night won the 1997 World Fantasy Award, and her most recent novel was The Fissure King, published in 2017.

In the 1990s, Pollack helmed a 20-plus issue run of the comic series Doom Patrol for DC's imprint Vertigo, taking over from Grant Morrison. During her Doom Patrol run, Pollack created the character Kate Godwin, "considered to be the first transgender superhero in mainstream comics," the Guardian reported.

Author Neil Gaiman, a friend of Pollack since the 1980s who visited her shortly before her death, wrote: "Rachel was a beloved writer of fantasy, but I prefer to describe her as a magical realist. She wrote these wonderful books of heightened reality and magical worlds where she would concretize metaphor."

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1945, Pollack began her career as an author with the short story "Pandora's Bust," published in 1971 in Michael Moorcock's magazine New World. Pollack transitioned shortly thereafter, and while living in the U.K., she became an activist and coordinated a group within the Gay Liberation Front that in 1972 released the first trans manifesto, called "Don't Call Me Mister You Fucking Beast."

"Rachel was a crystallizing force in the trans movement and so many other areas," remembered British writer and cultural critic Roz Kavenay. "She was perpetually an inspirational figure, and was one of the first professional trans writers who had a career while out, and proved that it was possible to do that."

Writer and historian Morgan M Page said of Pollack's place in the tarot world: "Quite simply, Rachel was the greatest living authority on the tarot." She was a member of the American Tarot Association, the International Tarot Society, and the Tarot Guild of Australia. She taught at the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies, created her own tarot decks, and wrote the books for The Vertigo Tarot and Salvador Dali's Tarot, among others.

"Rachel was a trailblazer, an independent spirit, and a shining light, as she will continue to be," wrote the staff of Red Wheel/Weiser Books in a tribute. "We are so grateful and honored to have had the opportunity to work with her."


Image of the Day: PNBA's Spring Pop-Up

The two-day Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Spring Pop-Up took place in Eugene, Ore., this week. The author keynote on the first day featured (from left) Keith Rosson, author of Fever House (Random House, Aug.), and Laini Taylor and Jim Di Bartolo, author and illustrator, respectively, of Billie Blaster and the Robot Army from Outer Space (Amulet Books, Aug.).

Personnel Changes at Simon & Schuster

In the Simon & Schuster trade publicity department:

Cat Boyd has been promoted to assistant director of publicity.

Brianna Scharfenberg has also been promoted to assistant director of publicity.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Rep. Katie Porter on Real Time with Bill Maher

HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher: Rep. Katie Porter, author of I Swear: Politics Is Messier Than My Minivan (Crown, $28, 9780593443989).

TV: The Sympathizer

HBO has released the official teaser trailer and a new photo for the original limited series The Sympathizer, based on Viet Thanh Nguyen's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. Deadline reported that the trailer provides "a glimpse at the four characters played by Robert Downey Jr. who executive produces the series alongside co-showrunners Park Chan-wook and Don McKellar." The footage introduces a cast led by Hoa Xuande, Fred Nguyen Khan, Toan Le, Ky Duyen, and Sandra Oh.

Co-showrunner, executive producer, writer Park Chan-wook directed Episodes 1-3. Co-showrunner and writer Don McKellar also executive produces alongside A24, Downey Jr., Susan Downey and Amanda Burrell for Team Downey, Kim Ly, Niv Fichman for Rhombus Media, Ron Schmidt, Viet Thanh Nguyen, and Jisun Back for Moho Film. The Sympathizer is a co-production between HBO, A24, and Rhombus Media and will premiere in 2024.

Books & Authors

Awards: Donner Shortlist

The Donner Canadian Foundation has released a shortlist for the Donner Prize, which "celebrates excellence in public policy writing by Canadians." The winner, who will be announced May 18 at a gala awards presentation in Toronto, receives C$60,000 (about US$44,955), with each of the finalists getting C$7,500 (about US$5,620). This year's shortlisted titles are:

Cooperation and Social Justice by Joseph Heath 
Dream States: Smart Cities, Technology, and the Pursuit of Urban Utopias by John Lorinc
Booze, Cigarettes and Constitutional Dust-Ups: Canada's Quest for Interprovincial Free Trade by Ryan Manucha 
The Next Age of Uncertainty: How the World Can Adapt to a Riskier Future by Stephen Poloz 
Canadian Policing: Why and How It Must Change by Kent Roach 

Granta Names 'Best of Young British Novelists'

As it has every decade since 1983, Granta magazine unveiled its 2023 Best of Young British Novelists list of 20 writers under 40, though this time the list has "expanded to include writers who 'regard this country as their home' even if they don't have a British passport," the Guardian reported. "The result is a more varied and encompassing portrait of the kind of writing that is happening today in Britain," said Luke Neima, deputy editor of Granta.

Selected by judges Tash Aw, Rachel Cusk, Brian Dillon, Helen Oyeyemi and Sigrid Rausing, Granta's 2023 picks for Best of Young British Novelists are Graeme Armstrong, Jennifer Atkins, Sara Baume, Sarah Bernstein, Natasha Brown, Eleanor Catton, Eliza Clark, Tom Crewe, Lauren Aimee Curtis, Camilla Grudova, Isabella Hammad, Sophie Mackintosh, Anna Metcalfe, Thomas Morris, Derek Owusu, K Patrick, Yara Rodrigues Fowler, Saba Sams, Olivia Sudjic, and Eley Williams.

Granta will publish its once-in-a-decade Best of Young British Novelists issue later this month. 

Reading with... Mahogany L. Browne

photo: Heath Antonio

Writer, playwright, organizer, and educator Mahogany L. Browne, selected as one of the Kennedy Center's Next 50, is Wesleyan's 2022-2023 Distinguished Writer-in-Residence, executive director of JustMedia, and artistic director of Urban Word. She is the author of Vinyl Moon; Chlorine Sky (optioned for Steppenwolf Theatre); Woke: A Young Poet's Call to Justice (with Elizabeth Acevedo and Olivia Gatwood); Woke Baby; and editor (with Idrissa Simmonds and Jamila Woods) of Black Girl Magic. Founder of the diverse lit initiative Woke Baby Book Fair, she is also the first poet-in-residence at Lincoln Center and lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. Browne's latest poetry collection is Chrome Valley (Liveright).

Handsell readers your book in 25 words or less:

Chrome Valley is a collection of survival notes, from cul de sac America, where some of the most vicious violence occurs: addiction, abandonment, and apathy.

On your nightstand now: 

We Are All So Good at Smiling by Amber McBride, Taught by Women, edited by Haki R. Madhubuti, and Unshuttered by Patricia Smith.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Anything written by Beverly Clearly. Period(t).

Your top five authors:

Shay Youngblood, Sonia Sanchez, Toni Morrison, Terrance Hayes, Alice Walker.

Book you've faked reading:

Some jawn by Shakespeare. It wasn't his fault. I was just done.

Book you're an evangelist for:

It's a tie--or a double service: Salvage the Bones x Black Girl in Paris

Book you've bought for the cover:

I'm not sure there is one!

Book you hid from your parents:

B-Boy Blues.

Book that changed your life:

Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison x Mama by Terry McMillan.

Favorite line from a book:

let me wear the day/ well so when it reaches you/ you will enjoy it --Sonia Sanchez


God is change --Octavia Butler

Five books you'll never part with:

I'll part with all my books. I stole from the library when I was younger. It is now my obligation to keep these books in rotation. (Though I have a first edition of Gwendolyn Brooks, Octavia Butler, and Terrance Hayes--so I guess those??)

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

Song of Solomon.

Book Review

Review: The East Indian

The East Indian by Brinda Charry (Scribner, $28 hardcover, 272p., 9781668004524, May 2, 2023)

The East Indian by Brinda Charry is both a historical adventure novel and a coming-of-age drama featuring a boy bought to 1630s colonial Virginia from India by way of England, and his improbable rise from indentured servitude on a tobacco plantation to a respected medical practitioner and healer. Seen through the wondrous large brown eyes of its charming, youthful protagonist, Tony, Charry's U.S. debut is a dazzling first-person account of a reluctant traveler destined to a life of movement, displacement, and persistent reinvention.

The story begins in a salt-encrusted Indian coastal town where Tony lives with his doting mother, a courtesan known for her graceful, stunning beauty. After she succumbs to cholera, Tony is sent by his mother's lover, East India Company man Sir Francis Day, to London to work for a wealthy merchant. Things do not go as planned for the boy. Homesick for his mother's warm embrace, he treads a rocky path toward adulthood, with several spectacular twists and dark turns leading eventually to the joys of first love and a coveted job as a physician's assistant.

Tony, known simply as "Tony East Indian," is the namesake of an obscure historical figure Charry discovered in the American colonial archives, a long forgotten brown-skinned man documented as the first South Asian person to set foot in America. Inspired by the unknown details of his life, Charry's bold, imaginative storytelling is fortified by in-depth research, immersing readers in the treacherous sea journey to the New World aboard the God's Gift, and the savage beauty of Virginia's raw landscape, where Tony is taken into bondage along with shipmates Dick and Sam.

Tony is not one to dwell on his fate with despair. His account is marked by his irrepressible hope, curiosity, and faith in himself, and spiked with a satirical edge. He shows determination in pursuing his dreams despite the wary suspicion of white settlers and even his newfound friends over what to make of him, a "tawny moor."

Charry, a specialist in English Renaissance literature, is interested in the early history of globalization and the unbroken link between the first immigrants to the United States and recent arrivals like the author herself. The East Indian is a tender tribute to the earliest laborers who survived by their wits as servants and enslaved, fated to build new lives far from home. It bears all the markings of a well-loved classic. --Shahina Piyarali, reviewer

Shelf Talker: This handsomely written and well-researched historical adventure novel and coming-of-age drama features a boy brought to 1630s colonial Virginia from India by way of England.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: National Poetry Month--'It Was Perfect... and It Was Worth It'

I've been celebrating National Poetry Month since its inception in 1996, from building displays and hosting events as a bookseller to later writing Shelf Awareness NPM columns, starting in 2007 with these words: "Poetry Month reminds us that poetry is still a retail labor of love. Over the years, I've met Poetry Month evangelists and detractors among booksellers, readers and writers. Even some poets I know have expressed mixed feelings about the concept, wondering why poetry has to be trotted out like an orphan up for adoption once a year. Why isn't it irresistible? The answer is that it is an orphan for most readers." 

Poetry Month display at Brookline Booksmith

Booksellers celebrate in so many great ways. NPM is a big room, with plenty of space for fun events like the Worst Poetry Ever contest at Maze Books, Rockford, Ill., as well as Brookline Booksmith's eloquent tribute to the season: "Poetry in springtime--the ideal medium at the ideal moment for reawakening, solace, connection and inspiration. Here to help you savor it all is our selection of the best and most exciting poetry from around the world and across time, from voices both mainstream and marginalized, in forms ranging from traditional to experimental. Reaffirm your love for the precision of Basho's haiku or the sumptuousness of Neruda's odes; experience Derek Walcott's joy in the life and language of the Caribbean; revel in the graceful lines of Ocean Vuong or the taut fire of Layli Long Soldier; or delve into Pádraig Ó Tuama's anthology of 'Poems to Open Your World'--and find, as Emily Dickinson put it, that 'If I feel like the top of my head is blown off, then I know it is poetry.' "

This year I've experienced something unprecedented. In the days leading up to NPM, the top of my head has been blown off by reading and rereading just one new collection, The Natural Hustle by Eva H.D (McClelland & Stewart). I blame filmmaker Charlie Kaufman (Synecdoche, New York; Anomalisa). Also thanks, Charlie. Actually, Eva H.D. tops that with her own dedication in the new book: For Charlie, who helped.

All this actually began in February, when I discovered that Kaufman and Eva H.D. had teamed up for a short film, Jackals & Fireflies, shot on a Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra by cinematographer Chayse Irvin (part of the company's #withGalaxy campaign). IndieWire reported that Eva H.D. adapted the script from her own poem and appears in it as the narrator. 

"So much of it is about the experience of being anywhere, but specifically in New York, and we shot as much as we could all over the city," Kaufman said. "Everybody involved in it became very sort of aware. We had people say things like, 'I always walk around with earphones on or earbuds, and I'm not going to do that anymore. I'm starting to listen to people's conversations that I'm passing on the street.' I thought that the poem, and then consequently the movie, did a service in that regard, in that it reminded people to be in the world that they're in."

Kaufman and Eva H.D. first met when they were completing artist residencies at MacDowell in New Hampshire (For Charlie, who helped). Fast forward from then a bit (or rewind from now) and there I am hearing Eva H.D.'s poem "Bonedog" for the first time, being recited in Kaufman's 2020 film adaptation of Iain Reid's novel I'm Thinking of Ending Things

In the scene, Jake (Jesse Plemons) and his new girlfriend (Jessie Buckley) are driving through a snowstorm to his parents' house. He asks her if she's been working on anything. She says she just finished a new poem, but is hesitant when he asks her to recite it, then relents. "It's called 'Bonedog,' " she says, then begins:

Coming home is terrible.
Whether the dogs lick your
face or not; whether you
have a wife or just a wife-
shaped loneliness waiting 
for you, coming home
is terribly lonely...."

Jackals & Fireflies happened because the I'm Thinking of Ending Things experience worked so well, Kaufman told IndieWire: "She had written this poem and recorded it, and her friend Brian Kobayakawa, who scores this, put it to music, and I heard it. I thought it was really beautiful, and I thought we should try to make it into a movie." 

And so, because of these odd elements, for the first time I'm celebrating NPM with just one book, The Natural Hustle. I usually have a stack; I think you should have a stack. In fact, I highly recommend the acquisition of stacks of poetry books year round. 

Right this second, however, I'm reading these lines from "The Snapshot's Tale: Lone Window on a Porch in Pasadena":

Art behaves at a fifth grade level and will never
get into college at this rate and time behaves 
not at all, not if what you want to do is go back,
stretch those hands into the flatline
that precedes the heart's first sputter: keep it still.

And since it's early days in baseball season, I just found myself considering, for a moment, the complexities and contradictions of NPM through the lens of Eva H.D.'s haiku "Sandy Koufax's Curveball Wrecked His Arm and It Was Worth It":

It was perfect, and 
by the end sheer agony
and it was worth it.

--Robert Gray, contributing editor

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