Shelf Awareness for Monday, January 29, 2024

Flatiron Books: The Courting of Bristol Keats: [Limited Stenciled Edge Edition] by Mary E Pearson

Forge: My Three Dogs by Bruce W Cameron

Running Press Adult: Scam Goddess: Lessons from a Life of Cons, Grifts, and Schemes by Laci Mosley

Chronicle Books: Taste in Music: Eating on Tour with Indie Musicians by Luke Pyenson and Alex Beeker

Doubleday Books: Death at the Sign of the Rook: A Jackson Brodie Book by Kate Atkinson

Groundwood Books: Who We Are in Real Life by Victoria Koops

Agate Bolden: 54 Miles by Leonard Pitts Jr.


S.F.'s City Lights Unionizing

Booksellers at City Lights Booksellers & Publishers, San Francisco, Calif., are unionizing, KQED reported. And last Friday, the day after staff requested the union be recognized, management did voluntarily recognize the union.

"Most of the 16 or so eligible employees recently signed union-authorization cards," KQED noted, and they've joined Local 660 of the Industrial Workers of the World, which also represents booksellers at Moe's Books in Berkeley, Copperfield's Books in Petaluma, and Page 1 Books in Albuquerque, N.Mex.

City Lights publisher and executive director Elaine Katzenberger told KQED, "City Lights has always been actively engaged in the project of creating and evolving a fulfilling, equitable, and humane workplace. This is a key to our institutional philosophy, and it has informed our practice from the beginning. If unionization can provide us with new tools for helping us to better achieve these ideals, we absolutely welcome them."

City Lights bookseller Decca Muldowney, who KQED said makes San Francisco's minimum wage of $18.07 per hour, told the station, "What we want more than anything is for City Lights to be a sustainable, thriving community. We think that the union is a way to protect City Lights for the future and to help further the original radical vision of the bookstore and the publishing house."

Noah Ross, a delegate with the IWW who worked at Moe's Books, said, "We are at a moment in labor at large where people want more voice in their contracts. They want a seat at the table in negotiating how they are treated at their workplace." Ross added that collective bargaining at City Lights would be "huge for the larger bookstore union wave we've seen and also for labor."

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NYC's Yu & Me Books Reopens in Original Home

Roughly six months after suffering a devastating fire, Yu & Me Books has reopened in its original home in NYC's Chinatown, TimeOut reported.

Owner Lucy Yu hosted a grand reopening celebration Sunday at 44 Mulberry St., welcoming customers back to a space that has been rebuilt and redesigned. Yu noted that the shop now has more floor space and it is more modular, but she has maintained "the same coziness we've always had."

"We didn't sign up to do this three times, but we don't really have control over what life throws us," Yu wrote in an Instagram post announcing the reopening. "And of course, we would really not like to do this ever again... but we can't help but marvel at the beauty that we've lived through during this time. Beauty is rarely separate from pain and in this case, it cannot be celebrated in isolation. So we accept and love our story in its fullness while holding our arms wide to accept the many nuances of our experience. And what an experience that was! We are so excited to welcome you all back to our Yu & Me Books home on 44 Mulberry St. in Chinatown."

On July 4, 2023, a fire broke out in a residential unit above the bookstore that caused such significant smoke and water damage that Yu thought the location would be closed for at least a year. Shortly after the fire, Yu launched a GoFundMe campaign with an initial goal of $150,000 to help support the bookstore and her staff. In a matter of days, the campaign raised more than $300,000, and in September, Yu opened in a temporary location on the Lower East Side.

Yu first opened the bookstore and cafe, which focuses on diverse voices, immigrant stories, and the Asian diaspora, in December 2021.

Jennifer Gonzalez Joining Sourcebooks as Senior V-P, Publisher of Children's Books

Jennifer Gonzalez

Jennifer Gonzalez has joined Sourcebooks as senior v-p, publisher of children's books. She has been at Macmillan for 12 years, most recently as president of sales as well as v-p, children's sales and executive v-p, director of sales. Earlier she was director of sales at Random House and director of sales and brand initiatives at Candlewick Press.

Sourcebooks publisher and CEO Dominique Raccah said, "Over the course of her career, Jennifer's exceptional ability to analyze the marketplace and identify new opportunities has helped create dozens of successes across genres and categories. Her extensive experience in so many areas of the business will be hugely impactful in her new role leading editorial vision and marketing strategy for our children's business."

She added, "What most people don't know is that Jenn's dream has been to be on the publishing side. I am confident that with her energy, creativity, and drive, Jennifer will lead even more growth and expansion across Sourcebooks Kids and Fire!"

Gonzalez said, "I'm excited to join such a creative and innovative team at Sourcebooks who share my commitment to getting great books to as many children as possible."

Jade Adia: John Steptoe New Talent Author Award

Jade Adia

The American Library Association announced the 2024 Youth Media Award winners last week. Author Jade Adia's There Goes the Neighborhood (Hyperion) won the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Author Award, which affirms new talent and offers "visibility to excellence in writing and/or illustration."

Congratulations! How are you feeling?

Thank you so much! I'm honestly shocked that I'm now in the company of some of my favorite authors: Jas Hammonds, Tiffany D. Jackson, Amber McBride, Nicola Yoon, and Jason Reynolds have all previously won this award. As a massive fan of these storytellers, I am in disbelief to have my name on this list, too. I feel extremely lucky and grateful to the committee for seeing something special in There Goes the Neighborhood.

This title is your debut--is it a story you'd been thinking about for a long time?

Not necessarily. I had only gotten the idea for There Goes the Neighborhood a few days before I began drafting. Sometimes, writing novels is a slow burn, but other times it's a compulsion--born from a strong, unavoidable obsession to bring a story to life as soon as possible. This novel was the latter for me, so it's been incredible watching this beating heart of a story find its home in the world.

Would you tell Shelf Awareness readers what this book is about?

There Goes the Neighborhood follows 15-year-old Rhea as she reacts to the changes in her community: billboards plastered with faces of white people have cropped up, advertising the fictional Kofa Park as LA.'s "up-and-coming hot spot." And worst of all, her best friend's family is facing eviction as their landlord seeks investors to turn their apartment building into a luxury high-rise.

In a desperate attempt to do whatever it takes to stay together, Rhea and her friends orchestrate a far-out plan to scare off investors and potential newcomers by creating the illusion of gang violence in the neighborhood. To their surprise, the plan works--but a little too well. When police accuse the nonexistent gang of murder, Rhea and her friends scramble to find the real killer.

On the surface it's a wild dark comedy, but at its core it's a story about change and the sacredness of community.

Had the idea always been to approach this story with some laughs?

Definitely. I believe that it's extremely important to portray the complexity of growing up as a person of color in America. Yes, we deal with racism, but we're also goofing around with our friends, falling in love, laughing, and making honest mistakes. I wanted to craft a three-dimensional portrait of Black girlhood outside of the constraints that typically come with any sort of YA stories that deal with racism and classism.

I also believe that humor is, and always has been, an important coping mechanism for Black communities. There's a long tradition of Black creatives exploring the absurdities that arise from living in a racist state, and I wanted to play in that space as well.

How did you balance writing about weighty topics, keeping it fun, and making it approachable and entertaining for a young audience?

I tried to make There Goes the Neighborhood approachable by keeping the emotional core of the story very clear: the fear of change. I think many of us, no matter our age, can relate to this anxiety. The main character, Rhea, is experiencing an incredible amount of change all at once. She's 15 years old, she's watching her friend group change as well as her body, her feelings, her family, and--on top of it all--her neighborhood is changing, too. Writing with compassion about how change can be terrifying helped me keep the story honest. And once you're writing from a mindset of honesty and vulnerability, I think it opens a lot of space for fun.

Young people today are constantly navigating their own feelings about weighty topics in the world--whether it be gentrification, or climate change, or police brutality--while still managing to live their own messy, chaotic lives in the meantime. I guess I sort of trusted that if I told the story exactly how I would've wanted to read it as a teenager, and if I didn't pull any punches, then maybe young people today would feel seen in its pages. I'm glad that I've heard from many young readers that I made the right call tonally.

Your teen protagonists are extremely likable. Would you talk a little bit about creating this trio and their intertwined relationships?

When I set out, I knew that I wanted to have the main story be about the human cost of gentrification--to celebrate the social ties within neighborhoods that make life worth living for many folks. To tell this story, I had to give my main character, Rhea, people in her life worth fighting for. I'm so pleased that readers have responded so emotionally to this trio because I created them all from a space of love. I wanted readers not only to root for these kids, but also to experience their incredibly real and valid fear and grief at the prospect of being torn apart.

Were you able to do anything to get this book to your desired audience?

I'm so appreciative of every book festival, indie bookstore, and library who has either invited me to connect with their community or has been enthusiastically recommending the book to readers since its release. I would love to do more school events in the future. If there are any educators reading this, please do reach out!

Is there anything you'd like to add or say to Shelf Awareness readers?

Thank you so much for supporting There Goes the Neighborhood! If you're interested in more contemporary stories featuring teenagers navigating our complicated world, I hope you'll check out my upcoming book called Our Shouts Echo. It's about first love, existential dread, and doomsday prepping. Like TGTN, Our Shouts Echo is absurdly humorous at times, while deeply raw at others. I hope you enjoy. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Briana Mukodiri Uchendu: John Steptoe New Talent Illustrator Award

Briana Mukodiri Uchendu

Last week, the American Library Association announced the 2024 Youth Media Award winners. Briana Mukodiri Uchendu won the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Illustrator Award for her illustrations in We Could Fly (written by Rhiannon Giddens; Candlewick Press).

So, how are you feeling?

I'm feeling lucky and mystified!

We Could Fly by Rhiannon Giddens is your second illustrated book. Please tell our readers what the book is about.

We Could Fly, to me, is about an ancestral/spiritual song that connects us to our ancestors and uplifts us through our own life trials. After all, the lives we live are thanks to those who came before us. I think this book especially shines a light on the strength and resilience of the mothers, grandmothers, and aunts that raised their children, worked hard, and protected their families with their heads held high.

Giddens's text is the lyrics of her song "We Could Fly," inspired by her love of the collection of Black American folktales retold by Virginia Hamilton and illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon, The People Could Fly. What was it like to create images for such a poetic text?

I was actually not aware of The People Could Fly until I read the author's note upon completion of all the artwork. I felt honored that I was making something that could be associated with that. I think Rhiannon's lyrics really captured the essence of those texts because it was solely her lyrics and how they made me feel that inspired me.

You say in your illustrator's note that you "saw different souls and stories weaving and winding together to create the chords of an ancestral song. So that's what [you] drew." How did you turn that into concrete images?

All I had to go off was Rhiannon's lyrics and some questions I wanted to ask her about her inspiration. The actual lyrics and the "vibe" I got from the information I received was all that informed these visuals.

I love the double-page spread that shows the girl's hands inside her mother's larger hands. It reminds me of a spread from the work of another CSK winner, Dave the Potter, illustrated by Bryan Collier (Illustrator Award 2011). Why did you decide to use hands for the lyrics, "Every time she looked at you/ she saw the old-time ways"?

I have not read Dave the Potter, but now I will give it a look! I decided to use this composition because I wanted to show the lines on their hands. You know during palm readings and stuff? Apparently, the lines in our hands tell some sort of story about how our lives will turn out. I figured having this "ancestral string of light" weave through their handlines helped to imply the interconnectedness of our DNA and our life stories. I think the thought of our DNA holding stories from our ancestors is really interesting.

There's something lovely about winning an award for new talent for a book filled with so much history. Did it feel intimidating to take on a work like this?

My main thought when taking on this project is the same as any project I take on: "Let me try my best." I learned a lot from making my first book and I wanted to do better than I did before. Because the actual manuscript was simple, and a lot of the composition and visual story was left up to me, I actually felt a lot of freedom and was very excited to jump into this book. It wasn't intimidating because I didn't have any limits or a concrete direction that I was requested to go into. There wasn't a mold I thought I needed to fit. It was very exciting as an artist, and I think my enthusiasm shines through the art.

Did you have any specific hopes for this book or its readership before it went out into the world?

I don't ever have any expectations for anything because I learned if you don't have any expectations, you don't ever have any disappointment! Maybe that's a little pessimistic but it helps me move through life with less worry. I am very pleased by the books' reception though! I am probably my harshest critic so if I am proud of it then I'm content. I'm feeling new levels of joy and gratification that I didn't think were possible upon seeing the book's reception and even more so now upon receiving this award.

Is there anything else you'd like to tell Shelf Awareness readers?

Thank you for supporting my book and others like it! I don't think an award like this would even exist if it wasn't for active and dedicated readers and book enthusiasts like you. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

ABA Board Election Update: Jake Cumsky-Whitlock Also Running for Second Term

As reported last Friday, the upcoming American Booksellers Association board elections include the nomination of Christina Pascucci Ciampa, owner and founder of All She Wrote Books in Somerville, Mass., to become a new member of the board, as well as Kathy Burnette, founder of Brain Lair Books in South Bend, Ind., to run for her first term after being appointed to the board last year. In addition, Danny Caine, co-owner of the Raven Book Store in Lawrence, Kan., is running for a second term. The ABA adds that another board member is running for a second term: Jake Cumsky-Whitlock of Solid State Books in Washington, D.C.


Image of the Day: Thunder Road Book Club Reads with Jenna

The Book Club at Thunder Road Books, Spring Lake, N.J., was invited to participate in Read with Jenna's author segment on The Today Show for her January Book Pick, The Waters by Bonnie Jo Campbell. Members of the Book Club appeared along with the author and W.W. Norton team.  
Pictured: (l.-r., front) Bonnie Jo Campbell, Jenna Bush Hager, Karen Titus, Kate Czyzewski (manager, Thunder Road Books), Chloe Grady, Susan Grady, Katlyn Melendez, Rosemary Dean, Hoda Kotb;
(back row) Karen Riccio, Carol Maliff, Eileen Gray, Kelly Thompson, Nikki Gracos, Joyce Quinn, Rosemary Minck.

Brookline Booksmith: Best Oscar for Location?

From Brookline Booksmith, Brookline, Mass., last week, with a tip of the hat to newsletter editor Paul Theriault:

"It's traditional to list writers, directors, actors, designers, and editors as those responsible for making a film great. Having seen my fair share of movies (and starring in one student film in the late-'90s), I know that it's really all down to the location scout. Would King Kong have wowed audiences quite so much if he climbed to the top of Boston City Hall? I don't think so. Similarly, Oscar-nominee American Fiction rests not on its stellar cast or brilliantly adapted screenplay, but on our own Coolidge Corner, and especially that camera shot down aisle 4, right here in Booksmith. We've written notes for our acceptance speech, but to be honest we're probably going to wing it when we're up there on stage."

Personnel Changes at HarperCollins

Christina Carpino has been promoted from marketing coordinator to assistant manager, school & library marketing at HarperCollins.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Antonia Hylton on Fresh Air

CBS Mornings: Michael Isikoff and Daniel Klaidman, authors of Find Me the Votes: A Hard-Charging Georgia Prosecutor, a Rogue President, and the Plot to Steal an American Election (Twelve, $30, 9781538739990).

Good Morning America: Tabitha Brown, author of I Did a New Thing: 30 Days to Living Free (Morrow, $29.99, 9780063286115).

Fresh Air: Antonia Hylton, author of Madness: Race and Insanity in a Jim Crow Asylum (Legacy Lit, $30, 9781538723692).

The Talk: Dave Karger, author of 50 Oscar Nights: Iconic Stars & Filmmakers on Their Career-Defining Wins (Running Press, $30, 9780762486328).

Drew Barrymore Show: Jamie Oliver, author of 5 Ingredients Mediterranean: Simple Incredible Food (Flatiron, $39.99, 9781250319852).

Late Show with Stephen Colbert: Michele Norris, author of Our Hidden Conversations: What Americans Really Think About Race and Identity (Simon & Schuster, $35, 9781982154394).

CBS Mornings: B Michael, author of Muse: Cicely Tyson and Me: A Relationship Forged in Fashion (Amistad, $55, 9780063221741).

Today Show: Sarah J. Maas, author of House of Flame and Shadow (Bloomsbury, $32, 9781635574104).

Also on Today: Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, author of Far Beyond Gold: Running from Fear to Faith (Thomas Nelson, $29.99, 9780785297994).

Movies: The Memory Police

Lily Gladstone (Killers of the Flower Moon, The Unknown Country) will star in The Memory Police, based on the science fiction novel by Yoko Ogawa, according to the Hollywood Reporter. With a script by Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), the film will be directed by Reed Morano, who helmed episodes of The Handmaid's Tale as well as indie film I Think We're Alone Now.

Morano and Margot Hand of Picture Films will produce. Martin Scorsese is executive producing alongside Ogawa, whose novel was originally released in 1994, with an English translation published in 2019. The novel was a finalist for the National Book Award, International Booker Price, and World Fantasy Award. 

Books & Authors

Awards: Gordon Burn Shortlist; Dylan Thomas Longlist

The shortlist has been selected for the 2023-2024 Gordon Burn Prize, which honors "fiction and non-fiction books that are fearless in their ambition and execution." The winner of the £10,000 (about $12,725) prize will be announced on March 7. The shortlist:

Killing Thatcher by Rory Carroll
If I Survive You by Jonathan Escoffery
Wifedom: Mrs Orwell's Invisible Life by Anna Funder
O Brother by John Niven
Ordinary Human Failings by Megan Nolan
Kick the Latch by Kathryn Scanlan
Split Tooth by Tanya Tagaq


The longlist has been selected for the £20,000 (about $25,400) Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize, which honors "exceptional literary talent aged 39 or under [and celebrates] the international world of fiction in all its forms including poetry, novels, short stories and drama." The shortlist will be announced March 21 and the winner May 16. The longlist:

A Spell of Good Things by Ayòbámi Adébáyò (Nigeria)
Small Worlds by Caleb Azumah Nelson (U.K./Ghana)
The Glutton by A.K. Blakemore (England)
Bright Fear by Mary Jean Chan (Hong Kong)
Penance by Eliza Clark (England)
The Coiled Serpent by Camilla Grudova (Canada)
Hungry Ghosts by Kevin Jared Hosein (Trinidad and Tobago)
Local Fires by Joshua Jones (Wales)
Biography of X by Catherine Lacey (U.S.)
Close to Home by Michael Magee (Northern Ireland)
Open Up by Thomas Morris (Wales)
Divisible by Itself and One by Kae Tempest (England)

Book Review

Review: You'd Look Better as a Ghost

You'd Look Better as a Ghost by Joanna Wallace (Penguin Books, $18 paperback, 336p., 9780143136170, April 16, 2024)

Joanna Wallace's first novel, You'd Look Better as a Ghost, combines black humor and a realistic portrayal of grief with a serial killer, with whom readers are surprisingly inclined to empathize. This oddball story is both grim and unexpectedly entertaining.

When readers first meet narrator Claire, she is standing awkwardly at her father's funeral, wondering at the strange behavior of the "serious-looking men in serious black suits... standing seriously too close and staring at me. Are they waiting for me to talk?" She assesses their comments, taking everything literally, contemplating human idiosyncrasies. She's not all that good with people, and she's also deeply grieving.

It's not just grief. Claire has always struggled with the habits of those she calls "ordinary people," a group she does not identify with. "Whenever I'm unsure of how I'm expected to respond, I use a cliché. Even if I'm not sure what it means, even if I use it incorrectly, no one ever seems to mind." She lives alone outside of London, painting, running on her treadmill, and now wrestling with the loss of her father following a painful battle with early-onset dementia, psych wards, and abusive care homes. Her late father seems to be the one person she's ever felt close to; flashbacks to childhood sketch a chilly if not disturbing portrait of her mother. Plagued by migraines, Claire gets a doctor's referral to a bereavement counseling group. "I may not have cried, drunk to excess or wrung my hands in disbelief since Dad died but I've definitely become more reckless with my kills."

Oh, yes: Claire is also a serial killer. She struggles with "ordinary people" to the extent that she often feels the need to end their lives, a process for which she enjoys taking her time. Her new bereavement group offers her potential outlets for her creativity, as well as new challenges.

In Claire's witty, deadpan voice, You'd Look Better as a Ghost revels in dark humor. A new acquaintance "asks whether I want anything to eat. A slice of chocolate cake. That's what I really want. But I'm mindful of the fact that I killed this woman's sister fairly recently and the cake is ridiculously overpriced. So, I order a shortbread biscuit instead. Feels like the decent thing to do." Claire has some very firm ideas of propriety; for example, pairing wellies with a kilt bothers her considerably more than dismemberment does. But the novel also deals seriously with the protracted grief of losing a loved one to dementia, and the potentially redemptive power of true friendship. Amid much irreverence, its themes are genuinely heartfelt and even sweet. This debut is fresh and unforgettable. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Shelf Talker: Plot twists and a weirdly relatable serial killer offer readers a wild ride in this darkly comic thriller of grief and murder.

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