Also published on this date: Wednesday February 14, 2024: Maximum Shelf: The Night Ends with Fire

Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, February 14, 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.


Wi2024: Michele Norris & Talking About Race

Michelle Norris

During yesterday's powerful and rousing breakfast keynote at the Winter Institute in Cincinnati, journalist Michelle Norris, author of Our Hidden Conversations: What Americans Really Think About Race and Identity (published by Simon & Schuster last month), focused on the Race Card Project, which she founded early in President Obama's tenure when many people were saying that "having a family of color move into the White House" meant that the country had entered a post-racial era. "It was as if we had taken an express elevator to the top floor and that we had sped past all the icky, yucky stuff that was going to make us uncomfortable," she said.

This led her "to want to go out in America to listen to how Americans talk and think about race." She started in a sense with her family, with stories about race that she had never heard before, which were a key part of her first book, The Grace of Silence: A Family Memoir, published in 2010 by Pantheon. They included her father explaining that his mysterious leg injury had come from a gunshot fired by a police officer in Birmingham, Ala., during a scuffle after the officer tried to keep him from attending a class on constitutional law needed to pass a poll test to be able to vote. And she learned that her grandmother had worked for years for Quaker Oats, dressing up and acting like Aunt Jemima at cooking demonstrations around the country. (She was "subversive" by not following the "slave-lingo" script provided to her and speaking in her normal way, Norris noted proudly.)

After Norris's talk, booksellers contributed their six words.

The Race Card Project started off with postcards, asking people to talk about race in six words. (She said she chose six words because people are familiar with six-word exercises, and "because I knew as a writer, when I write something complicated, I try to reduce it to one sentence, and then I understand how I can build it back up." She also liked the simple approach because "this is a big toxic subject" and many people "would rather eat their toenails than talk about race.") Of the first 200 post cards she had printed up and then distributed, leaving them wherever she went, 30% were returned, "an incredible yield."

During a 35-city tour for The Grace of Silence, she distributed postcards "everywhere," including in copies of bestsellers in stores, and right away "they started to come back." Many of them were revelatory, and included touches she didn't anticipate, with some words emphasized by a kind of boldfacing or capitalization or including crossed-out words. (Now most of the contributions arrive digitally and often include images.)

Norris displayed many of the postcards and phrases, which included:

  • Married white woman. What now? (From an Asian man who shared many interests with his new wife but found she thought of him as white and assumed he would adopt her culture.)
  • White. Not allowed to be proud.
  • I'm not the paralegal. I'm the lawyer. (From a black lawyer whose clients, at first meeting her, assumed she wasn't the lawyer.)
  • Lady, I don't want your purse. (A phrase that resonated with many in the audience, and involved the kind of comment or gesture that becomes a forgotten moment in time for the person who fears a black person, but can fester for years with the person it is directed at.)
  • Must we forget our Confederate ancestors?
  • I'm only Asian when it's convenient.
  • Hated for being a white cop.
  • No, my name is not Maria.
  • Did my Southern grandmother attend lynchings? (Norris said if someone has to ask that question, the answer is probably yes.)
  • No word for what I am. ("Her dad is Latino," Norris said. "Her mom is Asian.")
  • Where are you really from?
  • Don't think of you as Asian.
  • Father was racist. I'm not. Progress!
  • Name is unpronounceable. Never called on.

Norris noted that she started the project because she thought that no one wanted to talk about race, but 500,000 stories later, "I realize people do and they're just looking for the right on ramp." She said she had been "a longtime storyteller," but is now "a story collector."

She talked about the power of people who want to stop conversations about race, saying that she knows her new book will be banned and that The Grace of Silence was banned in more than a dozen states. Still, she continued, race is something we need to talk about and need to figure out how to talk about. Words and books are "the place we can do that....

"Through these stories we can find our histories and through these stories we can find each other, and through these stories we can create bridges of understanding... Right now in this moment in America we need to figure out how we can stay in the same space and listen to each other." She said there were so many young people looking for places of belonging, understanding, with resources to help them, and "the one place they might find it is in your stores." (She earlier had said, "We really do need you right now.") She finished with gratitude for bookstores and booksellers, saying, "Thank you so much for making sure that your doors are open, and I know that's really difficult right now in this moment when people are trying to restrict what you do. I want to say thank you. Thank you from deep down. Thank you."

She received a standing ovation--from deep down. --John Mutter

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Wi2024: Day Two

The second day of the American Booksellers Association's 19th Winter Institute featured the evening author reception, the Indies Introduce lunch, more panels and rep picks, dinners, and parties, highlighted by the Indie Press Party. Today the Institute concludes with, among other events, a community forum with the ABA board, Binc's heads or tails game, and a closing keynote by Doris Kearns Goodwin.

Ready for the day's events: Steve Iwanski, Charter Books, Newport, R.I., Kelsy April, Bank Square Books, Mystic, Conn.; and Candice Huber, Tubby & Coo's Book Shop, New Orleans, La.

Kelly Justice, Fountain Bookstore, Richmond Va.; Wanda Jewell, former Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance executive director and now a fundraiser; and BINC's Kathy Bartson and Pam French.

At Arcadia Publishing's stand, booksellers decorated lizard-shaped wooden cutouts for Leo the Lazy Lizard, a forthcoming picture book about mindfulness by Ed Shankman, illus. by David Michael O'Neill.

At the evening Author Reception, author Claire Lombardo (Same As It Ever Was, Doubleday, June) flanked by Anmiryam Budner, Main(e) Point Books, Islesboro, Maine, and Keaton Patterson, Brazos Bookstore, Houston, Tex.

Lucy Perkins-Wegel, Blinking Owl Books, Fort Myers, Fla., with Chelsea Devantez, author of I Shouldn't Be Telling You This (But I'm Going to Anyway) (Hanover Square, June).

Sally Kim Named President, Publisher of Little, Brown

Sally Kim

Sally Kim will join Little, Brown as president and publisher, succeeding Bruce Nichols, senior v-p, publisher since 2020, who will leave the company, effective March 1. Kim, who is currently senior v-p, publisher of G.P. Putnam's Sons, will start at Little, Brown, effective March 4, and will join Hachette Book Group's executive management board.

"I'm very excited to welcome Sally Kim, whose work I have long admired from across the Atlantic," said David Shelley, the Hachette UK CEO who additionally became CEO of HBG last November. "Sally has done an incredible job over her distinguished career and most recently as publisher at Putnam, achieving terrific success for their authors, and leading the team with calm integrity, dynamism, and heart. She is a brilliant editor as well as a publisher--in common with many of her predecessors at Little, Brown--and I love her editorial taste in fiction and nonfiction, as well as her publishing flair. I believe that Sally will be a visionary leader for Little, Brown and will help this most revered of publishing houses embark on an exciting new stage of its journey, working with the talented Little, Brown editorial, marketing, publicity, and design teams to attract and develop writers who speak to and represent the readers we serve."

Shelley added: "I'd like to pay tribute to the work Bruce has done in his four years as publisher of Little, Brown. In that time, he strengthened the publishing house's nonfiction list, bringing out #1 bestsellers by Liz Cheney, Don Lemon, and Clint Smith, and maximized the sales and impact of major marquee authors including Michael Connelly, Elin Hilderbrand, and James Patterson. He has nurtured, developed, and diversified the storied Little, Brown list with bestsellers from Nathan Harris, Tricia Hersey, Uma Naidoo, and Shawn Stevenson, among others, while bringing in exciting new voices in all categories--and great new editorial, marketing, publicity, and design colleagues to work on those books. I wish Bruce all the best in his next chapter."

In 2022, Poets & Writers honored Kim with the Editor's Award, which "recognizes a book editor who has made an outstanding contribution to the publication of poetry or literary prose over a sustained period of time." Prior to Putnam, she held senior editorial roles at Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, the Crown Publishing Group, and St. Martin's Press, in a career spanning 30 years.

Kim commented: "Like so many in book publishing, I've spent a lifetime reading and revering Little, Brown's illustrious books and authors; they were what drew me, an L.A. kid, to dare to make the leap to New York publishing all those years ago. Joining Little, Brown to help evolve its enviable legacy of finding and nurturing new voices at this, one of the most vibrant times in our industry and culture, is an incredible opportunity and truly an honor."

Page and Flame Opening in Landrum, S.C.

Page and Flame, a bookstore specializing in book and candle pairings, is coming to Landrum, S.C., the Tryon Daily Bulletin reported.

Owner Amanda Edwards, who is a writer and chandler, will open the bookstore inside of the Shops at Landrum Antique Mall, which houses several other businesses. Renovations have begun, and while she doesn't have a specific opening date, she expects to be up and running in the spring. Eventually she would like to find a standalone bricks-and-mortar space for the bookstore.

"I wanted to start Page and Flame because I think every town should have a bookstore," Edwards told the Daily Bulletin. "I don't look at it as starting a business per se, I look at it as a service, because books make people happy."

Originally from Indianapolis, Ind., Edwards moved to the area in 2012. Prior to deciding to open Page and Flame, Edwards had already been selling her candles at the Landrum Farmers Market.

Nooks Gallery & Bookstore in Lancaster, Pa., to Close

Nooks Gallery & Bookstore in Lancaster, Pa., which opened in 2021 as Nook Books, will close February 18. In a social media post explaining the decision, owner Emma O'Brien wrote: "Although this has been a really hard decision, I know it is the right one, but it doesn't make it any easier....

"My dream was to create a place for readers of all ages to be inspired by their inner child through books. Running our small shop as a new mom gave me energy I didn't know I had--it was so invigorating and fulfilling to talk with people about something I cared so much about. Running a shop with one kid that first year seemed manageable....

"We began 2023 by adding Remy to our family--I quickly realized I was being pulled in two very different directions: a growing business and a growing family, both demanding 100% of my time, energy and love. It was a challenging season, a hard year of personal and professional decision-making, and ultimately, I needed to make a choice."

Noting that last year was challenging, O'Brien added that while the retail storefront on Prince St. is shutting down, the future of Nooks at large is "currently a bit unknown--we're open to whatever surprises might be in store. If you've dreamed of opening your own shop or want to carry on the vision somehow, I'd love to chat with you."


Image of the Day: Celebrating Rock at Thunder Road

Thunder Road Books in Spring Lake, N.J., hosted the launch event for Livin' Just to Find Emotion: Journey and The Story of American Rock by David Hamilton Golland (Rowman & Littlefield), pictured with bookseller Kate Czyzewski.

Personnel Changes at HarperCollins Children's Books

At HarperCollins Children's Books:

Emily Mannon has been promoted to senior marketing manager from marketing manager.

Lauren Tambini has been promoted to senior marketing manager from marketing manager.

Michael D'Angelo has been promoted to senior marketing manager from marketing manager.

Shannon Cox has been promoted to senior marketing associate from marketing associate.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Julius Roberts, Samantha Seneviratne on the Today Show

Today Show: Julius Roberts, author of The Farm Table (Ten Speed Press, $35, 9781984862662).

Also on Today: Samantha Seneviratne, author of Bake Smart: Sweets and Secrets from My Oven to Yours (Harvest, $35, 9780358715146).

Tamron Hall: Josh and Katie Walters, authors of New Marriage, Same Couple: Don't Let Your Worst Days Be Your Last Days (Thomas Nelson, $19.99, 9781400335565).

TV: Shōgun

FX has released an extended trailer for Shōgun, its original series adaptation of James Clavell's 1975 novel, Deadline reported. The 10-episode series premieres February 27 on Hulu in the U.S. with the first two episodes, followed by a new episode each week. The project was created for television by Rachel Kondo and Justin Marks.

The series stars Hiroyuki Sanada as Lord Yoshii Toranaga, Cosmo Jarvis as John Blackthorne, and Anna Sawai as Toda Mariko. Shōgun features a Japanese cast, including Tadanobu Asano, Hiroto Kanai, Takehiro Hira, Moeka Hoshi, Tokuma Nishioka, Shinnosuke Abe, Yuki Kura, and Fumi Nikaido. 

Marks serves as showrunner and executive producer. Also exec producing are Michaela Clavell, Edward L. McDonnell, Michael De Luca, and Kondo. Hiroyuki Sanada serves as a producer.

Books & Authors

Awards: Arabic Fiction Shortlist

The shortlist has been selected for the 2024 International Prize for Arabic Fiction. The winner will be announced April 28 during the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair. Each of the finalists receives $10,000, and the winner receives another $50,000. The shortlist:

Bahbel: Makkah Multiverse 1945-2009 by Raja Alem (Saudi Arabia)
Suleima's Ring by Rima Bali (Syria)
The Seventh Heaven of Jerusalem by Osama Al-Eissa (Palestine)
A Mask, the Colour of the Sky by Basim Khandaqji (Palestine)
Gambling on the Honour of Lady Mitsy by Ahmed Al-Morsi (Egypt)
The Mosaicist by Eissa Nasiri (Morocco)

Chair of judges Nabil Suleiman said: "The shortlisted novels offer us a profound fictional excavation of history, where the distant and more recent past and future intersect. Various civilisations and artistic forms are interwoven with their narratives. Their subjects include war, the body and family breakdown, questions of identity, oppression, cruelty, as well as individual and collective human longing for freedom and justice. With passion and perception, the novels engage with the wars, exiles and uprisings endured by the Arab world at the current moment. Their rich creative worlds are not limited to their localities but span the globe, highlighting common struggles. Their visions and aesthetic expressions are diverse, tinged with self-awareness and imaginative verve."

Reading with... Mako Yoshikawa

photo: Rob Sabal

Mako Yoshikawa is the author of the novels One Hundred and One Ways and Once Removed. Her work has been translated into six languages. She is a professor of creative writing and the director of the MFA program at Emerson College. After her father's death in 2010, Yoshikawa began writing about him and their relationship, essays that appeared in the Missouri Review, Southern Indiana Review, Harvard Review, Story, LitHub, Longreads, and Best American Essays. These became the basis for her memoir of her father, Secrets of the Sun (Mad Creek Books, February 8, 2024).

Handsell readers your book in 25 words or less:

A quest to understand my brilliant, charismatic, and violent father, a Japanese physicist and fusion energy researcher who led a life filled with secrets.

On your nightstand now:

Isle McElroy's People Collide. A novel with a premise that only an author of singular gifts could pull off: a husband and a wife wake up in each other's bodies, à la Freaky Friday. That McElroy is trans makes the experiences of the out-of-his-body husband that much more fascinating, and when the character and his wife feel that old physical pull toward each other in their new bodies--well, I won't spoil the surprise, delight, and oh-no-they're-not thrill of that scene for you. I finished the novel weeks ago, but it's so mesmerizing, smart, and thought-provoking that I still have it by my bed so I can thumb through and marvel at different parts.

Han Kang's The Vegetarian, another novel about a married couple. When it came out in English in 2016, it was an international sensation. I'm almost done with it and all I can think is why the heck did I put off reading it for so long??

Novuyo Rosa Tshuma's Digging Stars. I'm about to start it and I can't wait.

Favorite book when you were a child:

E.B. White's Charlotte's Web, because:

  1. I read it soon after my family had returned to America after a two-year stint in Japan, when my English was shaky and I felt scared and very alone. The book gave me hope that I'd someday find my place and even a friend or two.
  2. It's a book about the fight against bias, the importance of words, the possibility and power of unlikely relationships, and the departure that awaits us all--the exact themes of my new memoir, so what if my book is about Asian-American people while Charlotte's Web is about the struggles faced by arachnids and swine? Clearly the book shapes me still.
  3. I have a soft spot for talking pigs. A predilection that not even Animal Farm could cure.

Your top five authors:

With the caveat that this list changes constantly:

Kōbō Abe. Strange, surreal stories that unerringly capture life today.

Toni Morrison. Gorgeous prose; compelling stories; brilliant insights on human nature, history, and life. What more could anyone want?

Marilynne Robinson. Sentences to die for.

Sophocles. I taught Oedipus Rex recently in a class in a medium-security prison for men, and was moved and more surprised than I should have been to see how the students responded to a text written by a Greek more than 2,000 years ago--a story of a man trapped and undone by fate.

Tom Stoppard. What he does with language! I see his plays in the theater whenever I can, but his words are every bit as incandescent on the page. My favorite text of all time might just be Arcadia.

Book you've faked reading:

Moby-Dick, natch.

Books I've pretended I haven't read: the entire Bridgerton series.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Devon Capizzi's 2021 story collection My Share of the Body. Stories that are wise, funny, astonishing, and true. Devon was my student at Emerson, and it was my honor and privilege to work with them. Very excited to see what they do next.

Book you've bought for the cover:

The Tale of Genji, Japan's first novel, penned by an 11th-century noblewoman named Murasaki Shikibu.

An experience that inadvertently confirms the wisdom of the saying about a book and its cover. I bought it 20 years ago, and I've yet to open it.

Book you hid from your parents:

The Drifting Classroom by Kazuo Umezu. It's a manga and I had the Japanese version. It terrified me so much I couldn't sleep at night, but I was obsessed. I read it over and over with a flashlight under the covers, scaring myself silly.

Book that changed your life:

Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse. Genius.

Favorite line from a book:

From Andrew Marvell: "Thus, though we cannot make our sun/ Stand still, yet we will make him run." Because, really, what else can we do?

Five books you'll never part with:

The Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats. Sublime.

Hiroko Sherwin, Eight Million Gods and Demons. The propulsive novel that my fearless mother wrote, in English, about Japan, World War II, and five generations of our family.  

Maus by Art Spiegelman. A book that drives home a truth that I realized anew while writing my memoir: people, even or maybe especially our parents, are mysterious and irreducible.

The Riverside Shakespeare.

My dog-eared, tattered copy of Little Women.

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

A.S. Byatt's Possession. A spectacular read--and oh, that ending.

Favorite bookstore:

Bluestockings, New York's only queer, trans, and sex-worker-run bookstore, a cooperative and amazing activist space that is run by my stepchild Matilda Sabal.

Refuge, entertainment, companionship, salvation: books have meant so much to me. As readers and writers, we are all indebted to the work of booksellers. Blessings on your efforts.

Book Review

Children's Review: Bird Is Dead

Bird Is Dead by Tiny Fisscher, trans. by Laura Watkinson, illus. by Herma Starreveld (Greystone Kids, $18.95 hardcover, 40p., ages 4-8, 9781778401176, March 26, 2024)

Bird is dead. He was alive yesterday, but now he isn't, and this forthright yet gentle story invites readers to process Bird's death while validating a range of emotional reactions to the loss.

Bird is dead. Bird lies on the ground on the book's cover, with his rounded belly up, eyes closed, and legs drooping lifelessly. The bold and slightly off-kilter text of the title offers an early indication of the story's frankness, while the five colorfully hodgepodge friends peering down at Bird are suggestive of its unconventionality. "Bird is dead," announces the stocky and sad-eyed peer who discovers Bird, deceased. "Are you sure he's not sleeping?" asks one onlooker, nudging Bird's leg. "He's not sleeping!" replies the first. "On your back + feet up = dead." The death draws an audience of patchworked birds who receive the news with varying responses including disbelief, sadness, and anger. "Bird is dead." "What? He was still alive yesterday!" Empathy abounds and, while no particular emotional response is prioritized or villainized, each bird resolutely processes the loss to arrive ultimately at a place of acceptance.

Bird is dead. What now? A burial, naturally. "Dig a hole. Put Bird in it." Bird is dragged along, then nestled into the curve of a freshly dug grave, where kind words are spoken over him with a note of finality. "It's not nice that you're dead, but that's just how it is. We're going to say goodbye to you forever. Bye-bye, Bird." The funeral concludes as shafts of sunshine break through a hazy gray skyline. The group retreats for snacks, comforted at the day's end that Bird will live on forever in their minds.

This story, translated from Dutch by Laura Watkinson, draws on the same important themes as Margaret Wise Brown's The Dead Bird (1938), and the text eschews euphemisms in favor of plain talk to honor young readers' maturity about life's singular inevitability. Author Tiny Fisscher credits illustrator Starreveld's collage artwork as inspiration for this tale. The birds' eclectic patterns and vibrant colors inject spirited personality into the otherwise somber scene. The mossy-toned background and hazy skyline allow readers to focus on the birds, and their succinct dialogue is clearly attributed over the mix of single- and double-page spreads for easy readability.

Bird is dead, and this refreshingly direct story should equip kids to process their own emotions while dealing with real-life losses. "You see, it can all be over in a heartbeat." --Kit Ballenger, youth librarian, Help Your Shelf

Shelf Talker: Bird is dead, and his peers model processing their grief over the loss in a refreshingly direct and instructive story translated from Dutch.

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