This Week’s News

An episode of Theatre Dybbuk’s Dybbukcast was released based on on the Blume Lempel story, “The Death of My Aunt” from the book, Oedipus in Brooklyn and Other Stories, translated by Ellen Cassedy and Yermiuyahu Ahron Taub (Mandel Vilar Press).

Spirituality & Health Magazine featured an article by Sarah Bowen, author of Spiritual Rebel (Monkfish Book Publishing), on January 6.

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This Week’s Reviews

Spirits Abroad
Zen Cho | Small Beer Press | 9781618731869 | April 2021
“Cho’s stories look at the intersection of those mundane and uncanny worlds—and the ways life among the humans can drive the spirit to distraction.”—BookMarks

The Youngest Boy
Jim Heynen, illus. Tom Pohrt | Holy Cow! Press | 9781513645599 | April 2021
“Heynen’s stories about unnamed farm boys first appeared years ago and several collections of the “boy stories” have been published since then. This is the first collection to focus on the youngest boy, who can be a dreamer one minute, a troublemaker the next, and a problem-solver the next.”—Pioneer Press

Hands and Heart Together: Daily Meditations for Caregivers
Patricia Hoolihan | Holy Cow! Press | 9781513645643 | January 2021
“For the 43 million family caregivers in the U.S., this book offers short meditations, each of which illuminates an aspect of caregiving, closing with an uplifting message. The author says this is the book she wished she had when she was a family caregiver.”—Pioneer Press

Mama Phife Represents: A Memoir
Cheryl Boyce-Taylor | Haymarket Books | 9781642592665 | January 2021
“[Boyce-Taylor] has an intimate familiarity with how the waves of emotion can crescendo into maddening heights, giving way to the empty ache left behind. That closeness gives way to clarity in her newest book: Mama Phife Represents, a delicate latticework of remembrance out this week that explores the days following Phife’s passing in print, photo, and sketch.”—Level

Never Have I Ever
Isabel Yap | Small Beer Press | 9781618731821 | February 2021
“These 13 captivating short stories entwine fantasy, horror, and science fiction to explore monsters, Filipino folklore, immigration, and queerness. . . . These ambiguous, vivid, and dark tales manage deep characterizations.”—Buzzfeed

Reconstruction
Alaya Dawn Johnson | Small Beer Press | 9781618731777 | January 2021

“These ten immersive stories embrace multiple speculative genres and take place in worlds both real and unreal. They’re well worth reading.”—Buzzfeed

No Water No Bread
Luis Amavisca, illus. Raúl Nieto Guridi | NubeOcho | 9788494597138 | October 2017
“The plight of refugee children unveils itself before us in this small book with a big message.”—Vermont Country Sampler

Stay Safe
Emma Hine | Sarabande Books | 9781946448682 | January 2021
“Emma Hine’s debut poetry collection Stay Safe is a fiercely, lovingly crafted book that celebrates the endurance of the human spirit in the face of an ever-dimming future.”—Arkansas International

American Madness
Tea Krulos | Feral House | 9781627310963 | August 2020
“It’s just so crazy to think about how much this has changed in the last 10 years or even in the last five years — or even in the last year. It’s just been progressively building more and more steam. Really QAnon, which is the biggest conspiracy problem today, is just the Satanic Panic all over again. ”—Religion News Service  

Underworld LitSrikanth Reddy | Wave Books | 9781940696935 | August 2020
“Underworld Lit is complicated yet inviting; with wit and sorrow, Reddy exposes the demands of the corporate university and the demands of the soul, the play of teaching and the play of children, the thrilling effort of sense-making and the futility of mastery in a complex and confusing world.”—Rain Taxi

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This Week’s News

Sergeant Salinger by Jerome Charyn (Bellevue Literary Press) was reviewed in the Washington Post on December 30: “But in this novel, as with much of Salinger’s life, we have to accept a certain amount of mystery.” 

Several Consortium titles were shortlisted for Rebel Women Lit‘s Caribbean Readers’ Awards, including three from Akashic: A Million Aunties by Alecia McKenzie, Polar Vortex by Shani Mootoo, and Cane Warriors by Alex Wheatle; plus The Wondrous Lives of Ivan and Ivana by Maryse Condé, trans. Richard Philcox (World Editions).

Black Heroes of the Wild West by James Otis Smith (TOON Books) was featured in a list of “2020 informational fiction” titles from the popular School Library Journal blog, A Fuse #8 Production.

Spirituality & Health featured an interview with Rabbi Wayne Dosick, author of Radical Loving: One God, One World, One People (Monkfish Book Publishing) on December 12. They are also going to feature it in their January print issue.

Camilla Grudova, author of The Doll’s Alphabet (Coffee House Press), published a story in the December issue of The White Review.

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This Week’s Reviews

Awesome Asian Americans: 20 Stars Who Made America Amazing
Phil Amara, Oliver Chin, illus. Juan Calle | Immedium | 9781597021500 | November 2020
“A unique compendium of outstanding Asian Americans in terms of their lives and accomplishments, Awesome Asian Americans is an extraordinary, informative, and thoroughly ‘kid friendly’ in organization and presentation—making it an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to family, elementary school, middle school, and community library collections.”—Midwest Book Review

The Youngest Boy
Jim Heynen, illus. Tom Pohrt | Holy Cow! Press | 9781513645599 | April 2021

“Short and intense enough to be considered prose poems, wise enough to be called parables, these stories are populated with one-armed women and farm auctioneers and ‘arguing, daydreaming boys.”—Star Tribune

The Wolf’s Trail
Thomas D. Peacock | Holy Cow! Press | 9781513645629 | June 2020
“Throughout the book, Uncle’s stories instill in the pups the bond with humans, even when the humans are having hard times. It is the story of the Ojibwe people from their beginnings to their adaptation to the changing world.”—Pioneer Press

Reel Bay
Jana Larson | Coffee House Press | 9781566895989 | January 2021
“A captivating blend of memoir, true-crime, meditation on women in film, and fantasy. . . . Larson captures both the fanaticism of creative fixation and the listlessness of artistic existential dread with clarity and empathy.”—Arkansas International

Mrs. Murakami’s Garden
Mario Bellatin, Heather Cleary | Deep Vellum Publishing | 9781646050291 | December 2020
“The Peruvian Mexican writer Mario Bellatin has produced one of the weirdest and wildest contemporary literary oeuvres in the Spanish language. . . . Underneath this all lies a keen sensitivity to human suffering often represented in the form of absence, loss, and the ghosts they leave behind.”—World Literature Today

We Want It All: An Anthology of Radical Trans Poetics
Edit. Andrea Abi-Karam & Kay Gabriel | Nightboat Books | 9781643620336 | October 2020
“Anthologies, like canons, often fall apart when looked at with any sincerity. The intention to encapsulate poets of a specific identity often fails in one or more respects due to the multitudes they contain. Andrea Abi-Karam and Kay Gabriel, co-editors of We Want It All: An Anthology of Radical Trans Poetics, take up this problem of representation — specifically of trans lives… These are poems that do not compromise.”—Hyperallergic

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“Publishing is in the midst of a much-needed and long-overdue reckoning”: A Word with . . . Emma Kantor

In this edition of A Word With You, we spoke with Brooklyn-based writer Emma Kantor, deputy children’s book editor at Publishers Weekly. She previously served as publicity and digital content manager at the Children’s Book Council and Every Child a Reader. You can follow her at @emkantor.

So . . . how are you?

I’m doing well, all things considered. Fortunately, I’ve been able to continue working uninterrupted since COVID-19 hit in March. The staff at Publishers Weekly transitioned to working remotely without missing a beat.

On the children’s book front, we launched our free monthly School & Library Spotlight e-newsletter at the end of June, for which I serve as editor. The newsletter is aimed at teachers and librarians who work with children from pre-K through 12th grade. We’ve addressed timely issues and challenges facing these professionals, including approaches to distance learning, virtual book fairs, social emotional learning, and discussing current events in the classroom. So far, the response from readers has been positive, and we’re excited for the newsletter to grow in its scope and reach.

I’ve also taken on the role of children’s and YA host for PW’s new Books on Tap Live video interview series. It’s been a blast speaking with authors and illustrators about their latest projects—while getting a peek inside their workspaces! I have such admiration for the creativity and resilience of kids’ book artists, who remain committed to inspiring young readers.

Has the COVID crisis affected how you think about books?

I’ve always seen books, and everyone who plays a part in the life cycle of a book, as essential. If we’ve been living through a crisis of misinformation and misrepresentation, then a stronger foundation in critical-thinking and empathy is going to help get us through it. Enter books.

What are publishers or bookstores doing now that you are particularly excited about? Who is inspiring?

In light of the Penguin Random House/Simon & Schuster announcement, I think it’s especially important for us to celebrate and support indie publishers and booksellers. On a personal note, I have Idlewild Books in New York to thank for fulfilling my armchair travel needs during quarantine. The store has been hosting not one but two book clubs: Women in Translation, which features novels by female authors from around the world, and the Social Studies Book Club, which offers a survey of global nonfiction. Both are led by book buyer and manager Natasha Gilmore (via Zoom for the time being). Season 2 of Women in Translation kicks off in February, and I’m very much looking forward to it. Idlewild also deserves a shout-out for carrying on its language classes remotely. I’ve been part of an Italian film and conversation group for more than two years with instructor Stefano di Cicco, and it’s a highlight of my week.

What’s the best (or worst) piece of publishing/writing advice you’ve seen recently?

I was talking to a friend about how easy it is as a creative person to fall into defeatist thinking in the face of our current crisis, and she said, “I’m more behind being a writer than ever right now.” I’m clinging to that.

What does trade journalism look like right now? What’s different about how you’re covering the industry right now?

It’s no surprise that the pandemic has been a major through-line in PW’s coverage since February. From book fair and trade show reconfiguring to digital marketing strategies and authors’ experiences under quarantine, we’ve been taking a close look at the impact of COVID-19 on all aspects of the publishing landscape. In terms of trade journalism in general, I’ve found it heartening to see a greater awareness of the ways that publishing intersects with and reflects global issues such as Black Lives Matter, social justice, environmental concerns, and more.

Do you have any new practices you hope to continue doing even when things return to “normal”?

Whatever “normal” looks like after the pandemic, whether that’s returning to the office, working from home, or some kind of hybrid, I plan to keep having periodic check-ins with colleagues, not just for the sake of the job but for camaraderie. I’ve realized it’s also important to check in with oneself to prevent burnout. This year has reinforced the need for self-care and perspective.

What do you hope for the future of publishing?

Like so many other industries, publishing is in the midst of a much-needed and long-overdue reckoning. Author Kacen Callender put it beautifully in their acceptance speech for the 2020 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature: “This has been the hardest, most painful, most devastating year in many people’s memories. But this has also been an empowering year for many: a year when we’re forced to pause and reflect, not only on ourselves, but on the society we live in—to look at the wounds internal and external and to heal and to grow.” I’m optimistic that the publishing world as a whole will continue to do that hard work of reflecting and growing, with the goal of building a more inclusive and equitable system.

What are you working on and what are you reading? Do you have anything you would pair it with (a food, a movie, another book, etc.)?

I’m currently serving as a Middle Grade Fiction judge for the 2020 Cybils Awards, along with fellow members of the children’s book community. I have a special love of books for that age group, and it’s been a pleasure reading many of the incredible middle grade titles I overlooked during this hectic year.

One of the “extracurricular” activities I’ve missed the most in 2020 is going to the movies. While I can’t check out screenings at my favorite NY indie theaters—Film Forum, Metrograph, the Quad—I’ve been watching my fill of the classics (three cheers for TCM!) and new releases at home. And, as I mentioned above, I’m part of a lovely Italian film and conversation class through Idlewild Books. For the past few months, we’ve been doing a close-up on films set in Naples, many of them based on books. I hope to travel there in person someday soon—maybe an extended trip after the next Bologna Children’s Book Fair. . . .

Looking for a way to support independent bookstores? Make a donation to the Book Industry Charitable Foundation (BINC), purchase a book online from your favorite bookstore, or visit Bookshop.org.

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