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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This Week’s News

Today we honor the life of Marvin Bell, who passed away on December 14 at the age of 83. Bell was the first Poet Laureate of Iowa as well as a National Book Award Finalist, and wrote over twenty volumes of poetry, most recently Incarnate: The Collected Dead Man PoemsYou can read a poem from this collection published in New York Magazine on September 24 and read Copper Canyon‘s celebration of Bell’s life and legacy.

Reaching Mithymnapoet Steven Heighton’s memoir about his experience assisting in the Syrian refugee crisis in Greece, was named a New and Noteworthy title by the New York Times Book Review on December 13. Also mentioned in the Times was Etel Adnan’s Shifting the Silencewhich was recommended in an article about her ongoing gallery exhibition. Dubravka Ugresic’s The Age of Skinwhich “brings deep personal insight into the grinding despair and destructive nationalism of post-communist societies,” was also made an Editors’ Choice. 

50 Ways to Cook a Carrot by Peter Hertzmann was in the New Yorker on December 15, recommended as one of the best cookbooks of the year: “With instructions and explanations delivered with the pleasingly brusque encouragement of a seasoned teacher, this is a brilliantly audacious act of culinary pedagogy that (also quite brilliantly) verges on the absurd.” Bon appetit! 

IntersectionAllies by Chelsea Johnson, LaToya Council, and Carolyn Choi, illustrated by Ashley Seil Smith (Dottir Press) was recommended in Keys Soulcarethe lifestyle website founded by Alicia Keys.

Book Riot recommended Any Other Place by Michael Croley and Step into the Circle: Writers in Modern Appalachia edited by Amy Greene and Trent Thomson (both Blair) in their list of “15 Books About Appalachia to Read Instead of Hillbilly Elegy” on December 11. 

Grieving by Cristina Rivera Garza and translated by Sarah Booker (The Feminist Press at CUNY) appeared in the Chicago Review of Books and the Latin American Literature Review.

The “charming” LyricPop series was featured in SPIN Magazine‘s gift guide. Akashic publisher Johnny Temple also spoke about the series on the Author Talks podcast from WCBS New York.

Lord the One you Love is Sick by Kasey Thornton (Ig Publishing) was in the Charlotte Observer on December 9.

Excerpts from Red Wave: An American in the Soviet Music Underground by Joanna Stingray and Madison Stingray (Doppelhouse Press) were shared by the NYU Jordan Russian Center.

Black & White & Weird All Over by Jon “Bermuda” Schwartz and Planet Wax by Aaron Lupton & Jeff Szpirglas (both 1984 Publishing)  were featured in the Forces of Geek holiday gift guide.

A Ghost in the Throat by Doireann Ní Ghríofa (Biblioasis) has been named a Foyles Book of the Year. Ní Ghríofa’s memoir is the winner of the Nonfiction Book of the Year 2020.

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This Week’s Reviews

In My Anaana’s Amautik
Nadia Sammurtok, illus. Lenny Lishchenko | Inhabit Media | 9781772272529 | April 2020
“Each spread appeals to a different sense, creating a deliciously cozy and nurturing microenvironment for this lucky tot. The repetition of ‘In my anaana’s amautik’ at the beginning of each short paragraph is both lulling and reinforcing of the relationship between child and mother.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review

We Want It All: An Anthology of Radical Trans Poetics
Edit. Andrea Abi-Karam & Kay Gabriel | Nightboat Books | 9781643620336 | October 2020
“Gave me everything I wanted and more, the perfect supplement as I started my hormone transition journey. The Zoom reading was one of the best virtual events I attended in quarantine—a riotous joy fest with a veritable who’s who of the genderqueer literati.”—Poetry Foundation

Forgotten Work
Jason Guriel | Biblioasis | 9781771963824 | October 2020
“A wondrous novel.”Ron Charles, The Washington Post‘s Book Club Newsletter

How to Carry Water
Lucille Clifton, edit. Aracelis Girmay | BOA Editions | 9781950774142 | September 2020
“Clifton brings a complexity to something we imagined we understood—and a relentless honesty.”The New York Times Magazine

Slash and Burn
Claudia Hernández, trans. Julia Sanches | And Other Stories | 9781911508823 | January 2021

“With each of its story lines weaving artfully into the next, Slash and Burn is an astonishing literary novel whose style is daring and whose tales are tragic.”—Foreword Reviews
“Slash and Burn is an ember of a novel . . . this restrained narrative about a mother’s sacrifice surges with hot undercurrents of danger and memory.”—Bookpage

Princess Arabella at the Museum
Mylo Freeman | Cassava Republic Press | 9781913175061 | January 2021
“Art Easter eggs, as with Arabella’s Mondrian-inspired dress, will entertain artists of all ages.”—Foreword Reviews

Spin a Scarf of Sunshine
Dawn Casey, illus. Stila Lim | Floris Books | 9781782506584 | May 2021
“A lively and entertaining picture book celebration of sustainability, recycling, green living, nature and crafting.”—Midwest Book Review

This Poop is Mine!
Gusti, illus. Gusti | NubeOcho | 9788417673888 | October 2020
“An unusual, unique, and memorable picture book about sharing.”—Midwest Book Review

Yi Sang: Selected Works
edit. Don Mee Choi, trans Jack Jung, Sawako Nakayasu, Don Mee Choi and Joyelle McSweeney | Wave Books | 9781950268085 | September 2020
“A work of highwire avant-garde experimentation, written through a modernist poetic during Korea’s colonial period, Yi Sang’s poems manage to be political acts that do not succumb to mere political statement, but involvement and explosion, in a book that—for a poet who died young in 1938—complicates the very notions of death, haunting, and revival.”—Chicago Review of Books

The Morgan Trust
Richard Bridgeman, illus. Seth | Biblioasis | 9781771963725 | October 2020
The Open Door
Margaret Oliphant , illus. Seth | Biblioasis | 9781771963688 | October 2020
The Story of a Disappearance and an Appearance
M.R. James, illus. Seth | Biblioasis | 9781771963701 | October 2020
“Seth has once again added sparse, but unnerving illustrations to each volume, using shades of gray and shadow-play to cement you in these creepy tales . . . these stories are perfect to read aloud or curl up on the couch with for an evening of spooky entertainment.”—Prairie Fire

The Drive
Yair Assulin, trans. Jessica Cohen | New Vessel Press | 9781939931825 | April 2020
“The sort of soul-level struggling that makes great fiction possible. The translator, Jessica Cohen, is responsible for translations of Israeli literary giants with fans in America like David Grossman, Amos Oz and Etgar Keret, and one can only hope that her name on Assulin’s work means that we’ll be seeing more from him on our shelves soon.”—The Jewish Exponent

Hotel Almighty
Sarah J. Sloat | Sarabande Books | 9781946448644 | September 2020
Hotel Almighty will make your brain spin until the last page, weaving colorful paper cut-outs, vibrant dots, and gold threads with word-jewels excavated from Misery, bewildering you with a new sense of what poetry is capable of.”—Rhino Poetry

“Sloat’s work here belongs within the offbeat orthodoxy of found poetry; the popular label ‘blackout poetry’ certainly applies to her method of scratching out, painting over or otherwise obscuring printed text, thereby bringing novel messages to the surface. And yet these terms, which live in negative language, don’t fully capture Sloat’s sublime, unsettling outcomes.  She coaxes Technicolor poetry from preexisting pages; new verse isn’t merely found—as in stumbled upon—but unearthed.”—The Curator

Pet Sounds
Stephanie Young | Nightboat Books | 9781937658946 | April 2019
“Not only is Pet Sounds an astonishing book of poetry, it’s a surprising new mode of music criticism. In translating the album from a musical form into a written space, Young troubles the distinction between artist and critic – and, in doing so, hears voices that have previously gone unheard behind the cacophony of white male privilege.”—Lana Turner Journal

Vibratory Milieu
Carrie Hunter | Nightboats Books | 9781643620312 | January 2021
Vibratory Milieu is a high-speed polyphonic lyric suite that somehow feels simultaneously an extension of her prior work, and yet, leagues ahead in terms of structure.”—rob mclennan’s blog

The Adventures of a Narrative Gardener
Ronald Lee Fleming | GILES | 9781911282747 | December 2020
“A unique, delightful, large-format book about one man’s desire to create a natural place to hold human memory.”—The VVA Veteran

Skyland
Andrew Durbin | Nightboat Books | 9781643620275 | July 2020
“Skyland is a nice example of fiction tinged by the terror of our contemporary age without being subsumed by it… So even if Durbin’s ‘biography-through-the-periphery’ about Guibert remains largely unfinished, he has written something even harder to define, an airy-yet-ominous diary of a wine-fogged week on a biblical island, one that—like ‘the missing portrait of Guibert’—hovers right there in front of us, nudging us along, floating ‘just out of reach.’”—Hudson Review

Goldilocks and the Three Bears
Gerda Muller | Floris Books | 9781782506614 | September 2020
“Muller’s art is just a wonder.”—SLJ Blog

The Piano Student
Lea Singer, trans. Elisabeth Lauffer | New Vessel Press | 9781939931863 | October 2020
“Gripping in its newness and historical import. . . . The Piano Student contains a lovely air of mystery and a clear-eyed view of the difference between pianistic workmanship and pianistic greatness.”—Washington Indepdent Review of Books

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Consortium Books & Bakes

We present to you Consortium Books & Bakes, a sweet treats cookbook put together by the Consortium team that expertly pairs delicious bakes with indie press books. Bon appetit and happy reading!

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