This week! Books!
First up, I don’t mean to paint an entire industry with too broad of a brush and there have certainly been pockets of commitment to reversing a checkered legacy of hiring and publishing patterns within the book business. But one of the looming questions was whether the publishing industry would really sustain its commitment to diversity once racial justice was out of the news or if things would go back to its problematic business as usual.
Many authors have noticed that NY Times bestsellers and Publishers Marketplace new deals lists have crept back to being disproportionately white writers. And now another ominous domino has fallen in the wake of a concerted conservative hysteria around book banning that disproportionately targets BIPOC and LGBTQ authors.
Scholastic decided that its book fairs would have an optional section for titles on race, gender, and sexuality with the Orwellian name “Share Every Story, Celebrate Every Voice,” which includes such controversial subject matter as a children’s biography of Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, Because of You, John Lewis about the civil rights leader’s march in Selma, and disability-positive books called You Are Enough and You Are Loved.
In a statement, Scholastic claimed this was due to a patchwork of new state laws. PEN America released a somewhat measured statement against Scholastic’s decision, noting the challenging climate but calling on Scholastic “to explore other solutions so they can reject any role in accommodating these nefarious laws and local pressures, or being an accessory to government censorship.” We Need Diverse Book was more full-throated, condemning Scholastic’s decision and calling on it to “desegregate its Book Fairs.”
I wholeheartedly agree with WNDB here: “There is, and always has been, another option: to stand up and fight for the rights of the marginalized.” Let’s call this for what it is: a segregated section of a beloved children’s book fair in the year 2023. I really struggle to imagine this outcome a few years ago and it’s appalling (if not surprising) to me that publishers are letting their knees get wobbly. It’s up to all of us to continue to hold them to account.
Along those lines, if you’re participating in NaNoWriMo this November, please consider joining up with The Mighty Pens, a really awesome yearly initiative co-founded by Kat Brauer and Susan Dennard, which allows you to raise money for charity for your NaNoWriMo output along the lines of pledges for a marathon. And this year the proceeds will go to We Need Diverse Books!
Also, speaking of publishing types getting wobbly, an awards ceremony for Palestinian author Adania Shibli was canceled due to the war in Israel and Gaza, and over 350 authors circulated an open letter condemning the decision.
Aaliyah Bilal has quite the success story. She responded to an open call for submissions from Simon & Schuster in 2021 and they picked her up without an agent. She’s now a National Book Awards finalist.
It’s unclear precisely how Barnes & Noble’s relaunch under new CEO James Daunt is doing financially, but if measured by celebratory articles in elite media, he is succeeding wildly. The latest is brought to you by Maureen O’Connor at the New York Times, who profiles their haphazard store design experimentation.
At the National Book Awards ceremony, Drew Barrymore is out as host and LeVar Burton is in.
They’re so ubiquitous now that it’s hard to remember just how revolutionary and democratizing the humble paperback really was in the years following its invention. The Grolier Club in Manhattan has a new exhibition on The Armed Services Editions program, which printed an astonishing 120 million editions of pocket-size paperbacks during World War II, which permanently shaped American culture and cemented the rise of paperbacks.
And in writing and publishing advice news, Lincoln Michel has an awesome post on the uncanny and how to use it in horror and beyond, agent Janet Reid has a reminder that agents don’t believe you when you praise your own book, and Kathleen Schmidt has advice for hiring freelance publicists.
This week in bestsellers
Here are the top five NY Times bestsellers in a few key categories. (All links are affiliate links):
Adult print and e-book fiction:
- Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros
- Blood Lines by Nelson DeMille and Alex DeMille
- Wildfire by Hannah Grace
- Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Gamus
- Judgment Prey by John Sandford
Adult print and e-book nonfiction:
- Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann
- Enough by Cassidy Hutchinson
- Elon Musk by Walter Isaacson
- Killing the Witches by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard
- Going Infinite by Michael Lewis
Young adult hardcover:
- Divine Rivals by Rebecca Ross
- Curious Tides by Pascale Lacelle
- Night of the Witch by Sara Raasch and Beth Revis
- This Winter by Alice Oseman
- A Study in Drowning by Ava Reid
Middle grade hardcover:
- The Harry Potter Wizarding Almanac by J.K. Rowling
- The Puppets of Spelhorst by Kate DiCamillo
- Wings of Fire: A Guide to the Dragon World by Tui T. Sutherland
- The Sun and the Star by Rick Riordan and Mark Oshiro
- The Official Harry Potter Cookbook by Joanna Farrow
This week on the blog
In case you missed them, here are this week’s posts:
- How to bridge characters’ thoughts in an omniscient POV
- Don’t let a lyrical voice get away from you (page critique)
Don’t forget that you can nominate your first page and query for a free critique on the blog:
And keep up with the discussion in all the places!
And finally, I did not expect an article about raising salmon sustainably via on-land aquaculture to be so riveting, but here you go!
Have a great weekend!
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