"What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you." - Anne Lamott
As the events manager here at Porter Square Books, it's been a really bizarre few weeks. Usually I'm cramming as many events as we can accommodate onto our calendar, sending out requests for author visits, making sure we've got a great stack of books for the audience to pick up. Instead, since early March I've been fielding and sending cancellations left and right, reassuring authors that we'll find a time to host them when they're back, promising disappointed would-be attendees that we'll get them a signed bookplate, and so on. I really try to curate an events calendar that's very intentional: aiming to center books and authors that our community is excited about, highlight local and marginalized voices, and find topics that ask us to reflect on the past, speak to our current moment, or offer resources for our shared future together. Dismantling it is a bit like watching one giant wave take out a sand castle you spent all day building, right as you were about to put on the final shell.
And of course, gathering is the key component to events. Gathering that we cannot do, not now, and no one's really sure when that will change. I've been trying to bolster my spirits by dreaming really big for the distant future, but even that is challenging at times, not knowing what we'll have been through at that point. And we need this now--right now, when we have no choice but to isolate, coming together is more important than ever. That's what we've been aiming to do every day with Shelf Stable.
That's also why I'm excited to start offering a slate of virtual events. We're still finding our footing here, so be sure to check back for an evolving lineup - likely a combination of events we would've held, and others that are only possible virtually due to far flung authors and suddenly cleared schedules, a silver lining to this all. I'd like to kick things off by inviting you all to join me and a few of our mutual friends here at PSB for an evening of Poetry Karaoke next week. Here's how it works: You look at our friendly, familiar faces. We read you some of our favorite poems written by other people. You stay cozy in your PJs and enjoy. I hope you'll join us on Thursday, April 9 at 7pm for Poetry Karaoke! You can sign up here.(Don't worry, we'll remind you!)
Leila @ PSB
Events We Missed
Sarah-Jane Stratford with Jen Deaderick
Red Letter Days: Fiction
Way back in early March (years ago now), we were meant to host Sarah-Jane Stratford for her novel Red Letter Days. Concerned about travel, Sarah-Jane had to make the tough choice to cancel her tour even before there was real guidance on how to handle these strange days. We're sorry to have missed Sarah-Jane, so we wanted to make sure you all knew about her book!
When two brave women flee from the Communist Red Scare, they soon discover that no future is free from the past. Amid the glitz and glamour of 1950s New York, Phoebe Adler pursues her dream of screenwriting. A dream that turns into a living nightmare when she is blacklisted—caught in the Red Menace that is shattering the lives of suspected Communists. Desperate to work, she escapes to London, determined to keep her dream alive and clear her good name.
There, Phoebe befriends fellow American exile Hannah Wolfson, who has defied the odds to build a career as a successful television producer in England. Hannah is a woman who has it all, and is now gambling everything in a very dangerous game—the game of hiring blacklisted writers.
Neither woman suspects that danger still looms . . . and their fight is only just beginning.
Sarah-Jane was meant to appear with local author and friend of the store Jen Deaderick, author of She the People: A Graphic History of Uprisings, Breakdowns, Setbacks, Revolts, and Enduring Hope on the Unfinished Road to Women's Equality. We highly recommend you check out both books!
Wanda Coleman, a poet laureate of anger and honesty, lived resistance and shouted rebellion, has always been the poet America needed, though sometimes it seemed like she was the only one who knew that. With this new book of poems selected and introduced by Terrance Hayes, perhaps America will finally know it too. --Josh
For all the latest on events, new books, reviews, and more for young and young-at-heart readers.
Looking to get some good book recommendations, personalized just for you? Check out our Virtual Bookseller! Just fill out the form with your likes and dislikes, genres and favorites, and we'll crowdsource a bunch of great picks for you with our crack team of real life booksellers. Give it a whirl!
Preorders are a great way to support PSB while we're not able to actually be at the store for two reasons:
They bring in income now while the store is closed.
We can deal with them later!
You can see all of the books from the future we're excited about here.But you can preorder more than just what we're excited for. Any book with an inventory status (who knew you'd have to get to know our online inventory statuses so well) of "Coming Soon--Available for Pre-Order Now" or "On the Horizon--Available for Pre-Order Now," is, uh, available for preorder now.
Miss one of our bedtime stories? Or one of the tours of our libraries in the epic YouTube series PSB: Cribs? Good news! We've made playlists on YouTube so you can catch up on all of them.
Are you missing out on our recommendations, pining for our Staff Pick display?? Our April crop of staff picks is now live on our website! We'll feature titles throughout the month, but you can browse the full list at the link below. As ever, all staff picks are 20% off - so go crazy!
Today's inspiration is brought to you by Nina Katchadourian, an artist using "sorted books" as her medium. Nina approaches someone else's library, notes the titles that jump out at her, and then arranges a stack so that their titles offer a portrait of their owner. (Thanks to Morgan Michaels for the suggestion!)
I'm going to go ahead and guess that you don't have a famous author's library to snoop through (if you do, please take video and send it to us because that sounds amazing) - if you're co-quarantined with someone, you could try to create their portrait from their stacks, or make a self portrait from your own collection. I personally wasn't feeling especially introspective today, so I decided to make a Sorted Books poem speaking to isolation anxiety instead:
Things fall apart.
we are as gods--
The invention of everything else
topics of conversation
how to be a good creature?
Clap when you land.
I definitely recommend taking Nina's advice on this one: come up with your titles before you start stacking to limit the disturbance to your library! If you make your own, we'd love to see it. --Leila
Bookseller fashion, Shana Style
Shana gives us the tour of their impressive book-themed wardrobe!
Support Cafe Zing baristas!
Although Cafe Zing is its own business separate from ours, we really don't see it that way: Zing workers are part of the Porter Square Books family. They keep us well supplied - very well supplied - with caffeine, kindness, and some great tunes. Sometimes they give us staff picks; sometimes we give them exact change because we've bought the same, perfect, comforting, delicious beverage twice a day five days a week for how long, now?
Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, & You by Jason Reynolds & Ibram X. Kendi
Jason Reynold's "Stamped Jr" is a great resource for kids and adults who want to talk to kids about the systemic racism rooted in our country's history. Reynolds weaves together historical moments (some that students may have studied in other contexts, others totally new) in a way that connects them to a larger picture and to today. His playful asides make it feel far from textbook reading; perfect for at-home study. Highly recommend the audiobook from Libro.fm - you'll really feel like you're hanging out with Jason Reynolds in your living room! --Leila
*Send your entry by Thursday!* For some reason, we've been thinking about the apocalypse lately, (insert joke about moving dystopian fiction into current affairs) which, of course, got us thinking about the Apocalypse Team game. The rules are simple and presented here in their bookish version. Build a team with three realistically human or animal characters from literature. So no picking characters with magic or super powers or anything like that. Once everyone in your group has assembled their team, each person makes the argument for why their team will survive the longest. Debate until a winner is chosen or you get sick of debating. Rinse and repeat with whatever other rules you want to add.
Respond to this email with your Literary Apocalypse Team and your argument for why you'll survive. We'll pick a favorite and share the winner in next Thursday's shelf. The winner will get a stack o' galleys sent to them via media mail!
Audio Book Of The Month
Deacon King Kong by James McBride
“Deacon King Kong is a quintessential New York story. Set in the Brooklyn projects in 1969, a perpetually inebriated deacon called Sportcoat aims a gun at the neighborhood’s main drug dealer in the public plaza and pulls the trigger. Incredibly well-constructed and hilarious at times, McBride’s story entwines a number of storylines that are kickstarted by this central event. The local Italian gangster, the veteran cop, the meddling churchgoers, and the drug pushers all have their own agendas, hopes, and dreams that are affected. And though Sportcoat doesn’t remember his actions and is always under the influence of gut-rot moonshine, I couldn’t help but root for him as I was reading this. His delightful ineptitude and absence of clarity made this book impossible for me to put down. If you’ve never read McBride before, this is a great introduction.”