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Shelf Stable: June 17th
“It is important to announce your intentions at top volume, she thought, or your intentions will think you are ashamed of them.” Catherynne M. Valente
Hello there!
Sorry to a lot of you who haven’t heard much from me lately. It seems like these days radio silence has been my default, first because the global pandemic makes communication and socializing harder in so many ways, more recently because all of the protests, both online and on our streets have been a vital opportunity for people like me to listen.
But today I want to talk about something very, very loud. More specifically I want to talk about metal (bear with me, there’s a point coming).
A couple years ago I got a Facebook message from one of my old marching band buddies. See, he’s in a band ( not  a marching band) and they were playing Boston, so he wanted to check in and see about getting me on the guest list. Cool deal, right? Backstage passes, connecting with an old pal, and a chance to go see a show at one of the city’s more iconic venues? What’s not to love?
But here’s the thing: music-wise it wasn’t really my scene. The band’s Wikipedia page classifies them as “rap metal”, “metalcore”, and “hard rock”, and while my musical tastes are pretty broad, they usually don’t include any of those categories. I went though, and a big reason was because I had been reading Hanif Abdurraqib’s  They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us , and it was blowing my mind.
They Can’t Kill Us   is a collection of essays on music, and it’s become one of my favorites over the last couple years, but a lot of it is about music that is not my usual genre. There’s essay after essay about pop punk and emo bands, and while I was in high school for the height of that craze, it wasn’t one I connected with. And then, years after the fact, I kind of did. Seeing these bands through Hanif’s passionate and personal viewpoint I was challenged to look at them in new ways, to hear them as other people hear them. Sometimes it lead to repeat listening (My Chemical Romance’s  The Black Parade ) other times (cough Springsteen cough) there just wasn’t going to be a connection. But I understood. I saw worth in the music so far outside of my comfort zone, even if I didn’t necessarily want to expand my horizons to include every album on my Now Playing queue. I saw why people were into all these things, because I took the time to listen.
So I went to the show, and I listened to something outside my comfort zone. And it was fun! In addition to catching up with my friend, the show itself was a blast.  Totally  not my scene but I understood why the place was packed. There’s power in just screaming, in turning everything up to eleven and getting all the emotions out for all to see. There’s community there. And there’s a lot of things I’m just not going to get because it’s not my scene, but that’s okay. We don’t have to agree with everyone’s taste, we don’t have to like every flavor, but I think it’s important to stop and listen to why people love the things they love, why they do the things they do. It’s important to get outside of our comfort zones.
I guess what I’m saying, if you’re still here, is that it’s important to read outside what makes you comfortable. It’s important to see through the eyes of other people. It’s important to know that it’s the middle of June and Black Lives Still Matter and they always will. I think by practicing small moves outside of our comfort zones we can help move our society closer to reflecting that. I sure hope so.
- Caleb
PS: For clarity’s sake: this isn’t an “all points are valid” post. I firmly don’t believe that. But I see a lot of people buying anti-racist books (awesome!) and I think that’s a good (first) step. This is only meant to elaborate on that trend: educate yourself, empathize with those who are different, and fight for equality. After all, a lot of us are lucky to even have the privilege of being comfortable, but not everyone does. Maybe if we move out of our zones we can bring some of that comfort to someone who needs.
Join our next virtual events!
Jabari Asim with Porsha Olayiwola, Stop & Frisk - June 19th at 7PM
Please join us for a virtual Juneteenth poetry reading to celebrate the release of Jabari Asim's newest poetry collection,  Stop & Frisk: American Poems , with Porsha Olayiwola ( i shimmer sometimes, too ), hosted on Crowdcast.

In  Stop and Frisk , Jabari Asim ruthlessly interrogates entrenched injustice and its insidious echoes. Part rap sheet, part concept album, Asim lays down tracks that add conviction to our collective broken record: What could be more American than pretending truths were self-evident when they seldom were? Drawing defiant inspiration from the news and the Blues, these poems arrest our attention and burn grooves into us. These starkly revelatory poems expose the dark heart of our nation and call for a reckoning—the only way out before everything breaks / into hurt, noise, and ever after. 

This event is part of our Be the Change: Community Action series. A portion of Porter Square Books online sales for June 19th will be donated to Black Lives Matter Boston, along with any direct contributions from the audience via Crowdcast's Donate button.
Antiracism Books: A Place to Start
Digital Audio Books:
A terrific way to support local indies!
The Power of Preorders!
Preorders are a great way to support PSB and the authors you love! 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! Simply look for "Available for Preorder" in the inventory status.
Virtual Bookseller
Want book recommendations, personalized just for you?

Fill out our 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!
Gay, Silly, and Cute: Your Next Perfect Read
Recently, a friend and I were talking about Red, White, and Royal Blue , one of my recent favorite books that she had just finished.

"It's so cute!" she exclaimed. "Why aren't there more gay books that are just silly and cute?"

As it happens, though, there are more gay books that are silly and cute. A LOT more. Yes, there are still more straight books, and that will probably always be the case, but there's been an explosion of queer content in the past few years. And a lot of it is, in fact, both silly and cute. 

I gave her a list. But knowing our readers, I'm guessing she's not the only one who might be interested. So for your reading pleasure, some gay romcoms to warm your heart!

Something to Talk About - Meryl Wilsner

The classic "Hollywood exec falls for her assistant" thing except both the Hollywood exec and the assistant are women and the characters and author are VERY AWARE of the inherent consent issues they have to navigate. Jo does not want to abuse the power she has over Emma, and Emma doesn't want people to think she's gotten as far as she has by sleeping with her boss. If you love stories where literally everyone figures out the protagonists are in love before they do, this is the book for you. Plus, it's a staff pick, so 20% off!

Also Emma's family is the most on point Jewish family I've ever read. When she went to her Passover seder it felt like the one I missed this year due to quarantine.

Check Please - Ngozi Ukazu

I first read Check Please as a webcomic. It's about college hockey, so I wasn't expecting to love it as much as I do. But then it turned out it was about college hockey, pie baking, queer kids, and feelings and turns out THAT is my jam. Now it's an actual physical comic book you can own! This is a lovely book, one of those ones that takes place in a world just a shade better than reality where things are hopeful and beautiful and good things happen to people. Will make you want to eat pie and maybe even watch some hockey. 

This is such a good book for people who grew up on middle grade fantasy. So much of it feels familiar… a relatively normal man goes to visit an orphanage with extraordinary children and a mysterious headmaster, but it's also got an incredibly sweet, slow burn gay romance. This book is like a hug, like a warm blanket that's been patched and made new again and is just as comfy but is now even better than before. Cute gays with a side of found family. You'll want to melt.

Stealing Thunder by Alina Boyden

This is a heterosexual romance, but still queer because the main character is a trans woman. She's a former prince, currently living in exile as a hijra and a thief. She has to deal with a lot of prejudice, but she also gets a handsome current prince to start falling in love with her and to regain some of her former status without having to go back to trying to force herself to live as a man when she clearly isn't one. It's got all the dreamy swoopy feelings of a good fairytale and the main character is trans.

Also? FANTASTIC world building and really cool, unique takes on dragons. And it's my staff pick so 20% off!

Okay, this is a little bit of a cheat because I actually haven't finished this one. On the other hand, it's taking everything I've got not to stop writing this right now and go back to reading it, so I feel like it counts. It's SO CUTE. Liz is trying to become prom queen so she can get the scholarship that comes with it. It's a challenge, since she's not remotely part of the popular crowd, but becomes even more challenging when she starts falling for the new girl and fellow prom queen contender, Mack. It's unfortunate that she isn't out and changing that might ruin her chances at prom queen and with it the college of her dreams.

I'm pretty sure it's going to end well, but no spoilers!! 

May your week be as joyful and sweet as these books. Happy reading! -- Shana
Audio Book of the Month
Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia, narrated by Amir Abdullah

Rick Riordan presents Kwame Mbalia's epic fantasy, a middle grade American Gods set in a richly imagined world populated with African American folk heroes and West African gods.

"Tristan Strong is a book about memory & storytelling, a clever reimagining of African & black American mythology, & a fun, fast-paced ride! Boxer Tristan feels he's failed his best friend & let down his family. When he accidentally punches a hole to another world, he'll have to rediscover his strength as he fights alongside legends like John Henry, Brer Rabbit, & Anansi. Tristan's voice is tough, tender, & hilarious; his story will appeal to adventure lovers of all ages."
-- Kate, about the hardcover version
Need Some Inspiration?
Taking care of yourself is productive: today's topic is beach reads.

For the past few months, I hadn't been anywhere except to the grocery store and essential appointments. Since Massachusetts is now in Phase 2 of opening up the economy (please note: PSB is still not open to the public at this time), my partner and I have been looking for places in nature to get exercise and breathe in some fresh air.

A few weeks ago, we went on a hike in Upton State Forest where everyone was wearing masks and social distancing. It was such a lovely experience and we were so glad for the opportunity.

Last week, we went to Mayflower Beach on the Cape, and even though it was warm enough to swim, we opted for just taking a walk along the waves. There were very few people at the beach, so we were able to stay far, far, far away from other people. So, if you're feeling the need to escape your homes for fresh air, I recommend a hike at Upton State Forest and a swim at Mayflower Beach . These are the books that I brought with me and I highly recommend both!

-- Sinny
Do you miss chatting with us about books?
Now you can sign up for a time slot to chat with a bookseller! Currently starting on weekends between 10-4. Up this weekend: Josh on Saturday and Meaghan on Sunday!
Shop the store!
Alert! New bookseller bundles available now!
Our 'get 3 paperbacks' bundle options have expanded to include Caleb, Meaghan, and Shana! Get 3 paperbacks handpicked by the bookseller that fit in with their theme. You can find all bundles HERE.
Journals, Stationery & Crafts
Sometimes a new notebook is what it takes to get the juices flowing!

We have now made a much wider variety of notebooks, journals, and even calendars available for order from our website, like this classic Moleskin . Now, along with items with an inventory status of "On Our Shelves Now," you can order journals, notebooks, diaries, calendars, planners, and more with an inventory status of "Available at Warehouses."
Book Bundle Offerings
Father's Day Gifts

Father's Day approaches! We've come up with a great list of gifts for you to browse from - socks, puzzles, books, joke books, oven mitts - all your favorites from the store! Remember to place your order early in order for us to have it ready for you in time for the holiday itself. Hope your dad or the guardian in your life loves it!
Face Masks
Face coverings are going to be with us for a while, so we’re now offering non-medical grade cloth masks (including kid size) from a variety of makers. Right now quantities are limited, but additional styles are on the way. We’ll keep you posted!
Bedtime Stories
Our own Shana's back, reading from Winter Tide by Ruthanna Emrys!
And join Meaghan for a bedtime story tonight at 8:45 on Instagram Live!
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?

They're our family, and they could use a hand. If you are able, please considering donating to the Cafe Zing GoFundMe; 100% of proceeds go to baristas. What might you have spent at Zing over the past weeks if it we were in normal times? If that $10 is still in your wallet, consider putting it in their tip jar. We love you, Zing!
June staff picks are live! Please note that many of these staff picks were chosen prior to recent events.
Featured Pick for Kids
Where We Go From Here by Lucas Rocha, translated by Larissa Helena

HIV-positive teens in Brazil deal with all the challenges of young love plus a few more -- and learn that revenge is best served with the help of a group of drag queens.

Featured Pick for Adults
The Emissary by Yoko Tawada, translated by Margaret Mitsutani

The Emissary, one of the strangest and most inventive stories that I’ve read, follows a day in the lives of a Japanese grandfather and grandson after an unnamed environmental catastrophe. In this dystopian world, children are born frail and sickly while the elderly remain healthy and strong. Due to the pollution, most animals and plants have gone extinct, everyone changes sex at least once in their lives, and old holidays have been replaced with new ones like “Being Alive is Enough Day”. Translated from its original Japanese, this short novel pushes the boundary of both language and visions of the future. -- Justin, Writer in Residence for Adults
We want to hear from you!
We hear a heat wave's coming up. What's the best kind of reading to keep cool?
It's gotta be a buzzed-about beach read with a bright cover on a breezy shore.
A nice creepy mystery certainly will give you the chills...
A wintry-set fantasy, a la Game of Thrones.
Some great nonfiction: there's so much to learn, you can forget you're sweating!
Embrace the heat. Give me a steamy romance!
See you next time here at Shelf Stable!
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