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Shelf Stable: June 1st
"...the ghost of history lies down beside me, rolls over, pins me beneath a heavy arm." Natasha Trethewey, from Pilgrimage
I live around the corner from the William Lloyd Garrison House. It’s a lumbering, yellowing house on the top of Fort Hill in Roxbury, which today overlooks a community garden and, across the street, a public housing complex. William Lloyd Garrison was arguably the most famous Boston abolitionist, founder and editor of the antislavery newspaper The Liberator and an organizer for the cause of abolition in Boston. 

But white abolitionists, like Garrison and his colleagues, who are lionized for their work to end slavery, were often motivated by causes we would find problematic today and held views we would likely find repugnant. For example, the American Colonization Society, with whom Garrison only briefly had ties, advocated for freeing slaves and sending them back to West Africa. This was probably a fate better than slavery, sure, but also inherently racist because these abolitionists didn’t want to live among free blacks. (For a more nuanced and intelligently written account of these events, see Dr. Ibram X. Kendi’s masterpiece of revisionist history, Stamped from the Beginning .

I also live very close to the newly named Nubian Square, which expunged the name of Thomas Dudley because laws he enacted in nascent Boston permitted slavery. At the base of Fort Hill is the derelict Dudley mansion, owned by Dudley’s ancestors who made money off of slavery.  

I like to say that I live in a neighborhood of haunted houses; I’ve probably said that in Shelf Stable before. But I’ll repeat it because never has it hit so true than now, as I consider the events in Boston last night and around the country, while sandwiched between the still-standing manse of Boston’s most famous abolitionist and the disintegrating home of the Dudley family. I know I have often fallen prey to the idea that as a Northern city, home to liberal institutions of learning, somehow Boston is less racist. This is naive at best; this naivete is a privilege I have had because I am white. But the ghosts of the past are all around, and not really past at all, but alive and well in contemporary American society. And I know that my own naivete is not an excuse. 

Talking with more conservative family members about the protests all over the country, and in Boston in particular, I’m realizing just how pervasive this naivete is, and the self-righteous malice it allows for. The America that popular history and patriotic rhetoric have told us is true doesn’t exist. Boston is no better than anywhere else. Even if I didn’t actively persecute any black folks or seek out racist attitudes, that doesn’t mean I didn’t absorb them. They are implicit. 

This is not a novel observation by any means, but I mention it because it highlights the discomfort those of us with privilege must be willing to encounter to help with meaningful change. It is uncomfortable to realize that someone you love holds such harmful views and doesn’t or doesn’t want to understand why they are harmful. It’s uncomfortable to find them in yourself, and even more uncomfortable to excise them. 

And we’ve all seen how Porter Square Books’s customers have been seeking out resources like Kendi’s books and others about antiracism and the black experience in America. My fellow booksellers and I find that heartening. So read, learn, absorb, and listen. But remember that reading is only a gateway, and that antiracism will be as important once the fires are put out.

And stay safe.

Join our next virtual event!
A Time to Listen and Learn
Friends, I know that the last few days may have felt overwhelming for many reasons. When it comes to the state of racial injustice in our country, I, too, have felt overwhelmed, helpless, confused, angry, hurt, ashamed - it goes on. The thing is that we're not helpless; there's so much we can do to help, by supporting organizations working to help marginalized communities, calling our lawmakers, speaking out against injustice and uplifting voices that need to be heard and answered. And there's more that you can do from within the walls of your own home, too. National Book Award-winning author Ibram X. Kendi teaches that there's no such thing as being "not racist" - instead, we must seek to become anti-racist, a definitive stance against racism that requires self-reflection, education, and deliberation. Here are some resources - beautifully represented by artist Jane Mount - to get you started on this work. -- Leila
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!
Old Hollywood:  From Page to Screen
Celluloid Shakespeare
All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.
William Shakespeare has always been a favorite in Hollywood and his works have been translated into film for well over a century.  For example, there were over seven silent versions of  Hamlet . One of the earliest was the Divine Sarah Bernhart’s portrayal of  Hamlet  (1899). 

There were numerous sound  Hamlet  productions both in English and in  foreign translation: In 1948 Laurence Olivier played the melancholy Dane in what would be his Oscar-winning performance. His Hamlet, like that of John Barrymore on stage, is hailed as near perfection. The film also won Best Picture and co-starred Jean Simmons. In 1990 Mel Gibson played the Sweet Prince to mixed reviews and negative comparisons to Olivier.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream  has been a favorite title in Hollywood starting in 1909. However, considered the gold standard is Max Reinhardt’s 1935 adaptation starring James Cagney, Mickey Rooney and Olivia de Havilland as Hermia. Interesting trivia:  Max Reinhardt spoke no English so he directed his cast in German with an interpreter by his side.
The first known adaptation of  Romeo and Juliet  was a French version in 1900. More Silents were made and then in 1936 M-G-M, under the direction of George Cukor, filmed a version with Norma Shearer and Leslie Howard playing the star-crossed lovers.  An extravagant well-produced production, the two stars, however, were nearly twenty years too old for their roles.  In 1968, Franco Zeffirelli’s lavish film starred young actors (Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey), who reflected the true ages of Shakespeare’s characters. Interesting trivia: The prologue and epilogue were voiced by Sir Laurence Olivier.
D. W. Griffith filmed  The Taming of the Shrew  in 1909 and in 1929 the first sound version was made with Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks playing Kate and Petruchio.  Described as a “bawdy and boisterous production,” Zeffirelli’s 1967 adaptation starred then husband and wife, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.   Variety  gave the movie a good review and wrote, “Taylor is a buxom delight”.
There were over eight silent adaptations, and numerous sound movies of the Scottish Play –  Macbeth .   Orson Welles’s unique version of  Macbeth  (1948) modified the text and received mostly negative reviews.  Distributed by the down market Republic Pictures, the movie’s premiere was held in Boston, MA.  Since 1971 there have been three films; Roman Polanski’s is considered the best of the lot.
Shakespeare’s plays have been directly transferred to film, but his works have also inspired hundreds of movies: For example, the Oscar winning musical  West Side Story  was inspired by  Romeo and Juliet  and   Cole Porter’s boisterous musical  Kiss Me Kate  was inspired by  The Taming of the Shrew.  
For decades foreign producers have mined Shakespeare in such countries as: Japan ( King Lear  1985)), Italy ( Othello  1951), Sweden ( The Tempest  1989), France ( Hamlet  1908,  Macbeth  1987), and Germany ( Hamlet  1921).

Adieu, Nathan 

Next Up:  The Groovy 1970’s
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?
Sinny cooks a random tortilla snack

This is a simple and easy snack or meal that you can put together in less than an hour and I think we all need simple and easy right now.
Ingredients :

  • 1 can chickpeas (drained)
  • Tabasco sauce or your preferred hot sauce
  • lettuce
  • Korean sweet potatoes (diced into small cubes)
  • soft tortilla (small)
  • shredded cheese (I used cheddar)
  • olive oil
Directions :

  • heat olive oil on med-high
  • add chickpeas and cook for about 10-15 mins until chickpeas turn golden/crispy
  • add Tobasco sauce
  • cook for additional 3 mins then set aside
  • in a separate cooking pan, add olive oil on med-high
  • add Korean sweet potatoes and cook for about 20 mins until potatoes are golden and crispy
  • in a clean pan, you can heat a soft tortilla with shredded cheese for 1-2 mins
  • then you put everything together on the tortilla and enjoy!
Shop the store!
Journals, Stationery & Crafts
Sometimes a new notebook is what it takes to get the juices flowing! Browse our new online selection of journals, diaries, coloring books, and pen sets.
Book Bundle Offerings
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!
New style now available:
Bedtime Stories
From KidLit's Read Out Loud program, Lesa Cline-Ransome reads Game Changers: The Story of Venus and Serena Williams!
Shana's got a bedtime story planned for the usual 8:45 time on Instagram Live tonight!
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 will go live TOMORROW 6/2 right here ( please note that many of these titles were chosen prior to the most recent murder).

In the meantime, enjoy one final day with the May staff picks. As ever, all staff picks are 20% off.
Featured Pick for Kids

Elizabeth Acevedo has done it again! Like in her award-winning The Poet X Acevedo gives us a beautiful, lyrical look into the life of her protagonists. What I love about this is that in spite of the gripping premise (two girls from opposite sides of the world discover they are half-sisters after their father dies) there’s such a focus on the specific lives of each main character. There are no blanket statements about the two cultures they hail from (though plenty of insights into both), just two people that seem so real they could walk off the page.
-- Caleb
Featured Pick for Adults

A high fantasy adventure of peasant uprisings, stolen thrones, and secret treasure, The Golden age is a winner for YA and adult fantasy fans. The artwork is simply magnificent, drawing inspiration from Disney's Sleeping Beauty. The intricate, fluid line-work and astonishing palette will marvel readers.

-- Marika
We want to hear from you!
What's the most important face mask attribute to you?
Ones that have the part that go up on the nose
Ones with wires on the nose
Ear loops
Ones that tie around the back of your head
See you next time here at Shelf Stable!
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