I had the opportunity to attend the Public Library Association annual conference for the first time last week. PLA is a division of the American Library Association that is dedicated to public libraries in particular (excluding school, academic, and special), so the conference was a bonanza of programming that was all mostly relevant to me and my work. I attended programs on decolonizing the catalog, self-care and avoiding burnout, #eBooksForAll, the Indie Author Program, making public libraries friendly for trans staff and kids, and more. Plus, PLA brought us a superstar slate of headline speakers, including Stacey Abrams and Haben Girma, who were both so informative and interesting and charming and provided takeaways I could apply immediately to my work.
The conference was in Nashville, which meant I had hot chicken and barbecue and also tried out a place called Biscuit Love, which maybe had the best biscuit I’ve ever eaten. Our group of librarians also stumbled onto a bar trivia game and played on a whim; we got second place.
The exhibit hall was markedly different from the more general library conferences I’ve attended in the past, in a way I wasn’t expecting: there was a much bigger push for adult titles. I’m pretty used to going to a library conference and seeing children’s titles take up at least half of the publisher booth real estate and what seems like more than half of the ARC giveaways. Not so at PLA: there were piles and piles of adult titles, and middle grade and YA were much rarer. This provided me with a fun opportunity to learn more about the buzzy adult titles being published in the next few months, which is not as relevant to my work but definitely added to my tbr list (and of course the staff were happy to talk about their children’s titles with me, as always). Here are a few of the titles that I’m excited to read or purchase for the library.
Imagine an America very similar to our own. It’s got homework, best friends, and pistachio ice cream.
There are some differences. This America been shaped dramatically by the magic, monsters, knowledge, and legends of its peoples, those Indigenous and those not. Some of these forces are charmingly everyday, like the ability to make an orb of light appear or travel across the world through rings of fungi. But other forces are less charming and should never see the light of day.
Elatsoe lives in this slightly stranger America. She can raise the ghosts of dead animals, a skill passed down through generations of her Lipan Apache family. Her beloved cousin has just been murdered, in a town that wants no prying eyes. But she is going to do more than pry. The picture-perfect facade of Willowbee masks gruesome secrets, and she will rely on her wits, skills, and friends to tear off the mask and protect her family.
My thoughts: This is on the launch list of Levine Querido, the new independent publisher started by Arthur A. Levine, who had his own imprint at Scholastic for 23 years. This is an #ownvoices book in more than one way: Darcie Little Badger is an enrolled member of the Lipan Apache Tribe of Texas, and like her protagonist Elatsoe, is asexual. The story and its setting are immediately intriguing, and I’m drawn too by Rovina Cai’s illustrations, unusual in a novel for teens. This is one of at least three children’s books by and about indigenous people on Levine Querido’s launch list; the others are a memoir by Eric Gansworth called Apple and a collection of sacred stories from the Americas by María García Esperón called The Sea-Ringed World. This last one was originally published in Spanish in Mexico and translated into English by David Bowles.
Jonathon Bridge has a corner office in a top-tier law firm, tailored suits and an impeccable pedigree. He has a fascinating wife, Adalia, a child on the way, and a string of pretty young interns as lovers on the side. He’s a man who’s going places. His world is our world: the same chaos and sprawl, haves and have-nots, men and women, skyscrapers and billboards. But it also exists alongside a vast, self-sustaining city-state called The Fortress where the indigenous inhabitants–the Vaik, a society run and populated exclusively by women–live in isolation.
When Adalia discovers his indiscretions and the ugly sexual violence pervading his firm, she agrees to continue their fractured marriage only on the condition that Jonathan voluntarily offers himself to The Fortress as a supplicant and stay there for a year. Jonathon’s arrival at The Fortress begins with a recitation of the conditions of his stay: He is forbidden to ask questions, to raise his hand in anger, and to refuse sex.
Jonathon is utterly unprepared for what will happen to him over the course of the year–not only to his body, but to his mind and his heart. This absorbing, confronting and moving novel asks questions about consent, power, love and fulfilment. It asks what it takes for a man to change, and whether change is possible without a radical reversal of the conditions that seem normal.
My thoughts: Workman has a new speculative fiction imprint for adults called Erewhon, and this title is the most intriguing one for me on their inaugural list. It was first published in Australia in 2018. I’m interested to see how it handles its pretty radical concept.
1940. Facing a seemingly endless war, fifteen-year-old Louisa Adair wants to fight back, make a difference, do something-anything to escape the Blitz and the ghosts of her parents, who were killed by enemy action. But when she accepts a position caring for an elderly German woman in the small village of Windyedge, Scotland, it hardly seems like a meaningful contribution. Still, the war feels closer than ever in Windyedge, where Ellen McEwen, a volunteer driver with the Royal Air Force, and Jamie Beaufort-Stuart, a flight leader for the 648 Squadron, are facing a barrage of unbreakable code and enemy attacks they can’t anticipate.
Their paths converge when a German pilot lands in Windyedge under mysterious circumstances and plants a key that leads Louisa to an unparalleled discovery: an Enigma machine that translates German code. Louisa, Ellen, and Jamie must work together to unravel a puzzle that could turn the tide of the war, but doing so will put them directly in the cross-hairs of the enemy.
Featuring beloved characters from Code Name Verity and The Pearl Thief, as well as a remarkable new voice, this brilliant, breathlessly plotted novel by award-winning author Elizabeth Wein is a must-read.
My thoughts: Like many, I loved Code Name Verity, and I’m super excited for a new book by Elizabeth Wein, especially one focused on the Enigma machines.
At an internment camp in Indonesia, forty-seven people are pronounced dead with acute hemorrhagic fever. When Henry Parsons–microbiologist, epidemiologist–travels there on behalf of the World Health Organization to investigate, what he finds will soon have staggering repercussions across the globe: an infected man is on his way to join the millions of worshippers in the annual Hajj to Mecca.
Now, Henry joins forces with a Saudi prince and doctor in an attempt to quarantine the entire host of pilgrims in the holy city… A Russian émigré, a woman who has risen to deputy director of U.S. Homeland Security, scrambles to mount a response to what may be an act of biowarfare… already-fraying global relations begin to snap, one by one, in the face of a pandemic… Henry’s wife Jill and their children face diminishing odds of survival in Atlanta… and the disease slashes across the United States, dismantling institutions–scientific, religious, governmental–and decimating the population.
As packed with suspense as it is with the fascinating history of viral diseases, Lawrence Wright has given us a full-tilt, electrifying, one-of-a-kind thriller.
My thoughts: I’ve read and loved two of Wright’s best-selling nonfiction titles (The Looming Tower and Going Clear). They’re among my first recommendations for someone looking for high-interest, immersive nonfiction. I’m excited to see how he handles fiction, particularly on what has become such a relevant and hot-button topic recently.