Last week the Bookstore Relations Coordinator at ABA came to speak at the NYU Summer Publishing Institute. I was so moved by his presentation that I thought I would share a little bit of it here.
Declaration of IndieBound
When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for individuals to denounce the corporate bands which threaten to homogenize our cities and our souls, we must celebrate the powers that make us unique and declare the causes which compel us to remain independent.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all stores are not created equal, that some are endowed by their owners, their staff, and their communities with certain incomparable heights, that among these are Personality, Purpose and Passion. The history of the present indies is a history of experiences and excitement, which we will continue to establish as we set our sights on a more unconstrained state. To prove this, let’s bring each other along and submit our own experiences to an unchained world.
We, therefore, the Kindred Spirits of IndieBound, in the name of our convictions, do publish and declare that these united minds are, and darn well ought to be, Free Thinkers and Independent Souls. That we are linked by the passions that differentiate us. That we seek out soul mates to share our excitement. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the strength of our identities, we respectively and mutually pledge to lead the way as we all declare that we are IndieBound!
Just in case you’re not familiar with IndieBound, here’s a little bit about the organization. It was created to bring together independent bookstores so that publishers would be forced to listen to their voice. These bookstores are havens for communities to talk, think, react and read. Check out their website: IndieBound
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The Bellwether Revivals by Benjamin Wood
Published July 2, 2012
Summary: The Bellwether Revivals takes place mainly at King’s College, and the surrounding area. (Don’t you love it already?) Oscar Lowe is an outsider who works in a nursing home nearby who falls in love with the privileged medical student. As he dives into her world he realizes that the life on the other side isn’t always as beautiful as it seems.
Bechdel Test?: Unfortunately no. The book is from the perspective of a male character (Oscar) and he primarily interacts with other men. Iris and Jane, the two females who show up the most, don’t really talk to each other with Oscar around.
It has been a long time since I’ve read a novel in which the prose was as beautiful as The Bellwether Revivals. Wood’s words are more than beautiful, they’re enchanting and brought me so deeply into the story that I forgot the time of day. I loved the mix of not knowing whether there was a supernatural element or whether there was just paranoia and delusion. The unreliable narrator of Oscar Lowe, coupled with the psychoanalysis provided by Dr. Herbert Cress, I was on my toes the whole time trying to figure out what would happen next. Honestly, if you only read one book this summer make it this one!
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Dark Kiss by Michelle Rowan
Published June 1, 2012
Summary: Set in modern day city, Dark Kiss is reminiscent of Twilight with more lovable characters and a stronger narrative voice. Samantha is a teenager who runs into a mysterious homeless boy, Bishop. Bishop seems a little off but after he kills a man in front of Samantha she’s forced to involve herself in his world. Rather than reinventing the YA paranormal trope of a love triangle Rowan sticks to the script and introduces Bishop’s brother, Kraven. Bishop and Kraven have been sent to earth on a mission to save Sam’s city from soul eating monsters called grays — the catch is that Sam herself is a gray and doesn’t know it.
Bechdel Test?: Not at all. Sam and Carly talk a lot about Stephen (a hot guy at their school), Kraven and Bishop but don’t discuss much else.
Maybe because I’ve always found Anne Rice to be the original, but Rowan’s Samantha is more fresh than Bella Swan; for the stronger female character along I found myself wrapped up in Dark Kiss. Even though the story isn’t the most original thing ever I will probably indulge in the sequel when it comes out.
Blogger’s Note: Just a quick note to say I’m sorry this review took so long to get up . I finished the book before my graduation on May 19th but life has just gotten in the way. I have a few more posts coming your way this week so check them out!
Published September 2011
Summary: Set in a post-apocalyptic America, called the Society , the novel follows Cassia through her Matching ceremony. In this new world everything is laid out for citizens: their food is premeasured and send to them, their jobs are based on intense aptitude tests and their deaths are pre-planned. Matching is at the center of these plans and involves young people being chosen for each other by a committee. The Matching Ceremony allows the young people to see a picture of their match for the first time and to revel in their new “adulthood.”After the ceremony, the matched are given a computer chip with information about their intended so that they can get to know them. Cassia’s experience is complicated by the fact that she sees someone other than her Match on the computer chip. When this happens she begins seeing all of the things that have gone wrong within the Society.
Bechdel Test?: Cassia doesn’t really have any girlfriends so this is a little hard to determine. There is a female government official with whom she has conversations about the state of things, so I think it passes!
Though I’m late to the party — the third book in the trilogy comes out this fall– I’m glad that I arrived! This is a thoughtful book about how government control can corrupt a society. I was most intrigued by the way the Society interacted with art and culture. . The Society decided that the world was too cluttered by choice so a committee chose 100 paintings, 100 poems, and other things to save and then burned all of the rest. I was appalled at the destruction of important documents but found it amazing that these treasures play such a central role in the novel!
Gilt by Katherine Longshore
Published May 15, 2012
Summary: Though I’veread a lot of historical fiction set during the Tudor dynasty, I had never read a book that chronicled Catherine Howard’s rise to the throne. In Gilt,we see the story from Kitty’s perspective. Kitty is a minor noble who becomes friends with Catherine Hoaward when they are both in service to a wealthy Howard relative. Catherine has lofty ambitions and it is clear from the start that Kitty will follow her every move. The novel traces their friendship from servanthood to the Tower. Along the way both indulge in romances that are dangerous, politically and psychologically.
Bechdel Test?: Surprisingly, I didn’t think so. Even though the two main characters, Kitty and Catherine, are strong women in their own right, together they talk only about plotting love affairs.
A solid historical intregue, Katherine Longshore’s novel was exactly what I thought it would be: fluffy goodness.There wasn’t much that the (informed) reader didn’t realize going in but it was fun to see the way that Longshore jazzed up the well-known story. Overall, I wish that the story had focused more on Kitty since she was the more interesting woman. I finished the book feeling as though there was a great deal more that Kitty could’ve done.
The Dressmaker of Khair Khana
The Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Summary: Like many memoirs written since the fall of the Taliban, The Dressmaker of Khair Khana tells the story of an Afghanistani woman who disobeyed the strict regime and made a way for herself and the women of her village. In this case, Kamila sets up a small dressmaking factory in the midst of Taliban-controlled Kabul so that she can provide for her family. Selling through the local tailors, the women’s business thrives. As word spreads among the women’s community, young girls flood to Kamila’s house to beg for work. Determined to help all of them in any way that she can she decides to open a school where she will instruct the girl’s in the basics of tailoring so that they will be able to make their own money. Taking the education a step further, Kamila begins working with the UN to education women about business and the Qu’ran. When the Taliban are overthrown, Kamila works with the new aid agencies to re-establish peace in Afghanistan.
Bechdel Test?: Absolutely passes. The women talk amongst themselves about everything from money, to family, to politics.
Strangest Part?: Hearing about the Titanic fever was hilarious. Apparently when VHS tapes of Titanic hit Afghanistan, men began cutting their hair in “the Leo” and the Taliban had to outlaw the haircut. Any men caught with the floppy hair were taken to the barber for a buzz cut.
I’m not loving it. Maybe it’s because I’m in a class on Afghanistan right now (HIST 391: Afghanistan and Central Asia) but this book feels like a million others only less interesting. There has been a major uptick in books about Afghanistan since 9/11 and this is one in the series. It looks only about the surface-level problems in Afghanistan, like women’s education and empowerment. While I agree these things are absolutely essential to nation building, so are roads, access to clean water and basic medicine!
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The Book of Madness and Cures: A Novel
The Book of Madness and Cures by Regina O’Melveny
Published April 2012
Summary: Set in the late 16th century, this novel is the story of a young woman who has chosen a non-traditional path. Gabriella Mondini learned about medicine from her father and has been keeping up his practice in Venice since he disappeared many years ago. When the medical community in Venice tries to take away Gabriella’s right to practice medicine she sets out to find her father. The journey is arduous and, for the most part, unsuccessful. Along her trip Gabriella adds to her father’s book The Book of Madness and Cures.
Bechdel Test?: Absolutely passes. The main character is female and she has many discussions with others about her profession, medicine.
Weirdest part?: Spoiler Alert! During Gabriella’s journey she meets and falls in love with several men. One of the men ends up dead and on the dissection table in the next city she visits.
I wanted to love this book so much more than I actually did. While I appreciate the attempt to cross traditional gender boundaries, it was more than a little annoying that Dr. Mondini kept cross-dressing to be admitted to the various libraries. She asserts agency in the face of her mother’s traditional views and tries desperately to make her own way but is ultimately unsuccessful and ends up with a husband & baby. Maybe I was asking too much but I wanted Gabriella Mondini to gain her entrance to the Venetian Doctors’ Guild of her own accord, not because of her new husband’s presence.