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NEW ENGLAND LITERARY NEWS

New and revitalized bookstores, and a historical YA to check out

Leonard and Clarrissa Egerton, owners of Frugal Bookstore in Roxbury, have seen a surge of support, and book orders, in recent weeks.
Leonard and Clarrissa Egerton, owners of Frugal Bookstore in Roxbury, have seen a surge of support, and book orders, in recent weeks.Frugal Bookstore

Nubian Square bookstore thrives

At the beginning of May, the Black-owned Frugal Book Store in Nubian Square in Roxbury put out a call for help. The pandemic had slowed sales and the bookstore, which has been owned by husband-wife team Leonard and Clarrissa Egerton since 2008, was in trouble. They set up a GoFundMe campaign, hoping to raise $20k. They met—and surpassed—that goal, and in less than 24 hours. In the subsequent weeks, they continued to fulfill orders, keeping the store going. Then George Floyd was murdered by police in Minneapolis; cities and towns across the world gathered in protest against racism and police violence; and Frugal Bookstore was named as one of the Black-owned bookstores to support on lists that flew across social media, bringing more attention—and more sales—to the store. “It has shined a light on a lot of different racial problems going on,” said Leonard. “Folks are wanting to read more about those issues, how they can change their attitudes, attitudes long-held and deep-rooted.” Clarrissa explained that the racial issues “for black and brown people have been going on for decades, for centuries. It’s time. It’s long overdue. Hopefully now, an unfortunate event brings to light those hidden issues that this country has had. We welcome it.” They’ve been overwhelmed by the support from the community. “We are just so grateful for the amount of supporters out there,” Clarrissa emphasized. Both the GoFundMe success and the recent surge in sales have made them realize what they offer to the community. “We’re following our dream,” Leonard said. “We’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing.” As the tagline to their store says, “Changing Minds One Book at a Time.” To order books and support the store, visit frugalbookstore.net.

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YA tackles race

It’s the summer of 1955 and Ethan, a 14-year-old whose mother is black and father is white, gets sent from his home in Washington State to Ellison, Alabama after a fight. There, he makes friends with Juniper, with “forest-fire hair and hurricane eyes . . . in equal parts, a gift and a natural disaster.” Boston-based author Daven McQueen’s rich and candid YA novel “The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones” (Wattpad), out this week, explores the tender summertime friendship that develops between these two outsiders as Ethan faces the racism and violence of the mid-20th-century American South. “Here, he was a deviation from the norm—and that was a threat.” McQueen deftly balances the rollicking summer adventures of Ethan and Juniper with the gravity of racial discrimination; Ethan’s wrenching initiation into what it means to be Black in the United States is handled with candor and force. Even within the friendship, in which the two stick up for each other, McQueen offers moments of complexity: “He was startled to see her on the verge of tears when he himself felt so zapped of emotions. He felt like he needed to comfort her, but for what? This was his pain to bear, not hers.” The book provides a nuanced look at its characters’ turmoil, guilt, fury, and love.

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Beacon Hill bookstore planned

Plans are underway for a new three-floor bookstore on Charles Street in Beacon Hill. Melissa Fetter bought the building, which used to hold the Hungry I restaurant, last September, and had plans to open Beacon Hill Books this fall. The pandemic has slowed progress, but hasn’t deterred Fetter from opening the 3000-square-foot shop. With a third floor devoted to children’s books, and the garden level serving as a café, Fetter hopes the store will serve as a community gathering space for readings and events, and is seeking approval to get an elevator installed to make it fully accessible. As of now, Fetter hopes to open the store in about a year and feels confident that the neighborhood will support it and they’ll be able to make it work despite new social distancing guidelines.

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Coming Out

“The Kids Are All Left: How Young Voters Will Unite America” by David Faris (Melville House)

“Mexican Gothic” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Del Rey)

“The Margot Affair” by Sanaë Lemoine (Hogarth)

Pick of the Week Christian Engle at Belmont Books recommends “Real Life” by Brandon Taylor (Riverhead): “Taylor masterfully takes us inside the mind of an introvert dealing with issues of race, sexuality, and the relationship between the physical and emotional world. This is a staggering debut.”

Nina MacLaughlin is the author of “Wake, Siren.” She can be reached at nmaclaughlin@gmail.com.