What can a bookstore do?
In the insightful, nuanced, and clear-eyed new pamphlet “The Least We Can Do: White Supremacy, Free Speech, and Independent Bookstores” (Biblioasis), Josh Cook, author and bookseller at Porter Square Books in Cambridge, raises powerful questions about freedom of expression and the role of bookstores in fighting against white supremacy. It’s a timely reckoning. What does it mean to stock books by misogynists, white supremacists, racists, and fascists on the shelves? “When you tolerate White supremacists in your space, your space becomes a White supremacist space,” Cook writes. He puts the onus on big publishers, responsible for offering the book deals, but argues that independent bookstores can play a role in deplatforming fascists and white supremacists. The book, the first in a series by booksellers, for booksellers, and published in celebration of Independent Bookstore Day, which took place locally and nationally last week, speaks to booksellers, yes, as well as to book readers and book buyers. Of the situation this country finds itself in, “we won’t ‘just grow out of it,’” Cook writes. “We got here actively and so cannot be passive if we want to move forward.” The book is a lively and thought-provoking conversation-starter on the intersection “between bookselling, politics, and free speech.”
Storytelling for a good cause
Cambridge-based author Alice Hoffman donated the advance of her 2000 novel “Local Girls” to create the Hoffman Breast Center at Mount Auburn Hospital, and for the last 22 years has held a yearly fund-raiser called Pink Pages to benefit the center. This year’s virtual event on May 5 brings together a group of marquee authors, as well as cellist Yo-Yo Ma, to share stories. Hoffman will be joined by Amy Tan, author of “The Joy Luck Club,” and five other novels; Tayari Jones, author of “An American Marriage”; “Circe” and “Song of Achilles” author Madeline Miller; author and New Yorker staff writer Susan Orlean; novelist Kristin Hannah, whose most recent book is “The Four Winds”; and actress and author Hilarie Burton Morgan, who wrote “The Rural Diaries: Love, Livestock, and Big Life Lessons Down on Mischief Farm.” Joyce Kulhawik will emcee the event. Pink Pages takes place on Wednesday, May 5, at 7 p.m. Tickets are $150; VIP tickets are $500 and include seven signed books, one from each author. For more information visit mountauburnhospital.org/giving/pink-pages-event/.
For kids who write
WriteBoston, a literary nonprofit which works to raise the writing skills of Massachusetts students, offering training for educators as well as writing opportunities for kids, is hosting its annual fund-raiser this week. The virtual event involves a conversation with local writers and journalists Jeneé Osterheldt, culture columnist for the Globe and creator of A Beautiful Resistance; Bina Venkataraman, Globe editorial page editor and author of “The Optimist’s Telescope: Thinking Ahead in a Reckless Age”; and Nicholas St. Fleur, a Knight-Wallace fellow reporting on the intersection of race, medicine, and life sciences. They’ll be in conversation with three students — Deborah Adebanjo, Elizabeth Choi, and Cindy Tran — involved with Teens in Print, a journalism program for eighth to 12th graders in the Boston school system. The event takes place on Thursday, May 6, at 7 p.m. It’s free to register, with donations accepted. Visit writeboston.org/prosandcon/ for more information.
“The Trojan Women: A Comic” by Anne Carson and Rosanna Bruno (New Directions)
“Imagine Us, the Swarm” by Muriel Leung (Nightboat)
“The Renunciations” by Donika Kelly (Graywolf)
Pick of the week
Josh Popkin at Odyssey Bookshop in South Hadley, Massachusetts, recommends “The Lowering Days” by Gregory Brown (Harper): “A bighearted, moving debut. ‘The Lowering Days’ is a finely wrought portrait of rural Maine that features beautiful writing about the natural world and a wide range of characters whose contentions escalate to a fiery crescendo. It is a story true to its locale—the Penobscot River watershed and the crucial presence of its indigenous peoples—and near mythic in its structure. Brown, with strikingly prescient narration, considers issues of history, ancestry, love, and land and weaves them into a tale humming with dramatic tension.”