Our Book of the Month!

home1Our Book of the Month for June is the debut book from Yaa Gyasi, Homegoing: A Novel, just published by Alfred A. Knopf.

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Happy 100th Birthday Helene Hanff (author of 84, Charing Cross Road)

In 1949, New York writer Helene Hanff wrote a letter to Messrs Marks and Co, a London bookseller specializing in rare and secondhand books, inquiring about several titles. From that one letter evolved nearly two decades of correspondence between the witty and acerbic Hanff and restrained bookseller Frank Doel. A record of cultural difference, literary love, and deep friendship first published as a memorial to Doel in 1970, their exchanges intermingle book requests and literary musing with notes about family and career and sympathies regarding post-war hardship. At this special reading on what would have been Hanff’s 100th birthday, used book buyer Bradley Craft and Pam Cady, manager of general books, will share excerpts from the epistolary classic, 84, Charing Cross Road with us.


Kristin Valdez Quade introduces Night at the Fiestas

The debut short story collection by Kirstin Valdez Quade, Night at the Fiestas paints a stunning portrait of individuals, families, and communities navigating love, loss, violence, and religion in Northern New Mexico. In its pages, Quade tells stories of family dynamics and children trying to make their own way in the world. She explores the complexities of race, class, religion, and relationships. And in her portrayal of diverse characters and relationships, she examines our ability to protect and betray, undermine and uplift, define and ultimately save one another.


Wayne Pacelle Introduces The Humane Economy

Beyond just avoiding products tested on animals and not wearing fur, in today’s modern economy, more and more of the decisions we make—in business and in daily life—can make a difference in the fight against animal exploitation. In his new book, Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society, offers a fascinating look at the economic revolution going on as increasingly diverse fields of business are beginning to pay serious attention to animal welfare in The Humane Economy. To learn more about the changes that are already transforming our economy and how we can each make an impact on animal welfare—from supporting local farming to become aware of products that compromise wild animal habitats—watch this video and pick up a copy of Wayne’s book at University Book Store.


Alexandre Vidal Porto Introduces Sergio Y.

A profound detective story meets a moving exploration of gender, identity, and the search for happiness in Sergio Y, the recently translated, award-winning novel by Brazilian lawyer, human rights activist, and author Alexandre Vidal Porto. Narrated by renowned São Paulo therapist Armando, the story unfolds as Armando attempts to unravel his role in the life and death of a young male patient—who abruptly left Armando’s care, and whom Armando later discovers had been living in New York as woman until her recent unexpected death.


Flowers Are Nice, But…

momBooks are better.  They don’t die, the best ones anyway, and, if one writes just a brief note on the inside end-paper, every time one’s mother opens the book thereafter she’ll be reminded of the love of her clever, clever child.  See how that might work?  So, this Mother’s Day, pick a classic book she’ll want to read or reread (and maybe send flowers too.  Everybody likes flowers.)

treeFrancie worships her feckless father, but readers of the American classic by Betty Smith will remember that mom Katie is the true heroine of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

mameAuntie Mame isn’t anybody’s idea of traditional mother, but if the novel by Patrick Dennis proves anything it’s that love is what makes a family.

revoltSarah Penn is a strong-willed, patient, and hard-working woman, determined to give her daughter Nanny a chance at happiness in the great story by American writer Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, The Revolt of Mother and Other Stories.

Another New England classic, now too little read, is the great Sarah Orne Jewett’s The Country of Pointed Firs. The quietly powerful Mrs Todd is among the most memorable characters in in the book and the story of her own mother’s girlish romance a particular gem.

In what at first would seem to be yet another of  Mark Twain’s raucous comedies, Pudd’nhead Wilson, the plot actually turns on a mother’s revenge.  The mother of twins in this case, a 16 year old slave named Roxy, actually turns society literally on it’s head.  Quite a remarkable effort from our most popular writer.

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“Learnin’ it all a time, ever’ day. If you’re in trouble or hurt or need—go to poor people. They’re the only ones that’ll help—the only ones.” — so says Ma Joad, the gentle, American Mother Courage, in John Steinbeck’s epic American novel, The Grapes of Wrath.

caraNot all mothers are easy, and not all daughters, either.  Sandra Cisneros‘ novel Caramelo tells a daughter’s story of generations of imperfect, loving family.

Another from this remarkable contemporary writer is a deceptively simple fable of a lost cat, or so it might seem at first glance.  Actually,  Have You Seen Marie? is the story of a woman’s search in the wake of her own mother’s death.

Enough time has passed since the film of Amy Tan‘s bestseller The Joy Luck Club for readers to appreciate anew one of the best American novels of the complex relationship of mother and daughter.

meridianAlice Walker’s second novel, Meridian is perhaps a problematic choice for a Mother’s Day list, but it speaks on many levels to the sometimes crushing choices women, and particularly women of color continue to face every day in America, including choices unique to motherhood.

So many mothers, so little time.

No list of fictional American mothers would be complete of course without mention being made of Marmee from Little Women or, come to that, Toni Morrison’s Sethe in Beloved.

Finally, a kind word for perhaps the longest suffering single-mom in American letters, the much put upon Hester Prynne of Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter.  Poor woman.

Call your mother.


Nick’s Pick for May

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Don’t be deceived. For such a slim little novel, SERGIO Y. packs quite a wallop. After two months I must admit I was changed by this book, and I still puzzle over it. Since I quote from it constantly, I feel compelled to see how it strikes you. Look for the book on/after the first Tuesday in May – it’s so short you’ll have time to read it twice!

 

SERGIO Y.

by Alexandre Vidal Porto

Regular price $16

20% off at University Book Store

Our price $12.80

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SERGIO OR SANDRA?

 

This provocative little Brazilian novel about a psychiatrist and his patient asks some bold questions about gender and happiness and comes up with some haunting answers.

 

Sergio Y. is an unhappy 17-year-old Brazilian boy undergoing therapy in Sao Paolo.

 

Sandra Y. is a happy 23-year-old restaurant owner in Manhattan who falls from her 4th floor balcony.

 

Short and unassuming, it’s a fascinating and fragile meditation on human sexuality, the guilt-ridden confession of a 70-year-old psychiatrist trying to understand a successful therapy case gone very, very tragic.

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Come discuss the book with us!

Nick’s Picks Book Club

University Book Store

4326 University Way NE

The Bookstore Café

Monday, May 30, 7 pm

 

To supplement my reading of this fascinating “problem” novel, I’ve read Michel Foucault’s intriguing essay at the beginning of HERCULINE BARBIN, “Do we truly need a true sex?” And I’ve just discovered that Alice Dreger’s book, GALILEO’S MIDDLE FINGER, begins with her exposure of the scandal over intersex babies and how we treat them. How exactly does gender define us and what specific elements lead to that definition? We all have a high stake in understanding the realities of gender and desire. And SERGIO Y. wants to include happiness in the mix. Let’s talk about this! — Nick


Breakfast at the Bookstore with Brad and Nick #74


Remembering Mr. Books

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Leroy Soper

Bookseller, Mentor, Friend

 

In the 1960’s, while I was in high school living with my family in South Seattle, our idea of a special evening was to drive all the way to North Seattle – in the days before the freeway – to enjoy eating at our favorite Chinese restaurant, Lun Ting’s. This fabulous little place used to be right about where General Books is now. If we were lucky enough to be there on a Thursday night, all the stores on the Ave were open and invariably I was allowed a few moments (as the only reader in the family) to gape longingly into the windows of the huge University Book Store next door and sometimes to go inside. I remember a tall handsome man in a sky blue suit who always courteously asked me what I was reading. I could not know that he would change my life.

 

In 1970, returning to Seattle in disillusionment after leaving graduate school on the East Coast, the one and only place I applied for work was that same University Book Store, where I was hired and after ten months made the book-buyer for the HUB Branch. I was an idealistic buyer with little sense of business – I packed that little store with face-outs of Signet Classics and Penguin Classics, every available play by Shakespeare, and a science fiction section bigger than the one at the main bookstore. My zeal landed me in front of the general manager, and earned me a stunning and devastating evaluation.

 

Shell-shocked by the scolding I’d received, I was scarcely out of the general manager’s office before Leroy Soper took me out to lunch. I was too shaken then to remember the restaurant now, but it was on the water and all Lee did was build up my confidence, that my love of books would make me a good buyer. It was the closest I would ever come to leaving the bookstore.

 

I can honestly say that in the 40 years I’ve worked at the bookstore since, no bookseller has been my model, mentor and hero more than Lee Soper. Throughout my career, he has presided benevolently over my bookselling world, both as the head of General Books and as the head of Raymar Northwest, his fabulous, too-briefly-lived Northwest distributor. There’s no counting our many wonderful coffee breaks together and conferences in his office. He convinced me that what I was doing mattered. I recently decided that I had to send him a copy of my most recent novel. Why didn’t I just send it to Horizon House? I’ll regret waiting to get his exact address for the rest of my life.

 

Every day at the HUB Branch I try to talk to students about the books they’re reading the same way Lee always showed an interest in my books and reading life. I honor Lee every time I remember a student’s name and the book they bought last week, and guide a young person further into the world of books. – Nick DiMartino