Today is the book birthday of the paperback edition of Written in Stone. I’m so grateful for all the support I’ve gotten for this book from teachers and librarians and independent bookstores. My book has been honored by the Junior Library Guild. It was on the Mock Newbery list at Anderson’s Bookshop and on the Amelia Bloomer list for books with significant feminist content. It was placed on the 100 Best Books for Reading and Sharing by the New York Public Library and most recently on the Bank Street Center for Children’s Literature Best Books of the Year list.
It’s never easy to find a market for a book with a non-white main character. Historical fiction doesn’t usually get the kind of buzz that goes to fantasy and science fiction. Middle grade books are often overshadowed by their larger and more glamorous cousins in the young adult market. And yet this little story about a Quinault and Makah girl trying to hold onto her culture in the face of huge social and economic change is chugging along just fine because independent bookstores have chosen to feature it and teachers and librarian’s have advocated for it in their schools.
There is a well-publicized battle afoot between Amazon and one of the largest publishers in the country, which is reminding me a little bit of my character Pearl and her struggles for the survival of her culture. So I thought I’d spend a moment today to remember things that independent bookstores (and libraries) do for their communities that Amazon will never do.
- Amazone will not post your local school’s summer reading list in the store and promise to stock those books all summer long.
- Amazon will not provide a meeting space for your book club.
- Amazon will not bring balloons to your book launch party.
- Amazon will not bring your favorite author to town to chat about book and music and going to college with your avid reading teen.
- Amazon will not hold the book that author signed for your teen behind the counter so that she can pay for it after her next lawn mowing job.
- Amazon will not donate anything to your local fund raiser, certainly not a basket full of carefully chosen and beautifully wrapped novels.
- Amazon will not organize writers’ workshops in your neighborhood.
- Amazon has never read a picture book out loud to a circle of eager preschoolers or given their mothers a place to shop where children are welcome to touch things and talk out loud and sing if they feel like it and pet the cat if they are gentle.
- Amazon does not make window displays that encourage foot traffic to nearby businesses. It doesn’t organize the neighborhood shops to provide a safe trick or treat zone for kids at Halloween. It doesn’t join the local small business association and work on projects that boost the economy of the entire neighborhood.
- Amazon does not carry your grandpa’s favorite newspaper and have it ready for him every morning and stand around and chat politics with him for a few minutes every day. And on the cold icy morning when your grandpa doesn’t come to the shop like usual, Amazon does not call him at home to ask if it can drop off the newspaper at the end of the day.