Banned books among Petaluma’s current bestsellers

‘Maus’ and ‘Gender Queer,’ the recent targets of several national book banning efforts, pique the interest of local readers.|

The top selling titles at Copperfield’s Books, in Petaluma, for the week of Feb. 7-Feb. 13, 2021.

In response to reports of school boards in Virginia and Texas banning anti-Nazi books from school libraries – while numerous additional states see similar attempts to remove Santa Rosa author Maia Kobabe’s memoir “Gender Queer” – some folks simply write letters to their editor. Others file lawsuits or organize political campaigns to oust the book-burners.

And then there are those who run to their local book stores to turn those titles into massive bestsellers.

Whether driven by curiosity, a desire to make a symbolic statement or to support the authors whose books, and often their lives, are under attack, it’s a phenomenon being seen across the country, including right here in Petaluma, where four of the current Top 10 bestselling books are among those recently eradicated from schools in a number of states.

Three of those, appearing at No. 1, No. 2 and No. 8, are various editions of cartoonist Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer-winning “Maus: A Survivor’s Tale.” The first-ever graphic novel to win the Pulitzer, the book, released over several years in two volumes, then collected into one (the three versions currently selling so well in Petaluma), is a powerful memoir based on Spiegelman’s parents, and their experiences during the Holocaust in Poland. Earlier this year, a school board in Athens, Tennessee, voted 10-0 to remove the book from its schools and forbid “Maus” being further use in the county’s middle school curriculum.

The reason given was the book’s use of “violence and suicide” in its depictions of the murder of 6,000,000 people and the author’s own recollection of his mother’s death when he was 20. One board member was quoted in the international press as saying that the recounting of such unsavory history is not “healthy” for young adults.

Of course, when the telling of history is limited to only relaying the “healthy” parts, it instantly becomes fiction.

Last year, Kobabe's book was similarly snatched from libraries in Washington, Virginia, Texas and others, with those school boards citing religious and moral objections to the true tale of an artist recognizing that they are non-binary. Recognizing that such books offer comfort and consolation to young people struggling with their own gender identity, these school boards chose to cut those students off from such information.

While nothing can replace the importance of books made available to kids in the one place they visit every school day, it’s good to know that with every book banned, there are scores of readers eager to see what the fuss is about. In response to higher demand, of course, publishers usually print more books – which is certainly good for the publishers and not bad for the authors, but what about the kids who can’t afford to buy books? On Maia Kobabe’s website they relate their own hunger for books and stories that reflected their own experiences while growing up. “Queer kids need queer books,” they say – with lively drawings, of course, to vividly support the point.

One could also say that kids who want to know the truth about antisemitism, racism, homophobia and the Holocaust, written in ways they can easily digest, need books that given them the information they are seeking. Stores that keep stocks of such titles on their shelves are definitely a positive step, of course, but it still leaves a gap where many people, young and old, are left wanting.

And that’s not healthy.

Here is the complete Top 10 Books on Copperfield’s Fiction and Nonfiction list, along with the full Kids and Young Adults list.

FICTION & NON-FICTION

1. ‘Maus: A Survivor's Tale,’ by Art Spiegelman – Based on the experiences of the author’s parents in Poland during WWII, this is the 1986 graphic novel that retells the story of the Holocaust with mice as Jews and cats as Nazis, and in so doing delivers a devastating and powerful piece of imaginative documentary memoir.

2. ‘Complete Maus,’ by Art Spiegelman – A collection featuring the original “Maus: A Survivor’s Tale” and its follow-up in 1991.

3. ‘Love Poems,’ by Pablo Neruda – A 2008 collection of passionate poetry from one of the greatest poets who ever lived, loved and wrote about it.

4. ‘Braiding Sweetgrass,’ by Robin Kimmerer – A rich and lyrical nonfiction exploration of indigenous wisdom and the scientific look at what plants are able to teach us.

5. ‘Already Enough,’ by Lisa Olivera – From popular Instagram therapist and writer Lisa Olivera comes this engaging guidebook on how to create a sense of self-acceptance while reframing your life story.

6. ‘The Searcher,’ by Tana French – A detective from Chicago relocated to a small town in Ireland, only to become involved in solving the disappearance of a young man’s missing brother.

7. ‘Gender Queer: A Memoir,’ by Maia Kobabe – Memoir by Santa Rosa cartoonist, based on the author’s struggles to come out as non-binary.

8. ‘Maus II,” by Art Spiegelman – The 1991 follow-up to the original installment of Spiegelman’s triumphant graphic novel won the Pulitzer that year.

9. ‘Galapagos,’ by Kurt Vonnegut – This 1985 oddity from the great literary fantasist begins with a group of strangers escaping the worst of humanity and then jumps ahead to their not-quite-human (but a lot less dangerous) descendants a million years in the future. It’s funny, but not, but of course yes, it’s funny.

10. ‘The People We Meet On Vacation,’ by Emily Henry – A classic romantic beach read about two best friends (and maybe more, but probably not), who get together every year for a fabulous vacation, but had a falling out, and now are trying it again. With complications.

KIDS & YOUNG ADULTS

1. ‘What Is Love?’ by Mac Barnett and Carson Ellis – A charming picture book about discovering the meaning of love.

2. ‘Wings of Fire: The Brightest Night,’ by Tui Sutherland – The graphic novel adaptation of the fifth novel in Sutherland’s bestselling series about dragons and their adventures.

3. ‘Words on Fire,’ by Jennifer Nielsen – A transportive historical adventure novel about a Lithuanian girl whose family smuggles books in their native language, forbidden by the occupying Russian army in 1893.

4. ‘Cat Kid Comic Club: Perspectives,’ by Dav Pilkey – An inventive riff on his own graphic novel style, Pilkey employs numerous different art techniques to tell a series of stories within the story, mostly from the points of view of several baby frogs.

5. ‘Bunnicula,’ by Deborah and James Howe – The scary-funny story of a rabbit who is also a vampire.

6. ‘Skunk and Badger,’ by Amy Timberlake – With illustrations by Jon Klassen, this delightful kids chapter books is basically “The Odd Couple,” but with a skunk and a badger, of course.

7. ‘Baby-Sitters Club: Good-bye Stacey, Good-bye,’ by Ann M. Martin – The adventures continue, this time with plot problems arising the difficulty of saying goodbye.

8. ‘Mac B Kid Spy: Impossible Crime,’ by Mac Barnett – The continuing adventures of the youthful spy who always knows less than he thinks he does, but kind of likes it that way.

9. ‘InvestiGators: Off the Hook,’ by John Patrick Green – The amphibious detectives are back for another crime-solving adventure.

10. ‘Anatomy: A Love Story,’ by Dana Schwartz – A ripping yarn of a YA novel about a girl who wants to be a surgeon and the young man she meets who digs up bodies for a living, and their bloody good gothic romance in 19th century Scotland.

Data compiled by Amber-Rose Reed, Manager of Copperfield’s Books in Petaluma.

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