Banned books among Petaluma’s current bestsellers
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.