Amanda Gorman, TikTok, banned titles and extra – Orange County Register
From Hillel Italy
Books and authors counted in 2021, sometimes more than the industry wanted.
A 22-year-old poet became a literary star. Young people’s enthusiasm for TikTok helped revive Colleen Hoover’s “It Ends With Us” and other novels published years earlier. Conservatives pushed to restrict the books allowed in classrooms as activists worked to expand them. And the government decided that the amalgamation of two of the country’s largest publishers could harm an invaluable cultural resource: authors.
“Everything feels very enlarged,” says award-winning novelist Jacqueline Woodson, whose books have been challenged by officials in Texas and elsewhere.
“One day I hear Texas trying to ban ‘Red at the Bone’ and ‘Brown Girl Dreaming’ (the Woodson novels), and the next moment we see Amanda Gorman telling the truth to power. Maybe it’s social media or the pandemic, but it all feels a lot more intense, ”she says.
Sales were strong in 2020, the first year of the pandemic, and rose in 2021. The number of books sold through the end of November increased 10% from 2020 and 20% from pre-pandemic 2019, at NPD BookScan, the covers around 85% of the printing market. The Association of American Publishers reported $ 7.8 billion in trading book sales for the first 10 months of 2021, up 14% year over year.
“You don’t hear much these days about people stop reading,” said Allison Hill, CEO of the American Booksellers Association, the nation’s independent bookstores trading group.
A year after the ABA feared hundreds of stores could close because of the pandemic, Hill says membership is growing, with more than 150 new stores opening and about 30 closing.
Fiction was especially strong in 2021 as BookScan sales rose more than 20% year over year, fueled by everything from TikTok and Reese Witherspoon’s book club to a surge in mangas and a surge in literary bestsellers, including Jonathan Franzens “Crossroads” and Anthony Doerr’s “Cloud Cuckoo Land”.
Penguin Random House US CEO Madeline McIntosh described the popularity of fiction as “the greatest sign of long-term growth in the industry.”
“It’s one thing to pick up books when you want to learn how to do something or stick to current events, but it’s another impulse to grab a book because you fill your lessons with reading would like. And that’s exactly what we see in fiction, ”she said.
With Donald Trump no longer in the White House, sales of political books fell nearly 25%, according to BookScan. But the book world became more and more politicized – starting with the question of who could or should publish a memoir by the former president.
Multi-million dollar deals for presidents have a long tradition. But New York publishers were uneasy about Trump prior to his supporters’ siege of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 and have since openly distanced themselves from him and allies like Senator Josh Hawley, whose “The Tyranny of Big Tech” was dropped by Simon & Cobbler.
In response, a network of independent conservative publishers has emerged, be it established companies like Regnery, which acquired Hawley’s book, or new companies like All Seasons Press or DW Books from Daily Wire. Trump’s first book project after the White House, the Our Journey Together photo collection, is published by Winning Team Publishing, founded by son Donald Trump Jr. and campaign aide Sergio Gor.
Books made headlines throughout 2021. It was barely three weeks old when millions saw Gorman become the country’s best-known poet and cultural phenomenon. Her confident, powerful reading of her commissioned work “The Hill We Climb” was a highlight of President Joe Biden’s inauguration. It brought her recognition more in line with stars in fashion or film, including a deal with IMG Models and a cover story for Vogue. A hardcover edition of The Hill We Climb sold hundreds of thousands of copies, although readers could find the text online for free.
Gorman’s appearance at the opening ceremony was made possible by First Lady Jill Biden, who, as the country’s youth poet, attended a reading Gorman gave at the Library of Congress in 2017.
Countless famous and little-known authors found an unexpected supporter in Attorney General Merrick Garland. In November, the Justice Department announced that it would prevent Penguin Random House from purchasing Simon & Schuster. The DOJ’s objection was ingrained in both the arts and commerce – concerns that writers wouldn’t make enough money to write.
“Books have shaped public life in America throughout our nation’s history, and authors are the lifeblood of book publishers in America,” said Garland. “If the world’s largest book publisher is allowed to acquire one of its biggest competitors, it will have unprecedented control over this important industry. American authors and consumers will pay the price for this anti-competitive alliance – lower advances for authors and, ultimately, less books and less diversity for consumers. “
Woodson says she and other writers were stunned by the DOJ’s announcement and remembers thinking, “Wait, they’re speaking for us!”
The debates over literature have never been more passionate than in the country’s classrooms and libraries.
Grassroots activists like # disrupttexts.org urged teachers to diversify curricula with novels like Woodson’s “Another Brooklyn”, Jesmyn Ward’s “Salvage the Bones” and Louise Erdrich’s “The Round House”. Independent bookstores worked to donate free copies of the Pulitzer-winning “1619 Project,” which places slavery at the heart of American history, to schools. According to BookScan, the book sold more than 100,000 copies in the first two weeks of sales.
Meanwhile, an ad for Virginia’s Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin, who won the race, showed a white Conservative activist who claimed her son was “Beloved” by assigned high school text, Toni Morrison’s Pulitzer-winning novel about a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Black, traumatized woman who fled enslavement and murdered her daughter instead of having her captured.
Dozens of laws have been proposed or enacted across the country mandating restrictions on books considered immoral or unpatriotic. A Texas state lawmaker, Republican Matt Krause, sent a 16-page spreadsheet to the Texas Education Agency listing more than 800 books he thought were worth banning, including works by Woodson, Ta-Nehisi Coates and Margaret Atwood. Nine novels by award-winning young adult writer Julie Anne Peters, whose stories often feature LGBT characters, were cited.
“I think one reason is because books last a long time,” said Peters. “You always remember the great books you’ve read. You’re so influential, especially those in school. Everything else is so fleeting and changing. But as soon as a book is there and available and it represents our history and our culture, it becomes a historical reference that you come back to. “