Various Thorns spotlight books by marginalized authors, bookstores and bookish people

The illustrated book Bibliophile: various thorns (Chronicle Books), published Nov. 2, by authors Jamise Harper and Jane Mount, is a collection of books, authors, bookstores and the literary community at large. The vast collection explores a wide range of genres, with book recommendations for everyone, from classics to speculative fiction, mystery and horror, romance, maturity, graphic novels, feminism, books by cooking and baking, queer titles, kids and more, along with book recommendations from “bookish people” and previews in writing roma from authors such as Kali Fajardo-Anstine, Molly Yeh, Nic Stone and Nicole Chung, as well as profiles of influential people in the book field. Essentially, it offers a guided tour of the diverse literature and those who create and nourish it.

The collaboration between Harper, the founder of the book community Diverse Spines whose Instagram account @diversespines has more than 30,000 followers, and the founder of The Ideal Bookshelf Mount, author and illustrator of 2018 Bibliophile: an illustrated collection and 2012 My Business Library (Little, Brown and Company) was born out of a friendship born out of art. When Mount made an illustration for Harper for a 2018 Christmas present from her son, of a mug with the spines of various books such as Citizen by Claudia Rankine and An american wedding by Tayari Jones, the two women were strangers. When Harper posted the mug to Instagram, she received so many requests that Mount started selling the Spines & Vines mug online.

Later, when Mount spoke to his editor, Chronicle Books, about a follow-up title, was interested in covering various books. In an interview, she said, as she pondered how to proceed with the project, she thought of Harper, whose work she “once turned to for recommendations of books written by black women and women of color “.

When Mount contacted Harper, however, she “initially thought she had contacted me in error.” While she had created the thriving Diverse Spines book community, “Being an author has never been on my vision board.” Once she confirmed that Mount had indeed intended to contact her, Harper says, “I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to create an invaluable literary resource featuring various stories. Plus, she’s a phenomenal illustrator so I knew the book was going to be fabulous.

The couple co-wrote the text for the book from September to December 2020, working from their respective homes in Hawai’i (Mount) and the Washington, DC (Harper) area via Zoom, Google

chat, SMS and e-mail. Many, many spreadsheets were involved in their collaboration as they mulled over which books to include, which books would be illustrated by Mount and, in their words, “making sure we included authors from from so many backgrounds. different as possible “. Then Mount did all of the drawings from January to March, a process which she said “was very crazy because it included hundreds of book drawings and almost a hundred portraits.”

Compared to writing a book solo, Mount called the process of working with Harper “a lot more fun.” I really enjoyed being able to discuss ideas with her, collaborate and debate what to include. Working alone becomes lonely and you can easily doubt yourself as it becomes difficult to step back and see the work from a distance.

For her part, Harper called the process of working with a co-author of her first book a “dream,” noting that “it really helped to have someone to bounce ideas off and provide advice. I was amazed at how well we worked together considering that Jane and I had never met in person. Writing this book during a pandemic relieved the daily stress of what was going on in the world. It was a bright spot during a very dark time. The couple finally met in person at a book launch event at Brooklyn’s Books Are Magic bookstore this fall.

From the decision to profile more than a dozen bookstores such as Loyalty Bookstore, Cafe con Libros, Marcus Books, Semicolon Bookstore & Gallery, Palabras Bilingual Bookstore, Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee & Books, MahoganyBooks, Bel Canto Books, among others, the duo said: “It was important for us to include bookstores owned by people of color precisely because they are vital to the communities they serve. Not only do they amplify and defend the voices of under-represented authors, but they also provide spaces for community gathering as well as educational resources. ”

Of the many titles recommended in the book, I asked each author to recommend personal favorites. Harper pointed out The Heat of Other Suns: America’s Epic Story‘s Great migration by Isabel Wilkerson (Vintage), whom she calls her “Most Recommended Book,” saying this story is one “you’ll never forget. The way Wilkerson greets you on the pages is mind blowing and his research impeccable. Her other choices include “radical generational history” Back home by Yaa Gyasi (Vintage) and 1946 The street by Ann Perry, whom she calls “a classic American must-read novel”. Mount’s recommendations include The fifth season by NK Jemisin (Orbit), the first in the author’s Broken Earth series, “set on a planet in the throes of environmental disaster”, as well as speculative fiction The missing birds by Simon Jimenez (Del Rey Books) and Indian Empire by Cherie Dimaline, “a rich, dark story of true love and the heartache that can accompany it, centered around a rougarou, a werewolf-like creature of stories”.

Asked what they hope readers take away Bibliophile: various thorns, says Harper, “Reading diverse stories exposes us to the experiences of other people and broadens our awareness of other cultures. As a champion of amplifying marginalized voices, I hope readers can cultivate opportunities for growth, understanding and empathy. Likewise, Mount says, “Books are portals to the worlds and feelings of others, and they help us understand ourselves. They give us a connection with other people, both with the authors, but also with all the other people who like the same book as us. Just knowing that a person has also felt that a particular book has changed their life, just like yours, makes you feel a lot less alone in the world.

As for the author duo’s next steps, Harper is taking a “much needed” vacation break and will return to host his monthly Diverse Spines Book Club group readings and author events in 2022. Mount is working on a children’s picture book, which Chronicle Books will release in fall 2023, “on how books can make us better.” Chronicle Books will release a 2023 Bibliophile Diverse Spines wall calendar in July 2023.

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