Book Beat: New Boston Bookstore and Baltimore Mayor’s Book Troubles

Hello lovely readers, and welcome to Book Beat! This is your editor Paige, helping out the crew on news coverage this week. Thankfully, things have a been pretty chill these last few days, so this update will be pretty short. Consider it a nice little break from all the usual mayhem in the publishing industry, and I don’t know about you, but I’ll gladly accept it.

Porter Square Books Helps Bring a New Literary Wave to Boston

As a native New Englander, I will say that I have long lamented the lack of concrete literary hubs in Boston, Massachusetts, the arguable heart of our region. It’s not from a lack of trying, of course. There are a few independent bookstores and publishing companies in the general area, a smattering of literary conferences and workshops every year, and a creative writing program is never more than a stone’s throw away. But now, it looks like an interesting collaboration is trying to bolster this little community in a big way.

Cambridge-based bookstore Porter Square Books just announced plans to open a second location in Boston’s industrial Seaport District, specifically within the location that creative writing non-profit GrubStreet and poetry non-profit Mass Poetry have procured for a new literary center. This center will also house classrooms, offices, a performance space, and a cafe along with the bookstore as a means of fostering the local artistic community.

This move will also hopefully spark a wave of new bookstores in the Greater Boston area. “These days successful bookstores are successful community places,” said Porter Square Books co-owner David Sandberg. “There’s a million neighborhoods where there are no bookstores. That’s outrageous … we’ve had a really close relationship with GrubStreet because there is a philosophical affinity between what we care about and what they care about, and this [community collaboration] played right into it.”

Baltimore Mayor Resigns Amid Children’s Book Self-Publishing Scandal

Self-publishing holds an interesting and continuously evolving place in the publishing industry. On one hand, it is an empowering and democratic way to circumvent the rigidness of traditional publishing, particularly for marginalized creators with alternative plots and themes. On the other hand, self-publishing is rife with issues of quality control, plagiarism, few publication pathways, and scams. And while the typical culprits of these scams are anonymous individuals, even government officials are not above the lucrative allure of gaming the self-publishing system.

Take Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, for example. Pugh recently came under fire for not fully disclosing the business relationship she has held with the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMM) since 2011, when she first joined the hospital network’s board of directors. A recently submitted amendment of her financial records to the state ethics commission revealed that Pugh established a company called Healthy Holly LLC, which sold children’s books about healthy eating and exercise habits to UMMM. For the past eight years, UMMM spent $500,000 to purchase 100,000 copies of Pugh’s books, with the intention of distributing them throughout the Baltimore School system. However, more than 8,000 copies of Pugh’s self-published book are currently sitting in a Baltimore school system-owned warehouse.

Pugh’s severe conflict of interest revealed that she was not the only board member with shady business ties with UMMM. Pugh and two other members have resigned, while several others have been placed on leave. Pugh also gave back $100,000 of the book’s payments to the system, but remained steadfast in her belief that this situation was “a witch hunt” against her otherwise well-intentioned campaign.

However, as of this week Pugh has finally apologized for her “regrettable mistake.” Further, she has decided to take an indefinite leave of absence from her position as Mayor due to her health and the stress she is facing under this criminal investigation.

Out This Week

Girls On The Verge by Sharon Biggs Waller
How To Make Friends With The Dark by Kathleen Glasgow
Descendant of the Crane by Joan He
Trust Exercise by Susan Choi

Book cover for Trust Exercise by Susan Choi

Happy Thursday!

Paige Allen

Paige Allen

Adult-in-training by day, queer geek of color by night.