Book Beat: Nicholas Sparks Controversy, A Hunger Games Prequel, Book Tariffs, and more

Hello again, readers! It’s Emily back once more to fill you in on some of the latest literary happenings. Since I missed you last week, I’ve got lots of goodies for you now. So buckle up for a mega sized book beat!

Nicholas Sparks Controversy

Bestselling author Nicholas Sparks apparently tried to ban an LGBT club at the Epiphany School, which he co-founded, according to emails published recently by The Daily Beast. The emails show an exchange between Sparks and Saul Benjamin, the school’s former headmaster, who is suing Epiphany’s board of trustees for “a pattern of harassment, racism, and homophobia.”

In the emails, Sparks seems to push against acknowledging intolerance issues at the school. He claims that banning the LGBT group isn’t discrimination and says the school’s lack of diversity “has nothing to do with racism.” He even tells Benjamin to eliminate the term “non-discrimination” from his vocabulary.

Since the emails were published, Sparks has spoken up, describing them as “not news.” He also says the court has dismissed “nearly every claim” against him and he’s confident the jury will decide in his favour on those remaining.

Benjamin’s lawyers then released a statement reminding that Sparks doesn’t get to decide “what is or isn’t ‘news’” and stating that the emails speak for themselves.

In any case, the correspondence is not a good look for Sparks. But I suppose it isn’t all that surprising given that he’s shown elitist views before (regarding the romance genre) and that his own body of work is pretty white and heteronormative.

A Hunger Games Prequel

The internet erupted earlier last week when a prequel to the mega-bestseller Hunger Games trilogy was announced. Currently known only as “the untitled Panem novel”, the prequel is slated for a May 2020 release. It will “revisit the world of Panem 64 years before the events of the The Hunger Games, on the morning of the reaping of the Tenth Hunger Games.”

According to The Guardian, author Suzanne Collins says the story is set in the “Dark Days” — the period of reconstruction after the failed rebellion that led to the games. She says that she wants “to explore the state of nature, who we are, and what we perceive is required for our survival.” So it sounds like it’ll be in keeping with the original trilogy’s themes.

Few other details have been given. Fans, however, have speculated that the book could include a young Mags, who won the 11th Hunger Games before competing in the Quarter Quell with Katniss in Catching Fire.

Another character who could possibly make an appearance is President Snow, though he doesn’t quite spark the same excitement as the prospect of Mags.

Book Tariff Hearings

And on a more business focussed note, hearings over the Trump administration’s proposal to impose 25% tariffs on goods imported from China began last week in Washington, D.C. These tariffs will include books, so a number of book industry professionals are concerned.

According to Publishers Weekly, many speakers emphasized that China has become an essential part of publishing thanks to the way the industry has evolved over the last 30 years. Many American publishers “have no choice but to use Chinese printers.” So a tariff would be a significant impediment to their businesses.

Industry expert Albert Greco and Publishers Weekly editorial director Jim Milliot believe that the tariffs are not in the public interest and will negatively impact children, parents, public and school libraries, and book retailers by driving up the prices of books. They argue that tariffs on books would restrict children’s access to books, thus jeopardizing early literacy. This is because many of the imported books from China are illustrated children’s books. They think administration should exclude books from the tariffs.

Several prominent industry members have testified in favour of a book exemption including executives from HarperCollins, Workman, ECPA, Penguin Random House, and Hendrickson.

Sherrilyn Kenyon Said Her Husband Poisoned Her

Paranormal romance author Sherrilyn Kenyon has returned to the spotlight thanks to a lawsuit that claims her husband tried to poison her.

The Vulture has the full story, and it’s one with twists and turns that would rival a novel. Kenyon first gained fame for her best-selling novels, including the Dark Hunter series. But she now finds herself faced with falling sales, health issues, and a divorce. She claims her misfortunes are all the result of a bad marriage. Kenyon believes her husband pushed her into unwise career decisions like pursuing a lawsuit against Cassandra Clare (yes, that Cassandra Clare) over copyright issues and that he ultimately wanted to kill her.

Kenyon has based poisoning allegations on her poor health and slightly elevated heavy metal levels in her blood. However, a scientist says the levels are not high enough to indicate poisoning, which has some people questioning her story.

At this point, it’s not clear how much is true or not. But it seems clear regardless that life has not gone the way Kenyon hoped for. We can only hope she gets whatever support she needs.

Updated Diversity in Children’s Books Infographic

An updated infographic on diversity in children’s books has been released by Sarah Park Dahlen, an associate professor of MLIS at St. Catherine University, and illustrator David Huyck.

This 2018 infographic shows some improvement in representation since 2015, but still illustrates the lack of racial diversity present in books for children. Another difference from the 2015 version is the addition of cracks in the mirrors to represent misrepresentation of the underrepresented communities.
Diversity in Children’s Books 2018 infographic
Diversity in Children’s Books 2018 – Dropbox Folder Full citation: Huyck, David and Sarah Park Dahlen. (2019 June 19). Diversity in Children’s Books 2018. blog. Created in consultation with Edith Campbell, Molly Beth Griffin, K. T. Horning, Debbie Reese, Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, and Madeline Tyner, with statistics compiled by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison: Retrieved from

The image has received a lot of attention online as it makes it clear that there’s still quite a long way to go when it comes to diverse books.

ALA 2019

And finally, since it’s still conference season, I thought I’d better quickly share some highlights from the American Library Association’s annual conference.

First, author Jason Reynolds took the stage as opening keynote. He spoke of libraries as sacred spaces and challenged librarians to think of their roles differently.

Politics also took centre stage this year. Protesters stood up against the presence of a CIA booth on the vendor floor. They say CIA practices stand in direct opposition to the values of librarianship and believe the intelligence organization has no place at ALA.

Immigration was also a subject among ALA attendees. Librarians planned a protest in support of detained immigrants while George Takei also spoke about detainment in a panel about his new graphic novel They Called Us Enemies, which details his family’s experience in internment camps after Word War II.

Of course, a lot more happened at the conference and a lot of books were discussed. So if you’re feeling left out of the loop, I encourage you to go check out #alaac2019

Out This Week

Wicked Fox by Kat Cho

After the End by Clare Mackintosh

Better than the Best Plan by Lauren Morrill