Before we turn the page on 2022 Idaho, let’s talk about how books were in the ‘eye of the hurricane'
If and when somebody writes a book about Idaho in 2022, one of the more provocative chapters will be about … well, books.
At the Capitol, Idaho House Republicans voted to slash the budget of the Idaho Commission of Libraries. And in the Nampa School District, trustees voted to ban books in their school libraries. Throughout it all, Laura DeLaney and her colleagues at Rediscovered Books in Ada and Canyon counties found themselves in the eye of the hurricane.
“It's a hurricane that I wish we did not have to be in,” said DeLaney. ”But it is also the reason why we have a bookstore. Up on the wall, our sign says, ‘We exist to share our joy and passion for books with our community.’”
DeLaney visited with Morning Edition host George Prentice to reflect on the year; plus she offered some holiday gift suggestions – one fiction and one non-fiction.
Read the full transcript below:
GEORGE PRENTICE: It is Morning Edition. Boise State Public Radio News. Good morning. I'm George Prentice. I've lost count of how many times books have been in the news in 2022: In the classroom…In libraries…Yes, over at the Statehouse, but primarily in our lives. So, it is more than fitting that we spend some time this morning with Laura Delaney, co-owner of Rediscovered Books in Boise and Caldwell, and once in Future Books in Boise. And I should say that Rediscovered Books is an underwriter and a supporter of Boise State Public Radio. Laura, good morning.
LAURA DELANEY: Good morning, George. It's good to be here.
PRENTICE: I'd like to talk about the power of books that has been elevated this year. I'd be remiss if I did not say that books have been threatened in Idaho, but time and again, books point us in new directions, and they certainly educate us. They can heal us, make us laugh and think… and think again. And Laura, you and your colleagues have been in the eye of that hurricane.
DELANEY: Well, it's a hurricane that I wish we did not have to be in. But it is also the reason why we have a bookstore. Up on the wall, our sign says, “We exist to share our joy and passion for books with our community.” And that joy and passion stayed constant. You never know who's walking in the door, and you always have to meet them where they are. And we have kind of an idea, like we try to meet people where they are and then always include one book that they might not be expecting or that might turn them into a new direction///, because we are all the better for reading as broadly and widely as we can. And the more we read about other how other people understand the world, the richer and deeper our own understanding becomes.
PRENTICE: Okay, well, here we are: it's the holiday season. We've got a pretty lengthy to-do list. So, I'm going to ask you to make a couple of recommendations, maybe nonfiction and fiction. So, what can you recommend for us?
DELANEY: I'm taking two things that are not all over the media. That's actually very important to me to have books get some time in the sun that might not otherwise. The first one I'm going to talk about is Better Than We Found It. It's written by a brother and sister-team, Frederick Joseph and Porsche Joseph. And this book is answering a lot of directions for me. Idaho, as you said, has been in a whirlwind of a year and a hurricane of questions and concerns about social justice issues and how the role books play. And this book is called Better Than We Found It. And the subtitle is Conversations to Help Save the World, which is a little bit bigger than my mandate. But what I really loved about this book is it's written 16 essays that are a combination of the personal experiences of Frederick or Porsche, but also interviews with people like Nick Stone, plus the author of The Hate U Give, and Ahmed Khan and Julian Castro. It's got a really wide list of people who are experts in their fields talking about such subjects as disinformation and climate change and racism, but also things that I hadn't thought as much about is the dangers of ableism and what it means to truly be accessible to all people. And I found myself really engaged in it because it was a blend of regular essay writing, but also in a very familiar style. It was easy to easy to read and pieces, but it took all the things that have been in the news and hangs them together and helps. You know, these are all connected, and they can all you can pick one and still be supporting all of them.
PRENTICE: And it's Better Than We Found It, right?
DELANEY: Yep. And that title is going to be the name of the book club we're going to be having in January. We've done a Human Rights Book Club for many, many years. I felt that it was time for a redo. And so, the Human Rights Book club is going to morph into something called Better Than We Found It. And there will be reads that are connected to that title that will be around social justice topics or things of that sort. But they're all about creating a world that hopefully can be better than we found it after we read this book and look at what we can do.
PRENTICE: Okay, I've written that one down. How about how about a piece of fiction?
DELANEY: So, this year at the bookstore is also been the year of coming back to having in-person events. And the one I'm going to talk about, it's called Four Treasures of the Sky by Jenny Tinghui Zhang, and she is written this book with an inspiration of her parents were driving around the country during the pandemic because that was the way they chose to be isolated is by traveling. And they were driving through Idaho, and they came across a sign historical marker 307. And it's the Chinese hanging tree. And it's the talk of five Chinese men murdered on September 18, 1885. They are immigrants from China, their family. And that sign sent her down a path of really exploring who these people were and understanding where they came from. And now we have the story of Daiyu, who is trafficked from China to a brothel in San Francisco, her escape and her hiding disguised as a boy in her journeys through Idaho. There are times where there are people in Boise. They'll be some names you might recognize, but it ends up with her in Pearce, Idaho, working as a shopkeeper's assistant at a Chinese grocery. And the Chinese Exclusion Act is coming through. And it is that incredibly powerful story of one immigrant journey and how much trial and travail there is. There's one line in the book that I'm actually going to quote here, and it is that, “There is a difference between being a newcomer to a city and being in a world that does not resemble you, that reminds you every moment of your strangeness. This is what Idaho is to me. And so when our Chinese customer. Numerous come in asking for millet and green onions, buying licorice and cinnamon. I watch them with tenderness, following their movements. I miss you, and I do not even know you. I want to say to the miner, the launderer, and the servant.”
PRENTICE: And this is her debut novel? I'm familiar with her nonfiction essays in some magazines. So, I was surprised to hear her name as a writer of fiction.
DELANEY: This is her debut novel. The research she's done has been outstanding, and I think it is absolutely one of the best books that's come on our shelves this entire year.
PRENTICE: I love this….one more time… Four Treasures…
DELANEY: Four Treasures of the Sky.
PRENTICE: And just out of curiosity, who's the publisher on that?
DELANEY: This is Flatiron Books, which is a division of Macmillan Publishing.
PRENTICE: How exciting. Well, I must throw a couple of my own in the mix, you know, about my love for film, but especially when film can expertly adapt source material, a piece of literature… and that is Women Talking. And the film has yet to be released. I beg people to read the book first. It's a piece of fiction based on a true story. And yeah, I love Jerry Seinfeld's new book, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. Talk about a coffee table book. Laura, happy holidays to you and your husband, your colleagues.
DELANEY: You are so welcome, George. And it's always a pleasure to talk with you. And I know I'm excited about Women Talking…to see that movie. I’m 100% on board,
PRENTICE: Happy holidays to you.
DELANEY: And you as well, George.
Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren
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