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Book News: U.K. Campaign Wants To Slay Pretty Princesses, Valiant Knights

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

  • A weeks-old campaign to get U.K. publishers to stop labeling children's books by gender is garnering support from members of Parliament, authors and booksellers, including the major retailer Waterstones. The literary editor of The Independent on Sunday pledged that the newspaper would not review gender-specific books, writing, "Any Girls' Book of Boring Princesses that crosses my desk will go straight into the recycling pile along with every Great Big Book of Snot for Boys." Organizers of the "Let Books Be Books" campaign, which is a part of the larger "Let Toys Be Toys" movement, state on their website: "How can a story be only for a girl, or a sticker be just for a boy? But titles like The Beautiful Girls' Book of Colouring or Illustrated Classics for Boys are on the shelves in toyshops, bookstores and supermarkets around the UK and Ireland. These books send out very limiting messages to children about what kinds of things are appropriate for girls or for boys. Blue covers, with themes of action and adventure, robots, space, trucks and pirates contrast with a riot of pink sparkles, fairies, princesses, flowers and butterflies. But real children's interests are a lot more diverse, and more interesting, than that."
  • NoViolet Bulawayo has won the PEN/ Hemingway award for her novel We Need New Names, the story of Darling, a young Zimbabwean girl who comes to America. The $10,000 prize is awarded annually to a debut work of fiction. For NPR, Ellah Allfrey writes, "We Need New Names is an often funny, raw and highly original book that makes the exile into diaspora a teenage journey of discovery as Darling joins her Aunt Fostalina in America and discovers a new accent, shopping malls, Internet porn and the shocking possibility that escape may mean never being able to return home."
  • Novelist and biographer Roxana Robinson was elected the new president of the Authors Guild, the organization that fought Google's book digitization project. Judy Blume, Richard Russo and James Shapiro are the new co-vice presidents.
  • Guernica magazine has published a stellar special issue on the American South: "Writing in the Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, Patrick Gerster includes among the stereotypical characters we might encounter: Bible-thumping preachers haunted by God, nubile cheerleaders, demagogic politicians, corrupt sheriffs, football All-Americans with three names, and neurotic vixens with affinities for the demon rum. Add to this roster a host of poets, painters, farmers, freedom fighters, and citizens — scattered north and south — coping with the uncertainties of post-industrial America, and we may just begin to grasp this entity that remains in equal parts a place on the map and a place in the mind."
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    Annalisa Quinn is a contributing writer, reporter, and literary critic for NPR. She created NPR's Book News column and covers literature and culture for NPR.
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