In order to do a review justice, I'd need to reread this book. But I can say that I loved this book. View all 10 comments. The Eyes of the Dragon, as far as I can tell, is one of King's early departures from writing straight-up horror. It's not a horror story at all -- instead, it's fantasy set in a far-off kingdom, where an evil magician is determined to thrust the land into chaos and bloodshed in order to satisfy his own dark purposes.
King Roland the Good is an okay king, kind but not particularly effective, and perhaps a little too under the sway of his advisor, the magician Flagg. Roland has two sons -- his heir The Eyes of the Dragon, as far as I can tell, is one of King's early departures from writing straight-up horror. Roland has two sons -- his heir, Peter, and a younger son, Thomas, who grows up in his older brother's shadow, always plagued by feelings of inadequacy and jealousy as he watches Peter grow into a fine, beloved young man. When Flagg's schemes end with Peter falsely imprisoned on charges of murdering his father, Thomas gains the throne, but he's guided in all things by Flagg, who uses Thomas's weakness to destabilize the country.
But Peter is strong and smart, and doesn't give up so easily Such a terrific story! I was completely enthralled by this tale of loyalty, royalty, friendship, betrayal, and the evil that threatens to undermine families and kingdoms. The characters are so well drawn, showing shades of personality and motivation, and finding hidden dimensions in characters that might otherwise seem like a stock type. The Eyes of the Dragon is an excellent adventure -- don't miss it! Shelves: what-age-group , fairy-tale. Well, that was different. Well written of course. It wasn't bad at all Just not what I was expecting or really wanted--see King's reaction to that view below--if we all would have loved this one--we would have missed out "miserably".
Perhaps I would have rated it higher if I knew what was coming Or if I was extremely ill in bed slurping down chicken soup and my mom came in to read it to me and blush at the mention of the King's "iron" Hmmmm. He's very very old. The most interesting thing about this book was Stephen King's response to it's so-so-reception.
He found out most readers didn't want a "fantasy" book from him. It seems he felt "chained" to his desk to write a certain type of book And, ironically, it is one of his most horrific books So, I guess his fans won Misery was one of his best book to film adaptations yet. And I really hope the writing of it helped release his frustration at the ungrateful fantasy readers!
One final thing I heard I'd probably give it a try. View 2 comments. Jul 02, Evelyn devours and digests words rated it it was amazing Shelves: worldbuilding-for-the-win , young-adult , fantastical , favourites , unique-story-lines , tortured-hero , writing-i-would-love-to-imitate , stephen-king , great-characterization.
Once upon a time, in the kingdom of Delain far away Seriously, why didn't this book started that way? I can hear someone in the background barfing at the cheesiness of it but this chick right here lives for that kind of beginning in fairytales. The Eyes of The Dragon is all things fantasy. Something I have never read from The King of Horror.
It's always a big fun to read an author stepping out of his usual comfort zone. And King nailed it! This book may Once upon a time, in the kingdom of Delain far away This book may be purely set in a fantastical world but it does has King's usual grit, and lo and behold! The villain in the story is Flagg himself.
In a way, Flagg has the upper hand in controlling the whole kingdom. He is practically the ruler. He sought to destroy the perfect prissy boy and leave the throne ready for his weak-willed little brother, Thomas. The better to control Delain and lead the kingdom into years of bloodshed. I fucking love this book. For so long, I've been searching up and down for a decent fairytale.
I loaded myself with Young Adult fairytale retellings hoping it will sate my thirst but even those still left me empty. Meanwhile, this isn't decent. It's fucking great, more like. I love how it's written. Duh, It's King! The writing didn't peeved me off the way it did to some people. In fact, I'm really comfortable with Stephen King writing in the narration of a Storyteller. It's like he's directly talking to the readers and it made me feel more connected. I can find no flaws in this book. Good writing? Solid characterization?
Amazing, spot on world building? High dosage of tensions? Legit villain? My nitpicky brain shut down and for once, I was actually reading words without a pause. I was reading in enjoyment. And that was so fucking great. I didn't miss out on the fact that one of the characters here is named after King's own daughter, Naomi.
It's so sweet that he wrote this book for his little girl. That explains a lot of things to me because in some cases, I felt that things were toned down slightly here! I need more grit though and definitely more of Flagg. Aug 01, Paul Nelson rated it it was ok Shelves: books-read. If my only way of escape was to fashion a rope out of strands of napkin, worked on a toy and it was going to take over a year, then I'd have thrown myself out of the tower on day 3, fuck it as they say and goodbye happy ending.
Writers and Editors
Flagg is the man in black, the evil magician who's been around for ever, changing faces and involving himself in the running of the kingdom of Delain for generations. He poisons the King and sets eldest son Peter up for the fall. A lifetimes imprisonment in the tower and then it's youngest son Thomas who takes over, subtly prodded by our man in black.
Peter is of course a lovely lad who everyone believes is guilty except a few friends, so he sets out to escape using the threads of many napkins tailored into rope, worked on a tiny loom or whatever it was and aaaaaaaah!!!! Oh noooo, he's had enough after three weeks and chucked himself out, three hundred foot to the cobbles below. Ah fuck I was just getting into that and he's blown the ending, every goody fantasy trope blown to the wind all from a disappointing lack of endurance.
Boys and dolls houses never end well, Oh well surprises all round there, totally unexpected and I have to say, well played. Of course not, it all ends exactly as expected in a well written tale of loveliness. I understand that this was many readers' first King book. I understand that this book rests in the hearts of thousands.
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I understand this is meant to be a fairytale, and that I am not the target audience. I understand all that and I still choose to hate this book. How'd Bobby Brown put it Bronson Pinchot's performance is fantastic, and lends entertainment value to some of the most boring shit King has ever written. There are only three major scenes in the book, and the plot doesn't even begin until a hundred pages in. That would be fine if this book was six- or seven-hundred pages long.
But no. It's pages long, with artwork and big-ass font to make the book seem thicker than it actually is. This book ties in very loosely to the Dark Tower books. Delain is mentioned in several DT novels, and Thomas and Dennis's names are dropped in The Waste Lands , but overall, I feel that this one happens outside of Mid-World, in perhaps another inscape that resides off to the side, much like our own whens. In summation: Not quite Young Adult because there's no trials-of-youth theme and nowhere near the quality of King's adult fiction, The Eyes of the Dragon is pretty much impossible to categorize in the King-verse.
Recommended to King completionists only. View all 9 comments. Nov 01, Phrynne rated it really liked it. This is one of Stephen King 's fantasy offerings and it is quite delightful. I do not always enjoy adult fairy stories, but this one catches you up into the action and there is nowhere to go except to read and enjoy the whole book. The way the story is told is quite original. The chapters are all different lengths, sometimes just one paragraph, sometimes a normal length.
Quite often the author lets the reader know what is going to happen and then goes back to fill in on how it came about that way This is one of Stephen King 's fantasy offerings and it is quite delightful. Quite often the author lets the reader know what is going to happen and then goes back to fill in on how it came about that way. There's an evil wizard, a dragon, Kings, queens and princes and of course a prison cell at the top of a tower. All great stuff! I think one of the reasons I like King so much is that he is unpredictable yet always comes up with the goods. King Roland is killed by an unusual poison, with his son Peter being accused of murder and imprisoned at the top of a high tower "I think that real friendship always makes us feel such sweet gratitude, because the world almost always seems like a very hard desert, and the flowers that grow there seem to grow there against such high odds.
King Roland is killed by an unusual poison, with his son Peter being accused of murder and imprisoned at the top of a high tower, following the meddling of a certain Randall Flagg, the King's magician. What follows is an exciting story looking at themes including, but not limited to, friendship, loyalty, heroism and adventure. Stephen King? Young adult fantasy, you cry?! What's the Master of Horror doing in this genre? Part of the reason I found this book so sweet was that he had written it for his daughter Naomi. When she was young, he asked her what she liked reading about, and she said "Dragons", and this is what came next.
He even named a minor character after her too - adorable! Initially I felt apprehensive as I'm not a huge fan of young adult, nor am I really into the fantasy genre, apart from a few exceptions The Dark Tower series, Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones - okay, maybe I do like fantasy!! This is also my friend Sadie's favourite King book, and she is a huge fantasy fan too, so there was also a little pressure to enjoy it, or else she might fly over here and resort to violence.
But luckily within about 10 pages, I was hooked! One of the best parts about this book was meeting Randall Flagg again. That guy really is everywhere, scheming and causing trouble. This time, he wants to see the Kingdom of Delain crumble and fall, all whilst he hides in the shadows and watches. Another highlight for me was the narrator himself, the storyteller. No-one, and I mean no-one, can fill this role like Stephen King himself.
When he tells his stories to us Constant Readers, it feels like we're all sitting around a campfire, elbows on our knees, head in our hands, absorbing it all. So it was fun for him to tell this story in a more traditional storyteller prose, similar to his introductions where he speaks directly to the Constant Reader. The illustrations in my edition were incredible too, I loooove illustrations. It really helps bring the characters and locations to life.
This is a nice book to direct people towards if they don't like horror, but wish to read some Stephen King. It's also a nice starting point for young readers, a stepping stone to the more macabre and adult books. I can imagine myself reading this to a young child at bedtime perhaps leaving out more adult parts at the beginning surrounding sex! This book is really proof that King is able to transcend across any genre he likes.
So far, I have read the following from King: horror, romance, fantasy, young adult, supernatural, sci-fi And he has excelled at all of these. So, enough fangirling for now I give this fairytale 5 stars out of 5! It appears I'll be taking a short break from King, but sometimes it's good to branch out to other authors. This is me trying to convince myself. Long days and pleasant nights.
The single worst Stephen King novel I have ever read and this man has written his fair share of turds. View all 64 comments. I'm feeling a little let down by this story if I'm being totally honest.
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While I did enjoy it for the most part, I feel like it could have been SO much more! I was expecting an epic fantasy and while it was definitely fantasy, I don't think I'd call it epic. I've grown used to a certain calibre of writing from King and while I did catch glimpses of it, I mostly felt like he was dumbing himself down so the reader could understand him. I know it is technically a YA fantasy and so naturally it can' I'm feeling a little let down by this story if I'm being totally honest.
I know it is technically a YA fantasy and so naturally it can't be on the same level as his adult works. But I still felt cheated in a way, if that even makes any sense I know I'm making it sound like I hated this book but I swear I didn't! I really loved the storyline, it captured my attention from the start and held it throughout. I also really enjoyed the characters, especially Flagg! Getting to see more of his background was a real treat after meeting him in previous King works.
I think what it comes down to with this one is that I was expecting something along the lines of King's usual work and this is definitely very different than his usual. And if this had been written by anyone but him, I think I definitely would have given it five stars!
A fairytale-style story about two brothers disputing over the throne in a vague Kingdom where the power is manipulated byt the evil wizard Flagg. Not much reminds us that we are reading a book by Stephen King here. The story has some nuance and atmosphere. Some parts hold together well, other parts feel jumbled and sketchy. View 1 comment. Jan 06, Brian rated it really liked it. I really missed out reading this book when I was King packed this baby with all of the tropes YA fiction should contain and made a fun, page turning novel - even if we know how everything is going to turn out.
The snarky narrator is an extra bonus. And how cool is it that he wrote this book for his daughter? He even gave a character in the book her name. Did he win Father of the Year when this was first published? Dec 01, Wanda rated it liked it Shelves: read-in , reading-project , used-books , speculative-fiction. This seems to be one of those books that people either love or hate—how strange to find myself right in the middle! This one is written very much in the form of a fairy tale and is dedicated to his daughter, who may have heard the first versions of it as bedtime material?
I was disappointed that the dragon of the title was only a mounted head on the wall—live dragons are much more This seems to be one of those books that people either love or hate—how strange to find myself right in the middle! I was disappointed that the dragon of the title was only a mounted head on the wall—live dragons are much more entertaining.
King recycles some material here—anyone who has read The Stand will recognize the villain, Flagg. There is also some overlap with the Dark Tower series. However, that is the nature of fairy tales, so it fits in this case. It is the nd book that I have read from this NPR list. Please note: The rating above is a spite rating, though, in all honesty, I'd have given this all the stars in , too. However, I am spiting Jeff whose opinion is horrible and should be rectified with electro-shock therapy, or something.
Interestingly, I'm stealing my review from a comment I made in another of his S. King threads. This is all getting very meta. I loved The Eyes of the Dragon! It pissed my mom right off, though. She got it when it came out and was expecting Please note: The rating above is a spite rating, though, in all honesty, I'd have given this all the stars in , too. She got it when it came out and was expecting It became my most favorite book by him ever at that time. Of course, it was also an age-appropriate read for me and not so much for my mom. This is described by some as Stephen King doing children's literature".
Well, I wouldn't really call it that. I'm aware that Mr. King dedicated this to his daughter Just my opinion. It's how I'd handle it. The story is a fair one and you'll see echos of a lot of Mr. King's other books not to mention echos of other stories going back to early myths and epics. I'll not be adding this to my "permanent collection" and I don't have plans to read it again, but still it's a pretty good yarn. So, what's positive and what's negative? Well there is still the slightly tainted feel I've noted in most of Mr.
Kings other stories. And at the end of the story a la Lord of the Rings and Gollum Thomas is the one who strikes down Flag. However there is a scene where we are "treated to" a description of Thomas stoning an old dog to death because "his father favored the older brother Peter and slighted Thomas. There are at least two scenes with relatively long detailed descriptions of nose pickers, one of whom likes to eat his discoveries Also there are a few times where the story gets repetitive. We cover a period of time, then we go back and get the story of what went on in detail.
Then there are times we drop back and cover the same period of time from another character's point of view. I did get a bit bored, enough to skip some of the book at one point. Still, the story is laid out in a straight forward manner that will I believe draw most in.
Even with the repetition it doesn't slow way down often. The story is told in a more traditional style drawing on older stories even fairy tales. It weaves a tale that while I doubt most will find it surprising it will keep you interested and give some enjoyment. I'll go four on this, if just and recommend it. Kings other stories and most notably I think you'll find a sort of "proto" version of the Dark Tower cycle's Kingdom of Gilead here, just not so dark. In that place we see the Man in Black's plots coming to fruition, where here he is thwarted.
I remembered liking this one from the first time that I read it, but I didn't remember the storyline at all. It turned out to be one of those stories that I just didn't want to put down for long. Eyes of the Dragon is very different from most of King's other works. Written for his tween-age daughter because she complained that he had not written anything that she was interested in or felt comfortable reading, the Eyes of the Dragon is basically King's t Well, this was a REALLY quick read for me. Written for his tween-age daughter because she complained that he had not written anything that she was interested in or felt comfortable reading, the Eyes of the Dragon is basically King's take on a Young Adult level Fairy Tale.
The story takes place in the Kingdom of Delain, which is located in In-World, the setting of the Dark Tower series and is told from the perspective of a story teller who is telling the reader a tale of old from his lands. I enjoyed the perspective that King chose to tell the tale from and the way that the teller poses questions and comments directly to the reader. I think that this method works great especially considering the target audience of the story as the story teller method keeps them a bit distanced from the harsher elements of the story which isn't entirely pleasant, duh it's King!
Overall, I found this to be an enjoyable tale of suspense with a good mix of emotions brought to the reader from betrayal, redemption, perseverance and yes, even a little love. View all 5 comments. What a fascinating little book. All the Dark Tower parallels and references had me hooked from the beginning, but I also loved the story in itself. Full review to come. This is still one of my favourite King books -- a whimsical fairy tale set in a magical landscape; a Dark Tower for younger readers if you will. I couldn't quite give it five stars this time around, since it's not as epic or grand as something like The Talisman , but my sheer enjoyment of the story has not diminished with the years.
King weaves a truly engaging spell with this one, which prominently features the uber-villainous Flagg who has shown up in many King novels, sometimes under other na This is still one of my favourite King books -- a whimsical fairy tale set in a magical landscape; a Dark Tower for younger readers if you will. King weaves a truly engaging spell with this one, which prominently features the uber-villainous Flagg who has shown up in many King novels, sometimes under other names, but always just as evil.
This time he is the King's magician. I just love the adventure here, and Peter's brave attempt to escape the Needle kept me breathless. While Shawshank will likely always be remembered as THE King prison escape story , there will always be a special place in my heart for the dramatic climax discovered in the pages of The Eyes of the Dragon. Highly recommended for fans of YA Fantasy. Readers also enjoyed. About Stephen King. Stephen King. After his father left them when Stephen was two, he and his older brother, David, were raised by his mother.
Parts of his childhood were spent in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where his father's family was at the time, and in Stratford, Connecticut. When Stephen was eleven, his mother brought her children back to Durham, Maine, for good. Her parents, Guy and Nellie Pillsbury, had become incapacitated with old age, and Ruth King was persuaded by her sisters to take over the physical care of them. Other family members provided a small house in Durham and financial support. After Stephen's grandparents passed away, Mrs. King found work in the kitchens of Pineland, a nearby residential facility for the mentally challenged.
He was also active in student politics, serving as a member of the Student Senate. He came to support the anti-war movement on the Orono campus, arriving at his stance from a conservative view that the war in Vietnam was unconstitutional. He graduated in , with a B. A draft board examination immediately post-graduation found him 4-F on grounds of high blood pressure, limited vision, flat feet, and punctured eardrums. He met Tabitha Spruce in the stacks of the Fogler Library at the University, where they both worked as students; they married in January of As Stephen was unable to find placement as a teacher immediately, the Kings lived on his earnings as a laborer at an industrial laundry, and her student loan and savings, with an occasional boost from a short story sale to men's magazines.
Throughout the early years of his marriage, he continued to sell stories to men's magazines. Many were gathered into the Night Shift collection or appeared in other anthologies. Writing in the evenings and on the weekends, he continued to produce short stories and to work on novels. Books by Stephen King. If you can, please give a little to support the organizations that are doing work in the fields that mean the most to you.
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Jane has demonstrated an indomitable spirit throughout this whole situation, but the fact remains that she shouldn't have to be indomitable at all. If you're a man who works in media, you should have enough wherewithal to understand that you have power over young reporters who come to you for advice and guidance. This kind of behavior is unacceptable. Full stop. Speaking of power and the media: over the weekend at the Crosscut Festival, former Stranger reporter and, full disclosure, my former coworker Sydney Brownstone told the full story of what happened when she tried to write a story accusing Seattle restaurant mogul Dave Meinert of sexual misconduct.
Brownstone didn't feel as though she could publish the report at The Stranger :. Brownstone eventually published the Meinert piece and a followup report with more accusations after finding a new job at KUOW. The moral of this story: We need more and better media in Seattle, and we need fewer men in power at those organizations. His future in DC politics was bright, but instead Liu moved to Seattle, where he devoted his life to promoting the idea of citizenship and what it means to be a civic-minded human being.
In recent years, Liu founded Citizen University to explore the idea of civic responsibility, and he travels the nation with his Civic Saturday program of events — a kind of secular church that invites people to come together to share ideas and reconsider the idea of citizenship. Tonight, Liu is celebrating the launch of his latest book, a collection of sermons from Civic Saturdays titled Become America , at Washington Hall. The event is free. Liu and I talked on the phone yesterday about citizenship, Seattle, and why serving on the Seattle Public Library Board was more satisfying than working in the White House.
This interview has been lightly edited. Full disclosure: Liu is friends with, and co-author of two books with, my day-job employer, Nick Hanauer. The first question is probably something you hear all the time, but I want to get it out of the way early. It's actually something I heard when my first response to Trump's election was to start a book club : Isn't worrying about emphasizing citizenship and civic responsibility during the Trump Administration kind of like putting a Band Aid on cancer?
I think it is absolutely vital during a time of democratic crisis to tend to culture, norms, values, and shared narrative. I think culture is upstream of policy, I think spirit is upstream of law, and I think that the norms and attitudes and mindsets that people have about one another and about what we're doing together here are all upstream of elections and the policy consequences of elections. That's my first point. The second point — to your book club, actually — I further think that as much as Donald Trump the man poses a menace to democratic norms, one of the lessons of the last few years is just how resilient a system democracy is in the United States.
And not just among those who've chosen to resist him, but in communities all around the country right now, people are rebuilding the bonds of trust, relationship and responsibility that make any notion of self-government possible. I include in that category every kind of club you can imagine.
This is a time when I think our highest task as citizens is to start or join a club, to start rebuilding that muscle of association and reckoning with what's going on around you, trying to figure out how you fit into a larger story, trying to figure out what your responsibility is for changing that story. And so to me, whether it's a book club, whether it's things like Civic Saturdays, whether it's a club on something that's not even avowedly about politics like a gardening club, I think that forming and joining clubs right now is one of the most important things we can do as citizens.
And particularly where those gatherings are about the deeper moral and ethical choices of our times, I think it becomes especially important. Could you talk a little bit about your evolution as a civic-minded person? This past weekend, I was taking part in the Crosscut Festival and I was reflecting about not only the role of organs of local journalism, like Crosscut and Cascade Public Media, but more generally on my education in democracy in Seattle. And that's actually not really true. I think my deepest education in democracy has been as a member of the community in Seattle and as a citizen of Washington state.
And probably the most signal example of that was the decade that I spent on the Seattle Public Library Board, where I'd still be serving if I weren't term-limited. I happened to serve on the library board during a time where the system was building out new branches and the downtown Central Library to deliver on this bond measure called Libraries for All that had passed in the late 90s, before I joined the board.
And so for the whole time that I was there, we were in 26, 27 neighborhoods around the city and trying to invite people in for what we called in a somewhat hokey title, Hopes and Dreams meetings. Actually, you and I might've met at one of these Hopes and Dreams meetings-.
Yeah, way back. And sure, it's hokey. And sure, it's inherently a limited format. But the fact is that when you extend that invitation and people start showing up sharing their hopes and dreams for how many materials in other languages your branch should have, or the idea that you need more meeting space because there's no free meeting space in Capitol Hill, or whatever it might be — when you start hearing these things, you realize you've created an expectation that we will not only listen, but try to deliver.
And we will do that to the best of our ability. But then where we can't, we have to explain tradeoffs and we have to be accountable to the people who showed up to these meetings as well as others. And frankly, that is just an order of magnitude more concrete a practice of democracy than most of what happens in DC. So much of politics in DC is just this Kabuki theater of posturing — it's virtue signaling or it's just rallying my base or attacking my enemies.
I do this even if I know what I'm introducing is never going to go anywhere. It's for positioning and posturing. And so my education on the library board was just so much more meaningful and rich. And then, as you know, working with Nick and others, getting things like the Alliance for Gun Responsibility off the ground after Sandy Hook was hugely formative for me.
And it was of course gratifying, just as a citizen, to have helped found an organization that has not only changed the laws in our state, but as you know, has changed the frame of the narrative around the very idea of gun responsibility nationally. So again, I worked on guns when I was at the White House and exactly nothing happened. But to be here in a city, in a state, where you can indeed move ideas and change narrative has been a big part of my evolution.
I was at the fundraiser for the Alliance last week, and they talked about all the legislative achievements they've made in the past year. Ten years ago, you couldn't get an elected official to pass a gun safety law anywhere in this country. The Alliance helped the people win at the ballot box so many times that the legislature couldn't ignore the people's voice. It's exciting that we've finally have come around to the point where these gun responsibility laws are passing within the legislature again. But you kind of had to go outside the system and force the issue. So it was a long way around, but it finally happened from the inside rather than the outside.
But it's exactly the long way around that makes democracy a resilient, complex, adaptive system if it's not rigged. We were able to bypass an initially recalcitrant legislature because we had direct democracy as an option here and could go around a rigged legislature that was either cowed or owned by the gun lobby. And then having revealed to legislators that in fact the will of the people is strongly with gun responsibility and if you would like to retain your job, you might want to move in this direction, is exactly how the system is supposed to respond. Of course it doesn't respond that way in DC, in Congress, and that's true under, frankly, both parties and any administrations of both parties.
But that capacity for self-correction is still higher, I think, at the local and state level. Do you think Seattle was particularly suited for for your message of civic responsibility? Some other places I've lived seem like they might not be as receptive to what you're doing. I do think Citizen University is a very natural outgrowth of the civic ecosystem of our region.
And again, having worked in the other Washington, I know very clearly that an organization like Citizen University, the approaches that we've taken to civic awakening and civic power-building, which are not inside the box of conventional wisdom or policy fights as they usually unfold within DC think-tanks was made possible by being here. That's number one. And I think, going back to when I moved here in , that there is a civically entrepreneurial spirit here that's as strong as our business, entrepreneurial spirit.
This is a town that is not yet finished. You can arrive and raise your hand and start getting involved and pushing things or making change happen or creating new ventures. And I think specifically with Civic Saturdays, these gatherings that are civic analog to a faith gathering, Civic Saturdays are a great instance of a larger approach we've had, which is that Seattle is one of the great places to incubate new civic ideas and then try and spread and adapt them to other places around the country.
For all the reasons I just said and you were alluding to, because there's more openness here, because there's less hierarchy here, because there has always been a higher willingness to hybridize here and try new combinations of things, we could incubate Civic Saturdays here in Seattle. And when we realized that this approach to civic gathering and this approach to awakening civic spirit and purpose could really stick, then we started being able to take it on the road. And that's been true of other programs of ours as well, where Seattle is an apt and fertile place to test new ideas.
So what can people expect from your book launch party tonight at Washington Hall? We're going to talk about some of the content of the book, which as you know, is a collection sermons that I had written and delivered at Civic Saturday gatherings here in Seattle and around the country, But what you can really expect is a broader conversation just like the one we're having right now, about the deeper drivers of what's sick in the body politic, about what you can actually do from wherever you sit and stand, even if you don't feel powerful or you don't feel connected, how you can in fact web up with others and start making meaning and start taking action together.
And so the format will be, I think, pretty conversational in a way that I'm excited about. Because Civic Saturdays are have you been to a Civic Saturday? And I'll be in Oklahoma City after that for another one. But when you come to these, they have the arc of a faith gathering and we always build in a great amount of time at Civic Saturdays for people to turn to each other and talk about questions and prompts.
But I think at this event tomorrow we'll have even more of that — more opportunity for people to ask me questions and be in dialogue with me as well as with each other. Sounds like it's a good way, for people who are curious and haven't taken part, to sort of dip a toe in the proverbial water. And it's also just a chance for people who, if you feel like you want to be connected to something bigger, if you feel isolated and frustrated with the state of our politics, come be in the company of others and come explore some of these questions in a way that is open-hearted, open-minded and will move you to connect with people in new ways.
And then yes, dip a toe into some of what we do at Civic Saturdays as well. He can take you any place he wants They cannot defend Fancy clubs and restaurants Must be in the end Pressed up against the window pane. Sponsor Ahoy Comics is back to promote another amazing title in their non-stop onslaught of top-quality comic madness: Hashtag: Danger! We've got a four page preview, and some stellar early reviews, of this just-released title on our sponsor's page. Check them out, and be sure to pick up this first issue, so you're buckled into your front-row seat from the beginning of the ride!
When you sponsor us, you put your book, event, or residency in front of our readership of book lovers and industry professionals. And you're helping keep Seattle's amazing community of writers, reviewers, and readers vibrant. Want to join us? Check out rates and dates at www. See our Event of the Week column for more details. Seattle author Eric Liu has made it his life's mission to revive the American civic spirit. His Civic Saturdays series of church-like meetings invite secular-minded people to come together and celebrate art, democracy, justice, and community.
Liu's latest book, Become America , collects some of his best secular sermons into an inspiring book about what it means to be an American. Andrea Lawlor's novel is about a shapeshifter — or a changeling, if you prefer— in the s LGBTQ activist scene in the s. This was a time when Bill Clinton pushed against same-sex marriage and gay panic was a regular punchline at multiplexes, so changing shape would probably come in handy.
Lawlor will be in conversation with Seattle author Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore. Brad Holden's latest book describes what Prohibition was like in Seattle. If you think a port city known for its raucous history got completely dry without a fight, you're in for a few surprises. Two Seattle-area poets who are friends of the Seattle Review of Books will read work with a visiting poet from San Francisco. If you do need an introduction: Agodon is the co-founder of small but mighty poetry publisher Two Sylvias Press, and Rich is the author, most recently, of Cloud Pharmacy.
They're welcoming Mary Peelen, author of Quantum Heresies , to town. Open Books, N. Okay, this listing is a top-to-bottom conflict of interest. The first book is the collected edition of The Wrong Earth , which is the story of a light-hearted superhero who changes places with a gritty, dark version of himself.
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I have five short stories in that one. And the other book is Planet of the Nerds , which is my first full-length comic. I'll be in conversation with brilliant Seattle arts writer Brangien Davis, and there will be drinks and snacks and fun. Please join me. And here's a graphic for the event made by great graphic designer Mary Traverse:. Red-state America over the last year has hosted the largest strikes in recent American history.
Teachers in West Virginia and Oklahoma and Arizona basically shut down the government with popular support from the general population. Is this the beginning of something big? This is a moderated discussion about the amazing things that are happening in plain sight. Retired UW professor Charles Johnson is the closest thing to a Seattle legend that our fiction scene has. Johnson has been retired from the teaching business for a decade now, and he's taken that time to publish a ton of books — a writing guide, a book about his Buddhist practice, and his latest collection of short fiction, Night Hawks.
When I spoke to Johnson a couple years ago , he was in an expansive mood, explaining that the title story in Night Hawks was "about my year friendship here in Seattle with [celebrated playwright] August Wilson. We had really great eight-to-ten-hour dinner conversations at the old Broadway Bar and Grill, which is gone now, on Capitol Hill. Johnson is perhaps best known for incorporating his Buddhist experiences into his fiction.
Retirement has been a great boon to Johnson's literary career. He's been busier and more adventurous in his literary life than he was in his many years as a UW professor. It's the freedom of someone who knows who he is, and what he's capable of, and who finally feels free to do it. Go soak in his freedom for a while. Each week, the Sunday Post highlights a few articles we enjoyed this week, good for consumption over a cup of coffee or tea, if that's your pleasure.
Settle in for a while; we saved you a seat. You can also look through the archives. After discovering that the independent bookstore where she worked was shorting its staff on weekend page, Sarah Malley asks about who's really bearing the cost of running a small local business. If you have a visceral cringe response to Justin Charity's analysis of "wrongthink," you're not alone. Nobody's a saint in the current political playing field, but can't we at least be grownups?
Silly question, I guess. Not an inherently funny article, and yet there's something endlessly amusing about reading so many very serious paragraphs built around the humble raisin. The raisin industry! It's cutthroat, backstabbing, borderline illegal. Harry Overly wanted to change all that. Every week we ask an interesting figure what they're digging into. Have ideas who we should reach out to? Let it fly: info seattlereviewofbooks. Want to read more? Check out the archives. Arthur Wyatt is a British-born, Seattle-based, writer and computer developer. He's written extensively for AD , home to Judge Dredd.
He wrote about his experiences growing up reading, and then writing, for Dredd, a few years ago for us. In print: Tiamats Wrath , the latest Expanse books. The Founder - a different kind of tech capitalism, this time the story of the guy who went from making drive encryption software to being a tech worker to running online pharmacies to bring an international crimelord who eventually got caught setting up multiple assassinations.
Of the longest line on the course. And just For a very long time. My tiny distant sisters and father, so far away on that platform, so delighted at my not-arrival there. The inching along moments make you really aware of your body as bulk. My family reminded me of this fact gleefully after witnessing my impressive feat of backward motion. All told, I think it was quite generous of me to selflessly bestow such joyful memories upon my loved ones.
Thanks to the kind, patient help of my dad. In the long run, time has proven I was doing neither of these things. View this post on Instagram 5. View this post on Instagram Cienna is attending a book burning convention, and so is taking the week off.
This column is a re-run from March of Maybe you covered this before, but, if not, I need help. I mean, we disagree over movies all the time and manage to keep it light. But my goodness, he hated it. How can I get over myself? My apologies. You see, I also harbor an irrational hatred of The Poisonwood Bible. I think I suffered a rage blackout for the entirety of Prodigal Summer.
I have brought Mrs. Kingsolver as my guest to quite a few book burnings over the years. He can dislike a book for good reasons or no reason at all, but inventing nonsense reasons just makes him look like a turd. Also, how many popular books, television shows, movies, etc. Too many to count. But to your question: How do I get over myself? Your emotional response to the book is what all writers hope for from their readers. You get to treasure that feeling. So now he needs to do the polite and loving thing, which is fuck right off and not ruin your afterglow.
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Did you know that Seattle has miles of uninterrupted, paved trails stretching as far north as Everett and as far south as Auburn? We have a few weeks open over the next few months for a savvy sponsor to snap up. Our sponsorships can be used for so many things — but the biggest part is that you get your book, event, or message in front of the most passionate readers in the world. There's more details on our sponsor page , but we'd love to see some new blood trying this effective and comprehensive advertising strategy, all while helping to pay for the columnists and reviewers you see here.
Pssst, existing sponsors: you're not out. We'll give it to you, too, so don't hesitate to book. Find out why we have so many repeat sponsors by seeing what happens when you put your work in front of so many book lovers. You should visit a favorite local comic shop or two, pick up some free books, and maybe buy a few comics, too. Here are some notes on local cartoonists and comic shops for your FCBD:. If you're not sure where to go on Saturday, the indispensable Sarah Anne Lloyd at Curbed has created a handy map of 21 comics shops in the greater Seattle area.
Even I, a full-bore comics nerd, have not been to some of the shops on this map. Hell, I haven't even heard of some of the comic shops on this map. The show is a companion piece to Hanselmann's next book, which is coming out in July. Hope to see you there! As one of our members pointed out, it's a text we'll be returning to time and time again in our future discussions — like The Righteous Mind and Janesville and several others. Bunk is a historical account of a very particular kind of American con — the loud and boisterous and unapologetic lie, perfected by P.
Barnum and perpetuated through the years by plagiarists and confidence men and fabulists. What's more, Young ties that lineage of liars and cheats in with America's long history of racism. Our American exceptionalism at hoaxes, it turns out, is a byproduct of America's original sin. One of the best observations at last night's book club was the recognition that a simple lie isn't enough to make something a hoax.
It's not enough to spread falsehoods to make a true hoax: you have to generate a mistrust in the truth, too. By creating an atmosphere in which everything could be false, the most confident liar gets to dictate the reality. It worked for Barnum, and it has worked thus far for Donald Trump. Young is a great writer — one of the best we've read at Reading Through It.
He's funny, his observations are always sharp, and the research he has done for Bunk is truly impressive. It probably helps that Young is a brilliant poet, too; there's an art to Bunk that no 'mere' historian could summon. But to employ another cliche, you can't unring the bell of a hoax: once it's out there, it's unstoppable. The best way to stop a hoax is to kill it before it becomes a hoax, to smother it in truth when it's still just an over-ambitious lie. The fact is, we desperately need to improve our systems of truth-telling and lie-smashing so that they can catch up to the speed of the internet.
As Trump has proven, a lie can fly from Twitter to global headlines in a matter of minutes. It's on all of us to be better consumers of media, to learn how to defuse a lie before it explodes in a flurry of shrapnel. In the internet, we have created an unparalleled system of global communication.
Now, some thirty years later, we mustprove ourselves worthy of it. Book-It Theatre has announced their season of book-to-play adaptations. In chronological order starting with fall of this year, the theater company will be staging:. Romney explains that prizes for book collections have been given in the United States since at least the s, but that those prizes have more often than not been by and for collections "associated with a university or some other institution.
Younger collectors, Romney says, often feel "intimidated" by the antiquarian book trade; they believe that their own collections lack the value of those put together by older or more experienced collectors. And some book collectors, she says, don't even realize that they are book collectors. A bunch of things you like, Romney points out, is a collection.
There's a kind of ugly machismo in certain book collecting circles — a prickly obsessiveness, a gatekeeping aggression — that turns off younger collectors, and collectors who may not share the same interests as the alpha males in the field. But Romney quickly found that there's a robust and diverse collecting community in this country. They told us to expect six to 12 applications of varying degrees of quality.
But that first year, Romney says, "I think we got something like 49 [applications] — way, way more than we expected, from over 20 states. Those submissions each told a story: "this is my library and I'm really proud of it. But that collection had a lot to say. Romney says the owner approached the books by "looking at their place in history: what does it say about the career woman narrative in the s? Or what is it saying about women's suffrage, or Prohibition? But not every one is tied to the distant past. It doesn't have to be expensive, and you might be creating something of real historical value.
Those overlooked things — that's exactly what universities want in order to get that documentation for scholars to study. Romney urges any book-loving young woman who is eligible for the prize to consider their books in a new light. There's a pleasure in learning that you're a collector. It's just a question of seeing it so that you can take conscious satisfaction in something you clearly already loved doing.
Comics editor and publisher Michael Davis has been the target of harassment for decades now. Someone broke into Davis's Facebook page , impersonated Davis's family, and announced that Davis had committed suicide. Davis eventually had to go to the press to prove that he was still alive. A comfortable journalist went undercover as a Walmart employee for three months. If you ever worked retail, what he discovers will not shock you. You contain clean veils of milk, a snow or talc as whistle as scissor.
Even a faded parachute, lunar and classic, shivers a scintillating shock of chance. Turnip goose, a beekeeper ghosts your sail, hemming your alpine lace in rays of ridges while a lucid thermometer fireworks in error. After, whispers of gesso fog until you railroad your thaw oracle. Neither port nor pang, yet respiratory in your tentative blizzard of telephone and revolver, you disappear, a faceless keyhole for night-blooming shuttle suds. Make something of yourself. Make an effort. Amaranth Borsuk is our Poet in Residence for April.
Books To Prisoners has been around since — that's a heck of a track record that was almost derailed by the Washington State Department of Corrections. If you're wondering where we stand on the delivery of donated used books to prisoners, you can read our interview with Books to Prisoners board member Michelle Dillon. Or you can join us in stating the obvious: it's a good thing when people have access to books. It's a good thing when used books are useful. The book ban has been rescinded, but we're not on stable ground yet. Seattle is an amazing community of readers and writers. This is our way of standing up for those in our community who are hurt by the book ban — and giving our own readers the chance to do the same.
Take a look at our sponsor feature page for more on Books To Prisoners. Follow them on Twitter , sign their petition , or send the cost of a book their way. We're proud that our sponsorship program is a platform for so many independent publishers, writers, retreats, and events. Our sponsorships are a voice that can be used as you need it to. We're so proud to offer it up as a platform for organizations like Books To Prisoners when they need it.
To find out more about our sponsorship program, visit us here or send us a note. We'd love to hear from you! The premise of the latest novel by superstar novelist Miriam Toews which rhymes with "waves," by the way sounds like a gut-punch: eight devout Mennonite women who believe they have been repeatedly sexually assaulted in the night by demons realize that instead they have been drugged and raped by their neighbors.
They vow revenge. Molly Hashimoto's new book "captures nearly Western species [of birds] using different media, from quick sketches with pen and ink to more carefully planned and vivid block prints. Craig Romano's new book is about all the amazing walking you're missing out on. Editors Shyam Khanna, Jasper Bernes, and Chloe Watlington debut the second issue a new magazine that is all about the idea of revolution to overturn capitalism.
Commune addresses popular culture and Marxism and everything the kids are into these days. Check it out. Look, you probably know the drill by now. Free Comic Book Day has become an institution: participating comics shops give away a ton of free comics to literally anyone who drops by, in an effort to draw in new audiences. The fact is, Seattle is hugely lucky when it comes to comic shops. We've lost a few great ones — rest in peace, Zanadu Comics downtown and The Comics Stop U District — but most Seattle neighborhoods still have a shop somewhere in their immediate vicinity, and that's not common in many American cities anymore.
Why should you visit a comics shop? The odds are good that you already have some favorite graphic novels, so you're familiar with the form. But for me, serialized comics provides a thrill that no other fictional narrative storytelling medium can match. Nobody serializes prose fiction anymore, and serial television and podcasts just don't scratch the same itch. In a world that offers instant gratification in the form of binge-watching and instant downloads, it's nice to have to wait for a month between installments of a story, to read a story as its being created in real time.
And it should be noted that kids love comics — particularly monthly comics, which have a nice transient sense to them. I fell in love with comics because they were so fragile — they didn't have the off-putting air of old, leather-bound books, and you didn't have to be as careful with them. If you ruined a book by accidentally setting it in a puddle of water on a bench in the park, your parents would likely be mad at you.
But if you ruined a comic in the same scenario, you'd only be out a handful of pocket change. The disposable nature of the medium, in a weird way, elevates the form. It's not likely that the stapled, monthly paper comic is going to live forever. The format has too many ties to the old models of publishing, and it requires mass-media numbers to survive, in an age where only niche groups are interested in buying comics. But for now, we have an amazing network of comics shops in this city that are eager to give you a number of comics for free. Why wouldn't you want to take them up on their offer?
Anna Merlan's coverage of one woman's not hers fake news breakdown is pure joy. The story is nutballs. And at the heart of it all, a nonexistent bear who is not named Ron. We don't often go straight scientific discovery on this list, but holy cats! The ability to restore even minimal function to a dead pig brain has, well, ramifications , both exhilarating and horrifying. Science is a thousand times more startling than anything fiction can offer. One day the executive chairman of Panera Bread woke up and thought: " I could solve food insecurity!
It worked just as well as you might suppose. Robin Kaiser-Schatzlein details what happened, and asks an apt but sobering question about our continued faith that entrepreneurial America will save the rest of us. Jasmine Silvera is the author of the Grace Bloods romantic urban fantasy series. The pen name of Rashida J. Grab a spot last-minute if you can! Storm of Locusts by Rebecca Roanhorse. I preordered the first novel in the Sixth World series, Trail of Lightning , based on the blurb and the incredible cover last year.
By the middle of the second page, I had fallen in love with the world building and the narrator: pragmatic, damaged, powerful Maggie Hoskie. I finally finished Trail of Lightning Thursday night. Even having read almost twenty books between starting and finishing it during an eight month delay, I fell back into the story instantly. My best friend is a terrible writer. I can only get a few pages in before I have to make a stiff drink or play a game on my phone or go to sleep.
What kind of honesty do I owe her? This is why all my best friends are spiders. A faceful of eyes and a groper's paradise of arms, yet they're very lazy writers and readers — they almost universally prefer watching time lapse videos of animals decomposing to books. In fact, it's one of the few things my best friends and my daughter have in common that and a pact to eat me face first if I die in my sleep.
My point is, your friend should know better than to make you read her manuscript. It would be like inviting you to come watch her practice her tuba for a few hours instead of inviting you to a concert like a decent human being. The only people who are obliged to read writers' manuscripts are other writers. That's what writing groups are for — they are the literary equivalent of a group of spiders watching time lapse videos of animals decomposing. As a crowd they seem to enjoy it, even if it is macabre time waster. So what do you tell your friend? It depends on how polite you feel like being.
I would start with, "It's impressive that you wrote so many words" and maybe end with "but I don't want to read them because they suck. But again, my best friends are spiders. You could try " If she really presses you for an opinion, again, be honest: "This is a rough draft, so it's rough. I'll be happy to give it another try once it's published.
It's a great celebration, and perfect time to drop by one or five of your favorite local stores. Or, be a hero and do the full 26 store passport stamp, if you're feeling ambitious. Find out more on our Literary Event of the Week column. Every month, Daneet Steffens uncovers the latest goings on in mystery, suspense, and crime fiction. See previous columns on the Criminal Fiction archive page.
Marshall McEwan, recently returned son of Bienville-on-the-Mississippi, has been home just five months after absconding from a high-profile, D. McEwan has reconnected, adulterously, with his childhood sweetheart, and holds the confidence of the local bookstore owner — a recent hometown-returnee herself — when murder most foul rears its ugly head. Faster than you can say, well, anything , Marshall finds himself tangled in an intricate web of small-town corruption, grafting, Machiavellian manipulation, and familial discord, led by the ultra-shady Bienville Poker Club under whose auspices elitism, racism, sadism, and sexism run rampant.
As the dizzying puzzle slowly unravels into its multiple resolutions, the violence tends towards the graphic. But there are also moments of truly serene beauty in the history-rich setting, the unforgiving land-and-waterscape setting, and a bookstore any stockist — and reader — would be proud of. All this — plus another appearance from tenacious criminal defense lawyer Olivia Randell — adds up to one hell of a rip-roaring read. As she and her motley crew of semi-disgraced police detectives do their best to investigate on a restricted budget — in one of the funniest scenes, her colleague uses World of Warcraft avatar software to create an e-fit of a suspect — Capestan has to navigate not just annoying, impediment-producing police bureaucracy but an already tenuous relationship with her former husband.
Bernie Gunther, promoted from Vice to the Murder Commission on his way to becoming a full-fledged detective, pursues a series of murder-scalpings of city prostitutes, but something worse is coming: bigotry, racism, and Fascism are on the rise, permeating every element of daily life. Still reeling, along with most of his fellow countrymen, from his time in the WWI trenches, Gunther drowns his sorrows in alcohol and the occasional dalliance, gets sketched by artists George Grosz and Otto Dix, lends an ear to Lotte Lenya in rehearsals for The Threepenny Opera , and is schooled nicely in the human condition by theater critic Alfred Kerr.
Elements of Lord of the Flies mingle with post-apocalyptic angst, especially when the hotel survivors discover that they are not alone. Jameson, who also writes the London Underground mysteries, lives in London. What or who are your top five writing inspirations?
Things and emotions that scare me. Anything David Lynch makes, says, writes, or does. Fear of being broke. Reading history. There really is no in-between. It varies so much and probably day to day. I have a very fluid idea of what my hometown is. Winchester was my home until I was 21 yet I lived in Brighton for almost six years in my early 20s and went through most of the brutal, painful business of growing-up there. I lived in Edinburgh for five months and wrote my most successful book there, finding myself, in a way. London was where I learned the new craft and discipline required to be a screenwriter for a year.
They all matter. Some three years ago on this website , I wrote about why Superman is a difficult character to write, and why most writers get Superman wrong. The thesis statement is here:. If you'd ask me to name one modern writer who understands that Superman comics need to be an examination of goodness and morality, I'd name Grant Morrison, whose All-Star Superman is one of the first Superman books I'd give to someone who wanted to understand the character. So far as I can tell, only one other writer in the 21st century has come close to Morrison in terms of understanding why Superman is a compelling character.
That writer is Brian Michael Bendis, and he's currently writing the character in both the Superman title and in Action Comics , the title where Superman first debuted over eighty years ago. It immediately demonstrated that Bendis intuitively understands the character of Superman: he's kind, and he's compassionate, and while he doesn't always know what's the best thing to do, he certainly tries to do the right thing every time.
The structure of Phantom Earth is a little bit wonky. The plot involves Earth suddenly transporting to Krypton's intergalactic prison, The Phantom Zone, and it ties in with Bendis's ongoing story involving Rogol Zaar, an intergalactic eeeeevil bad guy who may have wiped out Krypton. Rogol Zaar is Bendis's biggest misstep in the Superman comics thus far; he's a monster through and through and he's very strong.
In other words, he's exactly what a Superman foe should not be. What seems like a major plot revelation is tossed off toward the end of the book in a jokey fashion that smashes the world-threatening stakes established in the opening chapters. But it's worth reading Phantom Earth just for the characterization of Superman.
He appeals to a super-villain's better nature when she tries to commit a petty crime in the middle of an intergalactic threat. He worries about setting a good example. Thankfully, Bendis's Action Comics is at once a great character showcase and a fun Superman story. This is pretty much everything you'd want out of a Superman comic: daily goings-on at the Daily Planet , a mix of villains to fight, a glimpse into what life is like in Metropolis on a daily basis, and an ongoing soap opera.
But most of all, you get a lot of Bendis's Superman. This is a superhero who takes the time to hug and comfort the people he's just saved. He tells them that there's no shame in looking up a trauma counselor. He encourages them to go to the hospital and make sure everything's okay. He makes people want to be better. We are speeding quickly toward the deadline to apply for the role of Redmond's Poet Laureate on April 29th and the role of Seattle Civic Poet on April 24th, which is, uh, today.
Here's a Chrome and Firefox browser extension that book-lovers might find handy. If you're looking up a book at an online bookseller, this extension shows you that title's availability at the local library of your choice — in physical, e-book, and audio book varieties.
I didn't even know that thesauri needed a defense, but here we are. If you're wondering how not to have Amazon sell your information to contractors, my advice would be "don't own an Alexa-powered listening device in your home," but apparently that's too difficult? Michelle Dillon took a circuitous path to her time as a volunteer and board member with Books to Prisoners Seattle.
She studied forensic psychology and evolutionary anthropology before settling on the Master of Library and Information Science Program at the University of Washington. I thought for sure that I was going to be a public librarian because I thought that that was the population that had the most intense information needs," Dillon says, "and I was completely proven wrong by Books to Prisoners. Dillon now works full-time at the Human Rights Defense Center, where she fights against censorship in prisons. But the last month or so has been a hectic one for her volunteer gig at Books to Prisoners — particularly since she runs the social media accounts for the nonprofit.
I reached Dillon by phone earlier this week to explain what's happened with the Washington state Department of Corrections' ban on used books, what the status is of the book ban right now, and what you can do to help Books to Prisoners. How, exactly, did you come to realize that something was wrong?
So Books to Prisoners Seattle started to notice an increasing number of rejections of books from Washington prisons in , and we didn't really have a good explanation why. The [Department of Corrections] wasn't talking to us. So after finally getting sick of it, I starting delving around on the DOC's website in March and finally came across a memo that they had put out that was dated March 12th. It stated that they would no longer be accepting free, used books from nonprofits such as Books to Prisoners. We've been sending books into Washington prisons since and we've never had an incident.
We sent thousands of books during that time. So we were just blindsided by this, and we pushed back. We started a phone zap [social media call-in campaign] which then ended up becoming a much bigger deal much sooner than I had ever anticipated. We ended up getting some national coverage from media outlets and a lot of publicity from a lot of authors on Twitter who helped keep this in the public eye.
After enough people started getting in the face of the DOC and shutting down their phones and their email inboxes and whatnot, [the public] also turned to Governor Jay Inslee who, the very next week made a public statement saying the DOC really needs to work with Books to Prisoners to resolve this. Instead of immediately doing that, the DOC tried to double down by releasing a press release that stated there were increasing numbers of contraband incidents, including 17 in alone, of contraband entering through mailed books.
We knew that was bullshit. It's the same line that's been used every single time that a DOC tries to stop the flow of books coming into prisons. It's always about safety and security, always about contraband. The Seattle Times got a hold of that list of alleged contraband incidents and, lo and behold, not one of them were tied to the mailed books that groups like Books to Prisoners were providing through the mail. And in fact most of them didn't even involve books at all. Finally the DOC agreed to meet with us last Friday, after putting out a partial repeal memo on April 10 that, unfortunately, only included four groups which would be allowed, one of which wasn't even the correct name of a known group.
Clearly they hadn't really done their research on this. So a couple of representatives and some people from the ACLU and some prisoner's advocates met with the DOC on Friday and we are currently in the process of negotiating a bigger, better memo that will hopefully not just rescind the state of access to where it was shortly before they released this universal ban. Honestly, even that state was not that great, because each prison was allowed how to decide how they wanted to handle mailed books and a lot of facilities were only allowing new books. Even when we would mail in the new books, they were still claiming that they were used books because of bent corners that had been damaged in shipping and all of these other loopholes that basically cut off access anyway.
So we're trying to use the momentum from this terrible botched new policy that they attempted to implement to fight for better, more open, more just, more equitable access for all community groups that want to help prisoners in Washington. So even though some outlets have reported that the situation has been resolved, the situation is not yet resolved.
What do you think the DOC's motivation is in all this? Isn't a reading prison population better than a non-reading population? We obviously don't know what's going on with the Washington DOC. It went from a flat commission to incentivized revenue. So if the DOC didn't push enough books through their tablets, they would start losing money.
Given what happened in Pennsylvania, it's not out of the realm of possibility that something similar might be happening in Washington. And what we do know is that right now the Washington DOC has a request for proposals for tablets out. A lot of advocates have been trying to get their hands onto that request for proposal and see what the DOC is attempting to get from any new contract that they might sign.
But so far they have been stonewalled. All right. That's clarifying. Is there anything that people can do to help you through this process of trying to completely lift the ban on used books in prisons? What people can do is still pay attention to this issue. Because what we know is that, unfortunately, public scrutiny and public shaming has been one of the most effective routes to keeping Departments of Corrections in line. Without that public eye, they tend to stop returning phone calls, and they tend to stop abiding by these policies and regulations that were set out to keep them in check.
So keep an eye on our Twitter account , which has so far been the most effective way of wrangling people. We will put updates there. If we should need to call upon people to start doing phone zaps again or to start getting higher levels of government involved again, we will need to have a group of people who are committed to acting fast. I mean, I was blown away by the fact that we got the DOC to agree to a meeting with us in two weeks. That's how committed people have been. And unfortunately, although they would like us to believe that everything has been resolved, we don't have a firm new policy that's going to serve everyone.
And now is when we need people to be able to get mobilized quickly. And in general, now that people are aware of what it is that you do, what can people do to help Books to Prisoners? We always need volunteers. And we're not the only group who does this, so if there are people who are reading who are not in the Washington area, there are groups all around the country that have a similar mission.
And in fact there are other groups in Washington who are under the Books to Prisoners umbrella.
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We always need volunteers to help read letters and package up books. We also need financial donations. That cannot be emphasized enough, because we are basically able to send out exactly as many packages during the year as we have money to respond to. We always have more letters than we're able to answer. We run on shoestring budgets. Each package of books costs three to four dollars to send, and the rest of the money goes towards rent — which in Seattle is unfortunately not cheap. We need to have an on-site library of books to be able to do our jobs and we need to provide support for our one poor staff member who is contracted at 12 hours a week to help respond to donation requests and oversee all of the volunteer shifts to make sure that we get all of the books packaged up according to prison specs.
People love to give us books — and don't get me wrong, we love to get them. But the problem is our storage capacity. Again, rent is very expensive in Seattle, so we have to prioritize those books which are of utmost importance to us. I guess if people want to donate books, the one thing that we need right now is dictionaries. Always and forever, paperback dictionaries. About 25 percent of all request letters have a request for a dictionary in them.
Most people would never guess that the dictionary, of all things, would be the most requested book in prisons. It's this humble book that most of us don't even have on our bookshelves anymore because we have the internet, we have libraries, we have bookstores. We just take access to information for granted, and that is not an easy thing to come by in prisons.
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