BAR HARBOR–Those looking to buy certain books regarding the subject of racism will have to wait; publishing companies can’t keep up with demand.
“We’ve been having a lot of interest in books like “How to be an Antiracist,” “White Fragility,” and more,” said Mica Perruzzi, a co-manager of Sherman’s Bookstore in an email to the Islander. “They’re backordered with the publishers for now. We’ve also been getting a lot of orders through our website for those books.”
“How to Be an Antiracist,” by Ibram X. Kendi, and “White Fragility,” by Robin Diangelo, are two of many popular titles being sought out by residents around Mount Desert Island. “Stamped from the Beginning,” also by Kendi, “The New Jim Crow,” by Michelle Alexander, and “So You Want to Talk About Race,” by Ijeoma Oluo, were also among the most requested books focusing on racism in America at the bookstore and libraries on the island.
“The flood of requests began shortly after Floyd’s murder,” Perruzzi said, referring to the death of Minnesota resident George Floyd on May 25. “Honestly, I haven’t seen that much instant demand for “older” titles in the four years I’ve worked here.”
As some residents have taken to the streets to protest police brutality and systemic racism in America. Others are going to their local libraries and bookstores to find writings that can shed some light on a topic so deeply ingrained it has become a blindspot for many white people.
“There has been an immediate increase in the last two weeks,” said Southwest Harbor Public Library Director Erich Reed. “There were several titles that were requested. There are several titles we are in the process of purchasing. We’re looking to increase our collection.”
Even though the library has the books by Kendi and Diangelo as part of its collection, Reed said when they went to order more, the books were out of stock at this time.
A short time after Floyd’s death, the Maine Library Association released a statement taking a stand against racism and hatred. “Racism has no place in libraries or society. It is unacceptable and divides our communities,” it said. “The events of this past weekend are the latest in our nation’s painful history and they are indicative of a much larger, systemic problem of racism and oppression that must end. We have more work to do. Libraries have a critical role to play in confronting racism and creating equity.”
In 2015, Northeast Harbor Library received a $5,000 grant to increase its collection of books with a focus on the subject of diversity, which included race, gender and culture, according to director Eleanor Andrews. “We were really able to upgrade,” she said. “The reason we asked for it is because we’re the school library.”
The childrens’ librarians in Northeast Harbor and Southwest Harbor are both working to increase book choices for children and those meant to initiate family conversations focused on race and racism.
Other books regarding racism that have recently been in high demand from Northeast Harbor Library include “Between the World and Me,” by Ta-Nehisi Coates, “Beloved,” by Toni Morrison, “They Can’t Kill Us All,” by Wesley Lowery, “The Hate U Give,” by Angie Thomas, and “Each Kindness,”by Jaqueline Woodson.
Even large online retailers like Amazon and The Bookseller are either labeling these books as out of stock or providing a date in the future by when they will be available. Books are not the only source of information and education on this subject. There are podcasts, movies, including documentaries, and blogs that all can provide insight on the subject of racism.
A list of resources offered from the Maine Library Association “to help drive change and promote healing” can be found at the following links: