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Book News: Trayvon Martin's Parents Talking To Publishers

Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, parents of slain teen Trayvon Martin, during an April 2012 news conference.
Paul J. Richards
AFP/Getty Images
Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, parents of slain teen Trayvon Martin, during an April 2012 news conference.

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

  • The parents of Trayvon Martin, the black teenager whose shooting death last year in Florida reignited the national debate about race relations, are talking to publishers about a possible book, according to The New York Times' Julie Bosman. She cites two anonymous publishing executives who attended meetings last week with Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, noting that, "one publishing executive said Mr. Martin and Ms. Fulton spoke eloquently on social issues of race and religion, suggesting that faith could be a central element of the book. They told publishers that they have never fully spoken out about what happened, including their experience at the trial of George Zimmerman, who shot their son." Zimmerman was acquitted of second-degree murder and manslaughter in a highly publicized trial last summer. The Times adds that Jan Miller, the parents' literary agent, "did not immediately return an email seeking comment."
  • The British Library has released more than 1 million images dating from the 17th 18th and 19th centuries to the photo-sharing site Flickr "for anyone to use, remix and repurpose." A great bounty for the historical beard enthusiast, the collection is full of portraits. There are also maps, satirical drawings, letters and other images that defy description. The Library also announced its plans to launch a crowdsourcing app that will ask users to help catalogue the images, saying that "we may know which book, volume and page an image was drawn from, but we know nothing about a given image."
  • For The New York Times, book review editor Parul Sehgal considers the pop-philosopher Alain de Botton: "Who's afraid of Alain de Botton? At 43, he's already an elder in the church of self-help, the master of spinning sugary 'secular sermons' out of literature (How Proust Can Change Your Life), philosophy (The Consolations of Philosophy), architecture (The Architecture of Happiness). He has a remarkably guileless face and a friendly, populist vision of art. Why then do I keep checking my pockets?"
  • At The New Yorker, staff writer Rebecca Mead and author George Prochnik imagine what the "Book-Club Guide to a Remaindered Book" would look like: "Was the author's insistence that the plot was basically 'pages from my diary' sufficient justification for the grossly sentimental predicaments in which the main character finds himself — predicaments that, as one critic for a prestigious newspaper suggested, 'seem to define the meeting place between self-flagellation and contempt for the reader?' "
  • A recently discovered memoir believed to be the earliest prison diary written by a black man or woman has been bought by Random House. The Life and Adventures of a Haunted Convict, or the Inmate of a Gloomy Prison, by Austin Reed, describes Reed's imprisonment in upstate New York in the mid-19th century. Caleb Smith, the Yale professor who, according to The New York Times, will write the book's introduction, told the newspaper that "it's still a very unusual thing for us to find any previously unknown document from this period by an African-American writer. From a literary point of view, I think there's no other voice in American literature like the voice of this penitentiary narrative, which has a very lyrical quality. And from a historical perspective, what makes this so fascinating at this moment is the deep connection between the history of slavery and the history of incarceration."
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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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