Brought up by books

Brought up by books
Writer Gabrielle Zevin hopes to remind readers that there is a need for bookstores in her eighth novel, The Collected Works Of A.J. Fikry.

Indie screenwriter, novelist and avid reader Gabrielle Zevin says books are her "religion".

"My mother is Catholic and my father is Jewish, so I was brought up in the religion of books. Every Saturday we'd go to the library," explains the 36-year-old American, who shares her love of fiction and bookstores in her newest and eighth novel.

The Collected Works Of A.J. Fikry was brought out this month by Little, Brown in the United Kingdom and published as The Storied Life Of A.J. Fikry by Algonquin in the United States.

The novel about an independent bookstore owner who adopts a baby abandoned in his store is Zevin's way of endorsing books and bookstore culture.

"Anybody who loves reading is raised by the books they love," she says in a telephone interview from her Los Angeles home, which she shares with her partner of 18 years, film director Hans Canosa, and their two dogs.

Her parents worked for IT company IBM - her mother is Korean-American, while her father's side of the family were Russian immigrants - and were often transferred around the United States.

As a result, libraries and local bookstores were places where the young Zevin could find comfort and fictional friends in new places.

Later in 2005, as a novelist launching her debut books, bittersweet romance Margarettown (for adults) and teenage after-life tale Elsewhere, bookstores and readings were at the forefront of the publicity machine, with today's social media platforms either new or unheard of.

"There was no Facebook, no YouTube, no Twitter, I didn't have a website. It was like publishing in the 1950s," she says. "Publishing has been, in the last decade I've been working, moving at this incredible pace."

Now she has a website and multiple social media tools to reach out to readers. But as bookstores shut down in the United States, citing rental pressures, she feels it is timely to remind readers of why they need to support neighbourhood bookshops.

Author of three novels for adults and five in the Young Adult genre, Zevin knew she wanted to be a writer as early as age nine. That year she won an honourable mention in a writing contest run by the local newspaper, which later printed her essay on racism.

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