The new Bestsellers shelf on the first floor at Phillips Memorial Library is attracting some warranted attention. In our last issue, The Cowl featured an article highlighting some popular and contemporary novels currently on the shelves. I, too, have recognized how current the Bestsellers shelf is and have stopped and stared at the selection almost every time I leave the library. Providence College students usually associate our campus library as a place to study or find academic journals for a research paper, not a one-stop-shop for enjoying literature. Yet, our library is quickly becoming a hub for entertainment reads as more and more students recognize the Bestsellers shelf.
I’m an avid reader, so when I walked past the Bestsellers shelf a few weeks ago and saw a familiar author’s name, I had to stop and investigate. The book was The London Seance Society by Sarah Pender. I read her previous novel The Lost Apothecary last summer and instantly fell in love with her creative, descriptive, and exciting historical fiction writing. I had no idea she had written a second novel, so I checked it out and started reading it when I returned to my apartment. According to the book jacket, the book is “a spellbinding tale about two daring women who hunt for truth and justice in the perilous art of conjuring the dead” in Victorian London. The lead female characters develop a love affair, which, at times, is written in a rather descriptive and smutty context. I was shocked that our College’s library would feature media that featured lesbian love, knowing its complicated past of unrecognizing and not supporting the LGBTQ+ community because of our Catholic roots.
Upon further browsing the Bestsellers shelf, I easily found many other stories that include diverse and typically minority characters. The Darkness Outside Us by Eliot Schrefer is a science-fiction dystopian novel that features a romance between two teenage boys. The book jacket reads, “In order to survive the ship’s secrets, Ambrose and Kodiak will need to work together and learn to trust each other . . . especially once they discover what they are truly up against. Love might be the only way to survive.” The Girl From The Sea by Molly Knox Ostertag is a graphic novel that features a romance between two teenage girls. Finally, Cemetery Boys is a supernatural-fiction novel that features a transgender and Latinx high-school boy’s journey in self-discovery and, along the way, his blossoming romance with a fellow male peer. Cemetery Boys is written by Aiden Thomas, who is transgender and Latinx. Our library features all of Thomas’s literature, highlighting that our librarians are dedicated to providing diverse media and supporting diverse authors.
Overall, the librarians at the Phillips Memorial Library, specifically the curators of the Bestsellers shelf, are doing brave and necessary work. They are positively helping the students at PC to become more diverse in thought and acceptance by curating a mixed Bestsellers shelf. Being a PC student can sometimes be frustrating—given the fact that our school promotes a liberal arts education while at the same time promoting conservative Catholic tradition. The efforts of the librarians provide some much-needed hope that there are individuals, specific employees of the College, at our school who are dedicated to spreading positive messages of social acceptance and tolerance. For me, I see the Bestsellers table as a step in the right direction towards a more progressive, accepting, and inclusive PC.