Earlier this week, PW said that Sherry Jones‘s The Jewel of Medina had sold approximately 3,000 copies in its first few weeks, according to Nielsen Bookscan, with Beaufort Books reporting an unspecified number of additional sales to the library market. Although certain “experts” warned that the publication of a novel about A’isha, the youngest and most favored bride of the Muslim prophet Muhammad, would lead to terrorist reprisals—and were adamant enough about the alleged threat to convince Random House to cut Jones loose—so far Beaufort has experienced no threats, and the bookstore where Jones appeared last week had no troubles, either. (That said, an attempted firebombing of the offices of the book’s British publisher has led to a suspension of UK publication plans.)
We’ve heard some weird stories, though, about how outlets of one national bookstore chain are dealing with the controversial book. There’s the customer who searched all over the store for a copy, finally found one, and then asked the manager if it was really the only one in stock. The manager confessed that two others were in the store; he had considered not carrying the book, but cited a corporate “no-ban” policy, which he took it upon himself to circumvent by “putting them in hard to find locations around the bookstore so that it was unobtrusive and hopefully wouldn’t create controversy, but that if anyone asked for it, they would have it on hand.” Kooky, right? But then somebody else who went to a Montana outpost of the same chain said the book was equally difficult to find there, too, although this source didn’t establish whether the book was being deliberately hidden.
We don’t know how much stock to put in these reports—for one thing, we’re pretty sure that this chain doesn’t have a policy against not carrying controversial books, because the last time a book this controversial came around, the suits in corporate were pretty adamant about refusing to let it go out onto their shelves (at least until they realized customers weren’t impressed by their sense of propriety). For another, most bookstores we know keep the books that might cause trouble behind the counter, rather than resorting to elaborate hide-and-seek routines… And, as we remember from Monday, the chains reject or lowball books all the time, and not just because they’re unseemly.
On the other hand, these stories didn’t imagine themselves into existence, so we crowdsource it out to you, readers—did you go looking for The Jewel of Medina and have trouble finding it? And if you visit a bookstore this weekend, would you mind taking a quick look?