Friday, 8 September 2017

Guest Post by Lisa K: A Little Bookstore and 'The Satanic Verses'

Back in July I posted teasers from Salman Rushdie's The Golden House, which I greatly enjoyed. But then I received a comment on the post by Lisa from Lisa K's Book Reviews that truly intrigued me. In it, she spoke of her experiences when The Satanic Verses first came out, the controversy it caused across the world and what that meant for her.  I immediately got in touch with her and am truly blessed she agreed to write a guest post for us about that time. Before we go into her writing, however, I want to add a quick note. For those who know little about the controversy around the book, and about Rushdie's writing in general, it is perhaps worth reading up on it in order to understand the outrage and offence it caused. Literature has an incredibly power to inspire people, both to creativity and to anger. Add to that mix the explosive element of religion, and you have yourself a literary Molotov cocktail. Although the threats and intimidation Lisa writes about below are never justified, it is something we as readers can perhaps understand considering our own passion for books.

I'm honoured to share that guest post with you now!

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While I have no doubt The Golden House is an amazing piece of writing, after all, Salman Rushdie has been authoring books for several decades now, each time I hear of a new Rushdie book, memories return to me of another book of his that caused a very frightening time for booksellers.
Image result for the satanic versesIn 1988 I managed a small bookstore for two years. A dream job for me since I’m an avid reader. I was happy in my world of books and magazines. My sister worked in the same mall (She also managed a bookstore, one much larger than mine), so we got to have lunch together, drive to work together. I loved every minute of it. Until September 1988 and the release of Salman Rusdie’s The Santanic Verses. I’m not sure how many of you remember when that book was first released, but I’m not likely to ever forget.
In The Satanic Verses, like many of Rushdie’s books, the author used real life events and people to create his fictional stories. He used accounts from historians in the part of the story dealing with the satanic verses. While winning many awards for this work of fiction, there was outrage among Muslims claiming it was blasphemy and it was mocking their faith. Ayatollah Khomeini called for Rushie’s death, which in turn led to assassination attempts on the author.
The Muslim community wasn’t just angry with Salman Rushdie, they were angry with any of us selling his book. They demanded we stop selling the books or “something bad would happen”. I couldn’t believe things were this bad over a work of fiction. My sister and I kept the books on our shelves (When we weren’t sold out). Sure, we’d read about the threats, heard about them on the news, but in our corner of Delaware nothing had happened.
One day my sister informed me her store had been the target of threats. Threats meaning, bombs, guns, all around “You’ll die if you continue to sell the book” type threats. My sister, never one to give in to anyone, kept her books displayed. If I remember correctly, she even ordered more copies and made a bigger display. I kept mine out as well. I figure I was too little to target. I was wrong.
The Golden HouseWhile working alone one day, a woman came into my store. I had The Satanic Verses on display in my store window. She approached me at the register and insisted I stop selling the books. I told her I couldn’t do that. The book was a bestseller, and the owner of my store wouldn’t be happy if I removed them. She quickly informed me that if I didn’t remove them bad things would happen to me and the store. I told her again I could only do what my bosses told me to do. She informed me that I was making a big mistake. She let me know I would pay for not removing the books. That I would be sorry. She would be back, but not alone. With that, she turned and left. Now, I was only twenty-one years old at the time, and she had managed to scare the life out of me. From that day on, until everything calmed down, I sold the book from under my counter.
I have always regretted giving in. I chalk it up to my young age. The me I am today . . . well, if that happened, I would build the biggest display I could, plaster my windows with posters of the cover, and stand at the store entrance waving the book and yelling “Come and get it!”
I haven’t followed the career of Salman Rushdie, too many bad memories I guess. I knew he had written many more books, but I honestly didn’t know he was still writing until I read about The Golden House here on Juli’s blog. While I won’t be reading the author’s new book (Nothing to do with bad memories. I’m a cozy mystery reader, so this one isn’t for me), I wish Mr. Rushdie all the best, and hope he sees great sales!
Lisa K of Lisa Ks Book Reviews
Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us, Lisa! I haven't read The Satanic Verses myself yet, mainly because I always struggled connecting with Rushdie's writing. That is, until I read The Golden House. If you have time, check out my review for it.

Find Lisa K on Facebook, Twitter and of course on her own blog! Also, please do share your thoughts on what Lisa has written or any similar experiences you have had yourself. Be warned, I will not allow offensive comments on my blog. Would you like to write a guest post? Do email me!


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Thank you for having me on your blog today, Juli. It was interesting as I wrote the post to remember what my young self did then compared to how I know I would handle it now.

  3. I worked in a bookstore way back when. I remember those days. Thanks for sharing!

  4. A powerful commentary, Lisa, thank you for sharing!

  5. Wow, Lisa. What a great post. Thank you so much for sharing about your life. I had no idea you and your sister managed bookstores.

    Unlike you, I would have given in. It wouldn't have been worth my life. So interesting!