Tiny Moons: A Year of Eating in Shanghai, a food memoir by Nina Mingya Powles, has proven popular with readers during lockdown, becoming a bestselling title for the publisher.
Gayle Lazda, a bookseller at the London Review Bookshop, said: “Books that get called ‘a word of mouth bestseller’ generally aren’t, but Tiny Moons really is. Ever since I picked it up on a whim and read it cover to cover when I should have been working, I’ve watched with delight as it crept across my various timelines, bringing joy – and intense hunger – as it went.
“I don’t think there’s any mystery as to why it’s had such success: Tiny Moons is good food writing that does exactly what good food writing should. It makes you hungry, yes, but it also opens up a world around it – a city, a language, a history; all the interconnectedness of the world, through the lens of one woman, greedy for dumplings.”
Following the UK lockdown on 23rd March, Emma Wright, founder of Birmingham-based publisher The Emma Press, was wondering along with all the other small press publishers what impact the pandemic would have on book sales and how best to respond.
Emma Wright said: “Tiny Moons was already doing very well post-launch, and I actually had to order the first reprint before the launch event, as the pre-orders had taken me by surprise. By the standards of the big publishers the quantities are small (200 each time), but for a small publisher these numbers are significant, especially without reviews or any prize attention.
“Then stock levels were low again in mid March, when the writing was on the wall for the lockdown, so I took a risk and ordered another reprint. I wasn’t sure if anyone would be buying books in this time, so I might have just been sitting on them for months, but I thought the printers might shut soon and I wanted to be prepared, just in case the demand continued. As it’s happened, Tiny Moons has been a consistent seller during lockdown, and there have only been 9 days when I didn’t sell any through my webshop.”
Nina Mingya Powles said: “Tiny Moons started out as a diary, and was written at a time when I was feeling especially lonely and far away from home. To hear that it’s brought comfort and joy to readers from all over the world at this time is truly overwhelming.
“I never imagined that my small book would reach this many people. A friend said to me that reading Tiny Moons made them go and call their grandma – that’s the best possible review.”
Tiny Moons is a collection of essays about food and belonging. Powles journeys between Wellington, Kota Kinabalu and Shanghai, tracing the constants in her life: eating and cooking, and the dishes that have come to define her. Through childhood snacks, family feasts, Shanghai street food and student dinners, she attempts to find a way back towards her Chinese-Malaysian heritage.
Since lockdown, The Emma Press has been running weekly readings with Emma Press authors, every Friday at 7pm. Powles gave a reading and Q&A on Friday 1st May, and the recording is available to watch on The Emma Press Facebook page here.