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Announcing Kaitlyn Greenidge’s LIBERTIE

We are immensely excited to announce that we will publish LIBERTIE, the acclaimed second novel by American novelist and New York Times contributing writer Kaitlyn Greenidge.

LIBERTIE is the Roxane Gay Audacious Book Club pick for May 2021 and was named one of the most-anticipated books of the year by O, The Oprah MagazineThe MillionsRefinery29, Publishers LunchBuzzFeedThe RumpusBookPage and Harper’s Bazaar. The novel’s many fans include Jacqueline Woodson, Brandon Taylor, Garth Greenwell and Nafissa Thompson-Squires.

The novel is set in a richly-imagined 19th century New York and Haiti and was inspired by the fascinating life of Dr Susan Smith McKinney Steward, one of the first Black female doctors in the United States.

Kaitlyn Greenidge: ‘I am so excited to publish LIBERTIE with Serpent’s Tail. I feel honored to join the ranks of the brilliant writers they publish and I’m looking forward to the conversations I hope this novel will spark with readers.’

Rebecca Gray: ‘I’ve loved Kaitlyn Greenidge’s work since I read WE LOVE YOU, CHARLIE FREEMAN, so I’m thrilled she is joining Serpent’s Tail for LIBERTIE. It’s a stunning book about freedom, race, the hopes we have for our children and how history resonates through generations. We can’t wait to publish this historical novel by a star of contemporary fiction.’

Follow Kaitlyn @SurlyBassey on Twitter

Pre-order your copy at Bookshop.org, Waterstones or Amazon

ABOUT LIBERTIE:

Coming of age as a free-born Black girl in Brooklyn after the Civil War, Libertie Sampson was all too aware that her purposeful mother, a practising physician, had a vision for their future together: Libertie would go to medical school and practise alongside her. But Libertie, drawn more to music than science, feels stifled by her mother’s choices and is hungry for something else – is there really only one way to have an autonomous life? As she tries to work out what freedom actually means for a Black woman, Libertie struggles with where she might find it – for herself and for generations to come.

A NOTE ON THE COVER IMAGE

The striking cover portrait of an unidentified young Southern woman was suggested by Kaitlyn and is one of the historical artefacts that inspired LIBERTIE. It is from the Hugh Mangum archive at Duke University, a cache of negatives discovered in the photographer’s barn in the 1970s. They were taken between 1890 to 1922 in North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia and offer a unique survey of society at the time, cutting across race, class, and gender lines.

ABOUT KAITLYN GREENIDGE:

Kaitlyn Greenidge’s debut novel, We Love You, Charlie Freeman (Algonquin Books) was one of the New York Times Critics’ Top 10 Books of 2016. She has written for VogueGlamour and the Wall Street Journal, was a contributing editor for LENNY Letter and is currently a contributing writer for the New York Times. She has received fellowships from the Whiting Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and runs a popular newsletter. She tweets @surlybassey.

 

PRAISE FOR LIBERTIE:

‘This is one of the most thoughtful and amazingly beautiful books I’ve read all year. Kaitlyn Greenidge is a master storyteller.’ Jacqueline Woodson, author of Red at the Bone

‘In this singular novel, Kaitlyn Greenidge confronts the anonymizing forces of history with her formidable gifts. LIBERTIE is a glorious, piercing song for the ages—fierce, brilliant, and utterly free.’
Brandon Taylor, author of Real Life

‘Kaitlyn Greenidge has built a lush, imaginative novel, as dark and beautiful as its namesake yet as relevant today as during its 19th-century setting. I didn’t want it to end, and I fear that any attempt to render its complexity with brevity equals a failure to capture the book’s vast depth and its conversation with so many other important historical and literary works. A page turner and a gorgeous winner.’ Nafissa Thompson-Spires, author of Heads of the Colored People

‘The voice that fuels this novel is rooted in the body and rises toward myth, forged of history, ocean salt, iron, and hope. With LIBERTIE, Kaitlyn Greenidge adds an indelible new sound to American literature, and confirms her status as one of our most gifted young writers.’ Garth Greenwell, author of What Belongs to You and Cleanness

 

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The Essex Serpent Apple TV series coming 2022

We’ve had news of the series coming for a while but more exciting news is here – Claire Danes has been cast as Cora, the leading role, and Tom Hiddleston as Will!

In The Essex Serpent, newly widowed Cora (Danes), having being released from an abusive marriage, relocates from Victorian London to the small village of Aldwinter in Essex, intrigued by a local superstition that a mythical creature known as the Essex Serpent has returned to the area.

Claire Danes is an Emmy, Golden Globe and SAG Award-winner (“Homeland,” “Temple Grandin”).  The series will be directed by Clio Barnard (“The Selfish Giant,” “The Arbor”). Anna Symon (“Deep Water,” “Mrs Wilson”) will serve as lead writer. Jamie Laurenson, Hakan Kousetta, Patrick Walters, Iain Canning, Emile Sherman will executive produce the show alongside Clio Barnard and Anna Symon. Andrea Cornwell will serve as producer.

The Essex Serpent will be produced for Apple TV+ by See-Saw Films, and is commissioned for Apple out of the UK by Apple’s Heads of Worldwide Video, Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht, and Creative Director for Europe Worldwide Video, Jay Hunt.

 Find out more at Variety

Buy your copy of The Essex Serpent

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In the Dream House shortlisted for Folio Prize

We are thrilled that Carmen Maria Machado’s In the Dream House has been selected for the 2021 Rathbones Folio Prize shortlist.

‘Ravishingly beautiful’ Observer
‘Excruciatingly honest and yet vibrantly creative’ Irish Times
‘Provocative and rich’ Economist
‘Daring, chilling, and unlike anything else you’ve ever read’ Esquire
‘An absolute must-read for 2020’ Stylist

SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2021 RATHBONES FOLIO PRIZE

In the Dream House is Carmen Maria Machado’s engrossing and wildly innovative account of a relationship gone bad. Tracing the full arc of a harrowing experience with a charismatic but volatile woman, this is a bold dissection of the mechanisms and cultural representations of psychological abuse.

Each chapter views the relationship through a different lens, as Machado holds events up to the light and examines them from distinct angles. She casts a critical eye over legal proceedings, fairy tales, Star Trek and Disney villains, as well as iconic works of film and fiction, infusing all with her characteristic wit, playfulness and openness to enquiry. The result is a powerful book that explodes our ideas about what a memoir can do and be.

Buy your copy

 

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Under the Blue: read an extract

‘A super-smart and relentlessly gripping addition to the eco-fiction genre, Under the Blue is by turns chilling, incisive, and casually hilarious. It also features one of the most convincing sentient-AI characters in recent fiction’ Sandra Newman, author of The Heavens

A road trip beneath clear blue skies and a blazing sun: a reclusive artist is forced to abandon his home after a mysterious plague sweeps the nation. He is followed by his neighbour and her sister, who have a plan: to leave the country and travel across Europe to Africa, where it’s said to be safe.

Meanwhile two computer scientists have been educating their baby in a remote location. Their baby is called Talos, and he is an advanced AI program. Every week they feed him data, starting from the beginning of written history, era by era, and ask him to predict what will happen next to the human race. At the same time they’re involved in a increasingly fraught philosophical debate about Talos’ existence: is building an AI for the purpose of predicting threats to human life an ethical – or even worthwhile – pursuit?

These two strands come together in a way that is always suspenseful, surprising and intellectually provocative: this is an extraordinarily prescient and vital work of fiction – an apocalyptic road novel to frighten and thrill.

Read an extract from the opening chapter below.

Pre-order your copy


It has never taken him this long to finish a project. The problem, he knows, is that he wants too much from this one painting. She’s like a woman, the canvas: you cannot approach her in despair. She has to know that you are free to walk away. You do not come to her begging, reeking of guilt.

He has stepped back from the canvas, meaning to take it in from a distance, when he sees on the road outside his studio a man and a woman, both wearing gas masks, both loaded with suitcases and backpacks. They throw their luggage into the boot of a car and take off with a screech.

Gas masks?

He brings a hand to his forehead, makes an effort to step out of himself, to focus on the matter at hand. To make sense of what he sees.

How long has it been since he last spoke to someone?

‘In light of recent events …’ last week’s text had started, the one from the course administrator that informed him his classes were cancelled. He assumed … What did he assume?

He sits in front of the canvas, frozen, for a long time. No action seems adequate or desirable. He finally stirs when he hears noises on the landing. He goes to the door and looks through the peephole. Nothing at first, then Twenty-Two comes rushing along, fumbling with her keys, dropping them. She is sobbing, and when she unlocks her door she almost falls into her flat.

He steps back from the peephole, looks down at his bare feet. He has taken off his shoes and socks because of the heat. His toes are rosy-pale and dainty, clinging uncertainly to the cool tiles. The whole of him, that’s what he feels like all of a sudden. Unshod, exposed, unprepared.

He takes a few steps towards the living room, intending to turn on the TV, but then, remembering the power cut, he reaches for the light switch, jiggles it up and down. The light bulbs stay dark. Weakly, he wanders around the flat looking for his mobile. He last checked it a couple of days ago. His phone is old and dumb, but its battery lasts ages.

He finds it on a shelf in the hallway. It still shows one bar.

He slides down along the wall and sits on the floor. Who to call? He tries his friend David, gets an unavailable message, then Matt at the gallery, whose phone rings and rings. He tries two more numbers and finally, desperately, the course administrator at the Academy, the last person to contact him. He hears a scratching noise and thinks what’s-her-name has picked up. ‘Hello!’ he shouts. When there’s no reply, he looks at the screen. The phone has died.

He remembers the deserted reception desk downstairs, the empty streets, the homeless person asking him where everyone’s gone. The neighbours with the gas masks.

People have left. Whatever happened, it has chased people out of their homes.

That thought triggers something in him, and he finally acts with some urgency. The first thing he does is go to the studio and throw brushes, paints, solvent, canvas roll, a sketchbook into a plastic bag. He touches the canvas, knowing what he’ll find. There’s the skin, but underneath that the paint is wet. No way can he roll it.

He wonders how late he is.

He empties the fridge and the cupboards of food, puts pasta, sliced ham, tomato soup, frozen chicken thighs, tinned mackerel and baked beans in Tim’s old gym bag. There is already some food at the cottage; when he last left the cupboards were full of cans. He stands looking at the kitchen tap, considers taking drinking water. He remembers that the cottage is five minutes away from a stream, and moves on to the bedroom.

He starts packing clothes, but by now he’s lost the capacity to concentrate and just stuffs anything he comes across into a suitcase. He should have sat down and made a list.

Before he sets off, he pauses outside Twenty-Two’s flat and knocks on the door.

‘Hello,’ he says. He rings the doorbell. He thinks he can hear footsteps, feels she’s just beyond the door.

‘Do you need help?’ He tries to say this loud enough so she can hear, but without shouting.

Back in his flat, he tears out a page from a notebook and writes down the Devon address. ‘Harry (flat 23)’, he signs. He pushes it under her door.

He makes three trips to the underground car park, the last one with a bag full of wine bottles. The parking lot is even emptier than usual. He breathes heavily; remembering the couple with the gas masks, he has tied a scarf around his mouth and nose. He resists the childish, stupid impulse to sniff the air. On his windscreen, there’s an A4 flier showing a dotted map of Europe; it says ‘CONTAMINATION MAP’ at the top. He throws it in the car, he will make sense of it later.

As he drives off, the things he forgot to pack come to him in a neat list: razors, soap, loo roll, phone charger, lighter, any kind of medication. Drinking water for the trip.

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Five Books for Your 2021 LGBTQ+ History Month TBR

Our intern Georgia Popplett picks five books for LGBTQ+ History Month 2021. Follow her at @GeorgiaPoplett

As the anniversary of the first UK lockdown approaches, what better time to explore all the rich and varied modes of being as celebrated by LGBTQ+ History Month?

While contemporary queer expression has carved out a unique cultural space today, on the flip side of current (very necessary) social distancing rules are the brutal homophobic laws which prohibited queer contact up until the late twentieth century. This context makes LGBTQ+ History Month 2021 an opportunity to reflect on queer experience in unusually striking circumstances.

Here are 5 LGBTQ+ titles for the top of your LGBTQ+ History Month pile – no 2m rule required.

All books are available online via the links below. For all our latest news and new non-fiction reads, join our newsletter.


In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado

Recently shortlisted for the Rathbones Folio Prize, In the Dream House is an inimitable and vital account of abuse in a lesbian relationship. Machado reframes queer domestic violence through a kaleidoscope of genres, bound together by a part-memoir, part-essay haunted house structure. Described variously as a ‘genre-bending queer gothic memoir’[1], Machado’s work will stay with you long after February 2021.

Get your copy

Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters

The first book by a trans woman to be released by a major publishing house, Detransition, Baby is an unflinching portrait of the realities of being trans in all forms. When Ames – formerly Amy – discovers his boss Katrina is pregnant, he contacts ex-lover Reese and asks if she would join him in parenting their child. Ames has detransitioned, Reese is trans, Katrina is cis; but the tension in Detransition, Baby does not come from trans-vs-cis ideologies. Hailed by The Guardian as ‘the first great trans realist novel’[2], Peters moves mesmerisingly between typification and bold reconfiguration of what trans means.

Get your copy

Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Riotous Black Girls, Troublesome Women and Queer Radicals by Saidiya Hartman

Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments is a stunning anthology of Black, feminist, and queer experiences in Philadelphia and New York at the turn of the twentieth century. Through the eyes of a chorus of characters drawn from archival imagination, Hartman interrogates the mythology of ‘nowhere’ – the slum; the ghetto; the in-between spaces beyond the confines of societal norms. As many people of colour redefined the meaning of freedom during the era, Hartman examines how this interacted with young women’s expanding parameters: of labour, of love, and of life itself.

Get your copy

A Ruined Girl by Kate Simants

Kate Simants’s psychological crime thriller may be an unexpected addition to this list, but it is a good one: while protagonist Wren Reynolds deals with a major missing girl plot, she is also expecting a new baby with her wife. When a prime suspect in the case is paroled, probation officer Wren’s personal and professional lives collide with unforeseen consequences for all involved. Winner of the Bath Novel Award 2019, A Ruined Girl is an unputdownable drama about a broken care system with an LGBTQ+ undercurrent.

Get your copy

To the Friend Who Did Not Save My Life by Hervé Guibert

To the Friend Who Did Not Save My Life is a blackly comic masterpiece which is as heart-shredding as it is humorous. First published in 1990, the novel narrates three months in the life of a man diagnosed with AIDS, bearing witness to his physical and emotional decline. After the death of his friend Muzil, the narrator consults doctor after doctor, seeking answers in medication and alternative healing. Guibert died at 36 the year after the book’s initial publication. In arch, candid prose, his work is a searing testament to his life and character. This edition is translated by Linda Coverdale and published in July.

Pre-order your copy

[1] https://www.huckmag.com/art-and-culture/books-art-and-culture/carmen-maria-machado-on-lockdown-utopias-and-writing/

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/books/2021/jan/07/detransition-baby-by-torrey-peters-review-a-comedy-of-manners#:~:text=Perhaps%20Detransition%2C%20Baby%20is%20the,structural%20conventions%20of%20literary%20realism.

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Read Like a Writer podcast – Season 2

Season 2 of our books podcast with Faber and Canongate has launched today with Detransition, Baby author Torrey Peters being interviewed by our brilliant host Anna Fielding. Their riveting conversation covers trans writing, the books that have influenced Torrey the most, and her favourite Brooklyn bookshop.

Later episodes in the series are set to feature Salena Godden, Cat Ward, Leone Ross and Emma Jane Unsworth.

Follow @readlikeapod on Twitter

You can download on your usual podcast platform. Happy listening!

Acast: https://play.acast.com/s/readlikeawriter/10-torreypeters
Apple: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/10-torrey-peters/id1432450717?i=1000506961172
Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/episode/49fBP3U1A91OB6JGSsmbOd?si=VkE0IIXJT22Q225kh54jQg

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Announcing Oana Aristide’s Under the Blue

A literary thriller about a pandemic, the rise of AI, and how – or why – we might save the human race.

A road trip beneath clear blue skies and a blazing sun: a reclusive artist is forced to abandon his home and follow two young sisters across a post-pandemic Europe in search of a safe place. Is this the end of the world?

Meanwhile two computer scientists have been educating their baby in a remote location. Their baby is called Talos, and he is an advanced AI program. Every week they feed him data, starting from the beginning of written history, era by era, and ask him to predict what will happen next to the human race. At the same time, they’re involved in a increasingly fraught philosophical debate about why human life is sacred and why the purpose for which he was built – to predict threats to human life to help us avoid them – is a worthwhile and ethical pursuit.

These two strands come together in a way that is always suspenseful, surprising and intellectually provocative: this is an extraordinarily prescient and vital work of fiction – an apocalyptic road novel to frighten and thrill.

Serpent’s Tail will publish Under the Blue as a £14.99 hardback in March 2021.

Pre-order your copy

Advance Praise for Under the Blue

‘A book of insight and foresight, lit with wit and gorgeous with intelligence’, Jay Griffiths, author of Wild: An Elemental Journey and Why Rebel

‘A super-smart and relentlessly gripping addition to the ecofiction genre, Under the Blue is by turns chilling, incisive, and casually hilarious. It also features one of the most convincing sentient-AI characters in recent fiction, ’Sandra Newman, author of The Heavens 

Under the Blue is a novel with a terrible beauty. Oana Aristide gives us so much to think about: environmental destruction, the melting of the polar ice, eco-terrorism, but all within a heart-stopping story of three survivors travelling through Europe alone. I couldn’t look away,’ Claire Fuller, author of Bitter Orange

‘Extraordinary … it is ostensibly a compelling, addictive post-apocalyptic thriller, but also a ferociously intelligent examination of artificial intelligence, a highly accomplished treatise on the function of art, and a lyrical, moving, vitally urgent plea for expanded ecological awareness. It is a book with the force of prophecy,’ Niall Griffiths, author of Broken Ghost

‘Terrifying but hopeful, smart, vital and urgent: the ultimate must-read, ’Charles Foster, author of Being a Beast

‘Highly readable and chilling. Threads together a pandemic storyline with the implications of AI in a way that is very intriguing and especially relevant today,’ Mark Lynas, author of Our Final Warning: Six Degrees of Climate Emergency

Under the Blue fuses the ‘keep moving’ urgency that drives apocalyptic road novels with a restrained love story and a science fiction that is at once unnerving, tender and credible’ Cynan Jones, author of The Dig

‘Chillingly evocative and relentlessly unsettling,’ Christopher Brookmyre, author of Fallen Angel

About Oana Aristide

Oana was born in Transylvania, to parents of Romanian, Greek and Yemeni background. After the fall of communism the family emigrated to Sweden. Oana has worked in the City of London as a macroeconomist, and as an advisor to the Romanian prime minister, but since 2018 she has lived on a Greek island, converting a heritage villa into a hotel.

Follow Oana on Twitter