Canongate lands McCrae's 'emotionally forthright' memoir

Canongate lands McCrae's 'emotionally forthright' memoir

Canongate is to publish US poet Shane McCrae's memoir Pulling the Chariot of the Sun. 

Ellah Wakatama, editor-at-large, acquired UK and Commonwealth rights (excluding Canada) to the work from Natasha Fairweather and Matthew Marland at RCW. Penguin Press secured North American rights.

Pulling the Chariot of the Sun is McCrae’s first prose book, and memoir of being kidnapped from his black father by his white maternal grandparents, who refused to acknowledge his heritage.

The synopsis reads: "Taught to hate people who look like him—and, by extension, that part of himself—while also suppressing the trauma of the racial, physical and verbal abuse he suffers, Shane is increasingly unable to recognise himself and the truth of his experience. This otherness is reflected in his environment: as they move between Texas, California and Oregon, the landscape of his childhood is suburban and segregated middle America.

"As Shane relates his story, the book becomes a dramatic account of the act of memory and its fallibility. As his self-awareness evolves, so too does his experience of being starkly out of place.

"This deeply personal memoir shows how, through skateboarding and poetry, a new family, Shane discovered who he is. It is also a profound reflection of what it means to live in an anti-Black society. It is about what is broken in America—but also what might heal it."

McCrae is an academic and poet. He has published seven books of poetry, including In the Language of My Captor, a finalist for the National Book Award; and most recently Sometimes I Never Suffered, which was shortlisted for the T S Eliot Prize. His work has also been featured in The Best American Poetry 2010, and his honours include a Whiting Writers’ Award, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and a Guggenheim Fellowship. McCrae went on to earn an MFA at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and a JD at Harvard Law School. He teaches at Columbia. 

Commenting on the deal, he said: "Pulling the Chariot of the Sun is a book I've hoped to write for 15 years; writing it, I've finally begun to discover who I am, and who I have been. Though I have lived my whole life as a kidnapped person, I have only just discovered, as I have written this book, how present that wound is, and how deep it goes. I feel honoured to join the list of writers published by Canongate—as a lover of English things from the moment I began to love things of my own choosing (as far as I know, I was the only teen in my town who regularly drove 50 miles to pay import prices for copies of Melody Maker and NME), it is both the beginning and achievement of a dream."

Wakatama added: "Shane’s story is harrowing. But what excited me most about this book was the sheer ambition in the author’s use of language and form to interrogate memory and self. There is an alchemy here born of an accomplished poet’s desire to communicate his truth. Shane leads the reader on a journey riding the waves of his beautiful sentences—artfully crafted, emotionally forthright and impossible to put down."