Canongate has acquired at auction two new non-fiction titles by behavioural scientist and freelance journalist Dr Pragya Agarwal—Free Will: A journey of motherhood and fertility and Hysterical: The Gendered Nature of Emotions.
Hannah Knowles, editorial director at Canongate, bought UK and Commonwealth rights to the two books from Robert Caskie at Robert Caskie. The deal follows the recent publication of the author's latest book, Sway: Unravelling Unconscious Bias with Bloomsbury.
Free Will is described by the author as being about "the choices we have, or don’t, as women, and specifically around reproductive autonomy". In the book, Dr Agarwal examines how the concept of motherhood shapes all women’s lives, whether they choose, or are able, to have children or not. And, through her personal experience, she looks at the lengths people will go to in order to have children and why, charting the impact of fertility and the loss of it. Topics explored include various aspects of childbirth, single parenthood and surrogacy against a backdrop of gender politics, feminism, race, age and class.
"Women’s choices are commonly wrought with anxiety and shame, including when choosing whether to have a child or not," said Dr Agarwal. "There are many books on motherhood, many excellent books in fact, but what we see and read about is rarely intersectional. The experience of motherhood differs from race and class, and if we took the social, economic and historical differences into account, we could be more aware of the oppression, diversity, and inequality amongst women."
Hysterical meanwhile charts "the history, science and politics of emotions, and how emotions came to be so gendered". In the book, Dr Agarwal looks at scientific studies, personal stories, and contemporary culture with an aim "to examine the relationship between the perceived gender identity of a person and the associated emotional expectations and stereotypes".
Dr Agarwal said: "I am delighted to be represented by Robert who immediately got my vision of these two books and found the perfect place for them with Canongate. I am also really pleased to be working with such an excellent editor as Hannah Knowles, who thrilled me with her passion and enthusiasm for these two books. I truly hope Free Will and Hysterical will inspire much conversation around women’s experiences. It is a huge privilege to be with Canongate, which has published so many of the authors I most admire."
Knowles said: "I count myself extremely fortunate to get to work with Dr Agarwal on her next books. She is an extraordinarily incisive, compassionate and intelligent thinker, and with these two new titles she shines a light on important aspects of womanhood and gender with her typical acuity and nuance."
Canongate will publish Free Will in summer 2021 as a £16.99 hardback. Hysterical's publication date has yet to be confirmed.