Dialogue Books has pre-empted “heart-wrenching and raw” novel The Selfless Act of Breathing by J J Bola in a two-book deal.
Publisher Sharmaine Lovegrove bought UK and Commonwealth rights, excluding Canada, from Maria Cardona at the Pontas Literary & Film Agency. The Selfless Act of Breathing will be published as a lead title on the imprint in March 2021 with a second novel, OTA, following in 2023.
The book tackles issues including mental health, police brutality and the power of love.
Its synopsis explains: “Michael decides to flee to America and end his life once all his savings run out. J J Bola’s second novel is a story of Millennial existential angst told through the eyes of a young Londoner who seems to have it all – a promising future, a solid career, strong friendships, a blossoming love story – but it’s the unbearable weight of life that leads him to decide to take his own. As he grapples with issues bigger than him – political conflict, environmental desecration, police brutality – Michael seeks to find his place within a world that is complicated and unwelcoming. Although he finds solace in the people that surround him, he alone must decide if his life is worth living.”
The second novel in the deal will be a historical fiction of the life of Ota Benga, a Mbuti man from Congo, who was captured and sold to Samuel Philips Verner, a missionary and anthropologist from the United States in 1904.
Bola, whose debut novel No Place to Call Home was published by OWN IT! In 2018, said: “I am incredibly excited to embark on this new chapter of my literary career for my second novel, The Selfless Act of Breathing. It has taken many years of hard work and sacrifice, not just of my own but many others to get here. I would like to thank Sharmaine Lovegrove, and the team at Dialogue and Little Brown, for believing in me and my art. I’m joining a team of many writers and professionals of the industry whom I am a fan of.
“I would also like to extend my many thanks to the Pontas Agency for the belief, constant support and encouragement, to OWN IT! for giving my debut novel a platform and always championing the outsiders, and for the many readers and supporters of my work, whether you have been there from the start of reading poems with a trembling hand at an open mic night with four people in a room, or if I have just peaked your interest now; no matter where along the way, I would not be here without you.”
Lovegrove added: “I’ve long admired the work of J J Bola and been super impressed with how the team at OWN IT! have launched his career. We are thrilled that J J has chosen Dialogue Books as his new home as he is a brilliant addition to the Dialogue family. J J’s talent is boundless, his intelligence deep and enquiring and his writing leaves a vivid and lasting impression that forces us to think anew. We’re going to have an amazing time ahead with this intersectional and meditative novel in 2021 and continue with his third novel Ota in 2023—a story that unearths a shameful hidden history to a new audience. My aim is to help J J Bola to take his space as a writer of immense talent, a voice of his generation.”
Cardona commented: “J J Bola is one of the most gifted and exciting storytellers of his generation, and with his second novel he’s grown immensely as a writer. Dialogue and Little Brown’s commitment and passion not only for this novel but for J J Bola’s career was exactly what we were looking for, and we couldn’t be more delighted. With all what’s currently happening in the world and in publishing, J J’s voice becomes essential.”
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