Fourth Estate pre-empts debut novel by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers

Fourth Estate pre-empts debut novel by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers

Fourth Estate has pre-empted a "stunning and ambitious" debut novel by prize-winning poet Honorée Fanonne Jeffers that chronicles the journey of multiple generations of one American family, from the centuries of the colonial slave trade through the Civil War to the present day.

Editorial director Kishani Widyaratna acquired British Commonwealth rights, excluding Canada, in physical, e-book and audio from Rachel Clements at Abner Stein for The Love Songs of W E B Du Bois on behalf of Sarah Burnes at The Gernert Company. The book will publish with Fourth Estate in hardback in January 2022, and in audio and e-book in October 2021.

The novel follows Ailey Pearl Garfield as she reckons with her ancestral history while growing up in the US in the 1980s and 90s. The publisher said: "The great scholar, W E B Du Bois, once wrote about the problem of race in America, and what he called ‘Double Consciousness’, a sensitivity that every African American person possesses in order to survive. Since childhood, Ailey Pearl Garfield has understood Du Bois’ words all too well. From an early age, Ailey fights a battle for belonging that is made all the more difficult by a hovering trauma, as well as the whispers of women—her mother, Belle, her sister, Lydia, and a maternal line reaching back two centuries—that urge her to succeed in their stead. To come to terms with her own identity, she embarks on a journey through her family’s past, uncovering the shocking tales of generations of ancestors—Indigenous, Black, and white—in the Deep South. In doing so, Ailey must learn to embrace her full heritage, a legacy of oppression and resistance, bondage and independence, cruelty and resilience that is the story—and the song—of America itself."

The Love Songs of W E B Du Bois has been longlisted for the 2021 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, and has been named as one of the most-anticipated books of the year by publications including the New York Times, People, Essence, Goodreads, Observer and Chicago Tribune

Widyaratna said: "At once an ambitious historical saga and an intimate portrait of a family, in The Love Songs of W E B Du Bois Honorée Fanonne Jeffers has crafted an important and enthralling page-turner that is as filled with vibrant ideas as it is with beautiful prose. We are proud to welcome Honorée to the Fourth Estate list and cannot wait for readers everywhere to meet Ailey Pearl Garfield and fall for this tremendous, heart-wrenching debut."

The author added: "I am absolutely thrilled to be published by Fourth Estate, and to introduce the characters of my novel, The Love Songs of W E B Du Bois, to readers in the UK. Fourth Estate has such a rich and renowned list of authors, and I’m honoured and grateful to be joining such esteemed company."

Jeffers is a fiction writer, poet and essayist. She is the author of five poetry collections, including The Age of Phillis (Wesleyan University Press), which won the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work in Poetry and was longlisted for a National Book Award. Jeffers was a finalist for the PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Poetry. She is critic-at-large for the Kenyon Review and teaches creative writing and literature at the University of Oklahoma.