Jonathan Cape has scooped a "razor-sharp" debut novel and collection of essays from Jessica Zhan Mei Yu in a four-way auction.
Editorial director Željka Marošević acquired UK and Commonwealth rights from Sophie Scard at United Agents in a joint deal with Penguin Random House Australia.
The novel, But the Girl, is a "wry and razor-sharp" coming-of-age story that follows a young Malaysian-Australian woman known simply as "Girl" from childhood to adulthood. As she leaves behind her tight-knit Malaysian-Australian family to embark on friendships and romantic relationships, she begins to question the limited place offered to her in Australian society.
In 2020, the novel was shortlisted for the Victorian Premier’s Prize for Literature Award in the unpublished manuscript category. Jonathan Cape will publish it in spring 2023.
The essay collection, All the Stain is Tender, will follow in spring 2024 and is a "whip-smart, unflinching analysis of the ways in which the white gaze imposes itself upon and distorts Asian identity, via films, food, sex and more". Billed as both cultural interrogation and a work of memoir, it will cover topics such as swamps and anti-Asian rhetoric in Australian politics, interracial relationships and finding or losing your identity through food.
Marošević said: "Jessica is a triple-threat writer: her writing feels effortless and essential whether she is writing poetry, fiction or essay. I loved But the Girl for its irrepressible wit and spiky warmth, while All the Stain is Tender is a deeply-researched and sharply observed collection of essays that establishes Jessica as an exciting new thinker. I can’t wait for readers to discover her many talents."
The author commented: "I am so excited to be working with Željka Marošević and the team at Jonathan Cape on my debut novel and essay collection. Željka has such a strong reputation as an insightful editor and Cape’s list has so, so many writers that I deeply admire. I'm thrilled."
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