Vintage has snapped up three titles from American novelist Bernice L McFadden, with the first book, Sugar, to be published 21 years after its debut in the US.
Vintage has acquired the UK and Commonwealth rights, excluding Canada, to novel Sugar, its sequel This Bitter Earth, and McFadden’s memoir First Born Girls. Rights were acquired from Jillian Fata, associate manager of subsidiary rights at Dutton, Penguin Random House, in a joint deal with Chatto & Windus editor Charlotte Humphery and Nick Skidmore, senior editor at Vintage Classics.
McFadden has written 10 novels and is a three-time Hurston/Wright Legacy Award finalist, as well as the recipient of three awards from the Black Caucus American Library Association. Her most recent novel, Praise Song for the Butterflies (Jacaranda Books), was longlisted for the Women’s Prize in 2019.
Sugar is scheduled for 5th August, more than two decades after its publication in America. “Young and confident, with a swagger in her step, Sugar arrives in the small southern town of Bigelow with the hope of starting over,” Vintage said. “Soon Bigelow is alight with gossip and suspicion, and Sugar fears she can’t hide from her past. Until, that is, she meets Pearl, her next-door neighbour. Over sweet-potato pie, an unlikely friendship begins, transforming both women’s lives and the life of an entire town.”
The publisher said the novel will be “vividly bringing 1950s Deep South America to life” exploring ignorance and superstition as it "takes us on a journey through loss and suffering to a place of forgiveness, understanding, and grace”. The sequel, This Bitter Earth, will be published in summer 2022.
Skidmore said: “When Sugar first came in to us at Vintage Classics, it immediately set the team alight. First published in America 21 ago, here in our hands was a book that we had long been seeking out: a modern classic, ripe for rediscovery, but also a book that could speak directly to our current moment and entertain too."
Chatto & Windus will also publish First Born Girls, described by the publisher as “a compulsive, intimate and deeply moving memoir of four generations of mothers and daughters whose experiences shed light on a century of Black American history”.
The blurb reads: “It follows Thelma, born and raised in the Jim Crow South, and pregnant at 15; Vivian, born in the midst of the Second World War, and jailed at 15; Bernice, child of the Civil Rights Movement, and a runaway at fifteen; and Bernice’s own daughter, Ryane.”
“After Vivian suffers a serious brain injury in 2016, Bernice finds herself caring for her mother, whose memories have slipped away. They shelter in place together as the pandemic rages and Black Americans march in protest."
Humphery said: ”Bernice L McFadden’s fiction is deft and enthralling and her memoir holds all that power and more. The stories of the women in her family are gripping, dramatic and written with stirring immediacy. First Born Girls will be an important personal and political history and an irresistible book. I’m thrilled that more readers in the UK will have a chance to encounter Bernice’s work.”
McFadden commented: “I am honoured and humbled that 21 years after Sugar debuted, the dreams and aspirations I harbored for the story to breach the borders of its impetus have now come to fruition. It is my great pleasure to have Sugar and This Bitter Earth published by Vintage Classics, joining the ranks of so many time honored novels that inspired me along this literary odyssey of mine. I am looking forward to publishing First Born Girls with Chatto & Windus.”