Myriad has bought world rights to The Day I Fell Off My Island by Yvonne Bailey-Smith, a coming-of-age novel set in Jamaica and the UK.
Rights were acquired direct from the author, with publication scheduled for summer 2021. Bailey-Smith is the mother of novelist Zadie Smith, and this is her first novel.
The story will follow Erna Mullings, a teenage Jamaican girl uprooted from her island following the sudden death of her beloved grandmother. Erna is sent to England to be reunited with her siblings, but she dreads leaving behind her elderly grandfather, and the only life she has ever known. The next decade will bring a complex journey of estrangement and arrival, new beginnings and the uncovering of long-buried secrets, says the publisher.
Publishing director Candida Lacey said: "Erna’s story will speak to those who have been reluctant immigrants the world over—the children who have to deal with the upheavals and transitions associated with moving to a new country or a new family. Yvonne Bailey-Smith is a true storyteller. She conjures a vivid sense of time and place, and the stark contrast between Erna’s beloved island home and her reluctantly adopted homeland.
"We published an extract from the novel in New Daughters of Africa (edited by Margaret Busby, 2019) and fell in love with Erna at once. She is a terrific character and so full of love and generosity, despite having so much loss to bear and hard truths to face; she a shining and resilient heroine, and we applaud her every step of her way towards adulthood. Her story of innocence and experience will touch the hearts and minds of readers worldwide, and sit alongside classic coming-of age novels, from Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre to Alice Walker’s The Color Purple."
Bailey-Smith commented: "As an immigrant child, I often wished that someone had been able to take me aside and explain to me that leaving everything I knew to go on a so-called adventure to somewhere way beyond my imagination was going cause me an unimaginable sense of loss and sadness. I also wish that the same person had been there to reassure me that I would survive and even flourish, given half a chance. My work and conversations with children, young people and adults, as well as with many friends, have given me a unique insight into the travails of people who have experienced things for which they felt utterly unprepared at the time."
Bailey-Smith was born in Jamaica in 1954 and emigrated to the UK in 1969. Her three children are novelist Zadie Smith, actor and musician Ben Bailey Smith, and rapper Luc Skyz.