Orion’s new literary-commercial imprint Phoenix has acquired UK and Commonwealth rights to If This Is Peace by New York Times-bestselling author Dolen Perkins-Valdez in an overnight pre-empt. Publisher Francesca Main acquired the novel in a two-book deal from Stephanie Cabot at Susanna Lea Associates, who sold North American rights to Amanda Bergeron at Berkley in a major deal.
Set in 1970s Alabama and inspired by true events, If This Is Peace is the story of a black nurse who makes a shocking discovery about two young sisters in her care, and her fight against the systematic sterilisation of women and girls across America. When Civil Townsend begins working at the Montgomery Family Planning Clinic, she is eager to make a difference to the lives of fellow black families in her home town. She soon realises the terrible reality of the work she has been asked to carry out when she meets two young sisters, Erica and India Williams, who she injects with birth control. When Civil learns more about the drug she’s administering, she begins to question the intentions of the clinic and tries to intervene. But her actions lead to an irreversible trauma for the girls, and the Williams family embark on a fight for justice, first with the clinic and then the US government.
Main said: "I read If This Is Peace compulsively, late into the night, unable to put it down until its bittersweet conclusion. It explores powerful themes of race, class and eugenics, but is above all the deeply moving and unforgettable story of a health worker’s love for two girls in her care and the pursuit of both justice and redemption. It feels like a modern classic and an international bestseller in the making – I can’t wait for readers here to discover it."
Perkins-Valdez is the author of the New York Times-bestselling novel Wench. She is the current chair of the Board of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation and associate professor in the Literature Department at American University. She lives in Washington, DC with her family. She added: "In 1973, a horrible wrong was committed against two young sisters from Montgomery, Alabama. When I learned of this case, a case that made national headlines and helped bring to light the thousands of impoverished women across the country who had been involuntarily sterilised, I could not help but wonder how something like this was allowed to happen. The result of my inability to shake this thought is this novel, which raises questions of culpability and ethics in a society that deems poor, black, and disabled as categories unfit for motherhood, questions that remain salient today. I am so honored to join the Phoenix/Orion family and share this story with readers throughout the UK and Commonwealth."
If This Is Peace will be published as a lead Phoenix title in Summer 2022.