Picador has scooped Jamaican poet Safiya Sinclair’s memoir in a three-book deal following a heated seven-way auction.
Kishani Widyaratna at Picador bagged UK & Commonwealth and audio rights from Caspian Dennis at Abner Stein, on behalf of Janet Silver and Chelsey Heller at Aevitas Creative Management. It will publish memoir How To Say Babylon alongside poetry collection Cannibal on the same day in 2020, with an untitled historical novel set in Jamaica scheduled for 2022. Sinclair had already provoked a 17-publisher stampede for rights in the US.
How To Say Babylon tells Sinclair’s story of being born into a strict Rastafarian family in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Picador said: “It is the story of her relationship with her forbidding father, an itinerant reggae musician. It is also the story of her mother, who brought the world outside their walls to her bright children. With her love of books and poetry, Safiya’s imagination leapt beyond its restrictive borders, and she began to rebel. But that defiance against patriarchal customs brought ever more clashes with her father. Like the best memoirs, her extraordinary journey to selfhood takes readers beyond the experience of one family’s history and inside a world that is little understood by those outside it.”
Cannibal (University of Nebraska Press), her debut 2016 poetry collection, won the author a Whiting Writers’ Award. It was a finalist for the PEN Center USA Literary Award and was longlisted for the PEN Open Book Award and the Dylan Thomas Prize.
Widyaratna said: “In Safiya Sinclair we have a remarkable, once in a generation voice and in How To Say Babylon a future classic of the memoir form. All of us at Picador were completely gripped by Safiya’s lyrical and electric writing, and bowled over by the incredible young woman we came to know through reading her story. Picador have a rich history of publishing writers across all their forms and we are proud to carry that tradition forward to the next generation in providing a UK home for Safiya’s non-fiction, fiction and poetry. Safiya is an exhilarating and inspiring talent and I couldn’t be more exited for those of you yet to read her.’
Sinclair added: “I am absolutely thrilled to join the Picador family, a publisher whose works and authors I have long admired. Most of all, I am grateful to have the opportunity to present a more nuanced glimpse into the lives of Jamaican families to British audiences, and to deepen the global sense of our postcolonial inheritance through both my poetry and prose.”