Trapeze has pre-empted Neel Patel’s debut novel Tell Me How to Be, a coming-of-age story exploring xenophobia, sexual orientation, repressed desire, sibling rivalry and identity among first-generation Indian immigrants.
Rachel Neely, commissioning editor, and Shyam Kumar, assistant editor, acquired UK and Commonwealth rights from Holly Faulks at Greene & Heaton in a "whirlwind" pre-empt deal. It will be published as a lead title in January 2022.
The novel will focus on mother and son Akash and Renu Amin. The synopsis reads: "Akash, lost in the jungle of Los Angeles, is filled with shame. Shame for liking men. Shame for his alcoholism. But most of all, shame for what happened with the first boy he ever loved. Meanwhile, Akash’s mum, Renu, can't stop wondering if she chose the wrong life 35 years ago and should have stayed in London with her own first love, against her parents’ wishes. When their pasts catch up to them, Renu and Akash must decide between the lives they left behind and the ones they've since created."
Patel is a first-generation Indian-American writer. He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and his collection of short stories, If You See Me, Don’t Say Hi (Macmillan USA, 2018) was longlisted for the Story Prize and the Aspen Words Literary Prize.
He commented: "For Tell Me How to Be to find its UK home at Trapeze is a real honour. They have a brilliant heritage of publishing conversation starting books and I’m really thrilled to be working with them on my debut novel. Rachel, Shyam and their teams have shown me nothing but enthusiasm, passion and dedication from the moment the book was acquired and I’m so pleased to be announcing my book during Pride month in the UK."
Neely said: "Neel Patel is an incredibly talented author, and I am absolutely delighted to welcome him to Trapeze! At Trapeze our mission is to publish conversation-starting fiction and Tell Me How to Be perfectly fits that brief, sparking discussions about love and intolerance within families and wider communities. Following a mother and a son, this is a story of regret and reconciliation, as Akash and Renu learn not only to forgive one another, but to finally forgive themselves for the mistakes of the past. Poignant, but ultimately heart-warming, I know that Akash and Renu’s stories will resonate with readers everywhere."
Kumar added: "As a first-generation British Indian working in an industry that is run by a predominantly white demographic, I’m extremely conscious of not publishing stories where the focus of the story is merely the colour of its protagonists. This is the reason I fell in love with Tell Me How to Be. It is a refreshing, provocative and wonderfully nuanced story that subverts the reductive stereotypes too often seen in narratives about Indians that have immigrated to the West. Neel is an incredible talent and I implore everyone to read his book."