Sam Eades at Trapeze Books has acquired Salma El-Wardany’s debut novel The Way We Were, alongside Seema Mahanian at US publisher Grand Central, in a six-figure pre-empt.
The deal for world English language rights was struck by Florence Rees at the A M Heath Literary Agency. The novel will be a Trapeze Books and Grand Central lead title, published simultaneously in June 2022.
El-Wardany is a writer, poet, speaker and BBC radio presenter, who has given two TED Talks and partners with organisations and global brands to have "uncomfortable conversations that have been ignored for so long". As a Muslim woman of colour, she’s struggled against stereotypes and marginalisation, specifically, how difficult womanhood is in a patriarchal world, says the publisher.
Her debut, The Way We Were, will centre around female storytelling and the power of a woman's voice. It will chart the dreams and disappointments of a group of British Muslim women; Jenna, Kees and Malak. They have been friends for years: the three of them together against the world is how it’s always been. Yet one night changes everything between them and they are left adrift, marooned from each other as their lives take different paths. Without the support of each other, nothing seems to go quite right in their lives. Malak and Kees, having said things to each other they’ll always regret, don’t know how to come back together and Jenna has to live with the fallout.
Eades said: "The Way We Were is an electric study of female friendship, and a book I have long been wanting to publish at Trapeze Books. Through our three heroes Salma explores themes and ideas readers will want to talk about such as faith, identity, sexual trauma, loneliness and domestic abuse as well as the nature of female desire and sexuality. I loved hearing from Salma about how these characters came to be, that they are in some ways composites of herself and her friendship group and that the enduring love story in this book is theirs."
Mahanian added: "The Way We Were is one of those rare, searing novels of female friendship with an emotional core so authentic that readers will feel like they’ve known these characters for years. Salma examines female sexuality alongside faith and the weight of cultural expectations, writing of women whose stories rarely get told. Her extraordinary voice is infused with an honesty that’s as heartbreaking as it is entertaining. It’s the kind of novel I longed to read in my formative years, and a book I’m so glad to have now. I couldn’t be more excited to publish this novel and bring it to US readers."
El-Wardany said: "I have grown so sick of reading stories that reduce Muslim women to caricatures and stereotypes when the truth is, Muslim women are some of the most glorious women I know. Since throwing books across the room in rage and frustration wasn’t a viable long-term plan, I decided to write down the reality of Muslim women and the beautiful lives my friends and I have lived. I wanted to give us a voice after years of being ignored, misrepresented and vilified. I wanted there to be more for us. I wanted our true stories to come out into the light."