Virago has pre-empted Chloé Cooper Jones' "game-changing" memoir about disability as US rights were snapped up by Avid Reader Press in a "major auction".
Rose Tomaszewska, senior commissioning editor at Virago, pre-empted UK and Commonwealth rights (excluding Canada) from Fiona Baird at WME on behalf of Claudia Ballard. Easy Beauty will be published in 2021 simultaneously with the US.
Cooper Jones is a philosophy professor who was born with a rare congenital disorder called sacral agenesis. Her work has appeared in publications including GQ, the Verge, VICE, Bookforum and New York Magazine. Easy Beauty was inspired from a piece Cooper Jones published this summer in The Believer which went viral.
"Her memoir begins at the point when, challenged on the ethics of giving birth to disabled children—and on the value of her own life—Cooper Jones realises she has allowed the discomfort of others to limit her choices," reads the synopsis. "Vowing to hold back no longer, she takes on experiences from the Arizona desert to a Beyoncé concert, writing with intimacy and philosophical insight about her physical pain, being a mother to an able-bodied child and defying society’s gaze."
Cooper Jones said: "This book is about what happens when we look and are looked at. It is also about the concept of beauty, where it’s found, how it changes us, how it can be used to subjugate some and exalt others, how it can separate us, but also how it can bind us with love to each other. I didn’t have the bravery to claim my life until it wasn’t mine anymore. It took me a long time to truly realise that taking care of my son meant more than feeding and clothing him; it meant living a life I wanted to share with him, a life I was proud to show him; it meant living a life that was worthy of him, a life that would grow us both up."
Tomaszewska added: "Chloé’s writing took my breath away. It has hallmarks of Roxane Gay and Maggie Nelson but the experience she tells of makes it a real game-changer. Chloé has not written it to educate an able-bodied reader— her anger, her realisations and her whole journey are true to her, and it’s extraordinary to witness. Reading it gave a thrill of intellectual satisfaction as she brought her ideas into place like oiled clockwork. I was on tenterhooks until my pre-empt was accepted, knowing we had to publish this book at Virago."
US rights were sold in a major auction to Lauren Wein, editorial director, at Avid Reader Press. Foreign rights will be handled by Laura Bonner at WME.
Wein said: "There are so many points of access to this book and to Chloé’s story—philosophical; psychological; medical; intellectual; parental; aesthetic. This book is and will be in conversation with so many of the books that have meant the most to me as a reader—The Argonauts, Autobiography of a Face, Autobiography of Red, and in a just world, I can envision Chloé’s book joining these ranks. She’s made it her life’s work to transcend her disability—multiple PHDs, an MFA, award-winning journalism. And then, in the wake of her son Wolfgang’s arrival, she dares to interrogate her own defences, which may have allowed her to survive, but also left her struggling to connect. There are so many gorgeous, thought-provoking layers to this story and Chloe’s spiky intelligence and her fierce discipline are in evidence on every page of this proposal. What a privilege it is to have the chance to publish this memoir here at Avid Reader Press."
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