Virago to publish artist Riva Lehrer's 'important' memoir

Virago to publish artist Riva Lehrer's 'important' memoir

Virago has acquired Golem Girl, a memoir by artist Riva Lehrer, born with spina bifida, which has already won acclaim from writers including David Mitchell.

Sarah Savitt, publisher of Virago, acquired UK and Commonwealth rights from Rachel Kind at Penguin Random House, on behalf of Markus Hoffman at Regal Hoffman & Associates.

Golem Girl is described as "a vividly told, gloriously illustrated memoir of an artist born with disabilities who searches for freedom and connection in a society afraid of strange bodies".

Lehrer, who is best known for her representations of people with impairments and stigmatised sexuality, was born with spina bifida in 1958, when the options for treatment were different from today and most such children were not expected to survive. The synopsis for her book reads: "She is told that she will never have a job, a romantic relationship or an independent life. Everything changes when Riva joins a group of artists, writers, and performers who are building Disability Culture and insist that disability is an opportunity for creativity and resistance. Riva asks if she can paint their portraits – inventing an intimate and collaborative process that will transform the way she sees herself, others and the world. Each portrait story begins to transform the myths she's been told her whole life about her body, her sexuality and other measures of normal."

Lehrer's work has been exhibited in venues including the National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian, Yale University, the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington DC and the Arnot Museum. She is a long-time faculty member of the School of the Art, Institute of Chicago, and currently an instructor in medical humanities at Northwestern University. The book will also contain many of her portraits.

Savitt said "What a voice! This memoir is bursting at the seams with art, sex, pain, parenthood and the body – but most of all with joy. Riva Lehrer has an incredible voice and she opens up her own world and history with the same precision, generosity and beauty which she demonstrates as a portrait painter. David Mitchell wonderfully summed up Golem Girl when he said: 'It’s a hymn to life'. Virago is proud to be bringing this important book to readers in the UK and beyond."

Lehrer commented: "When I first visited London in 1985, I loaded my going-home suitcases with books, having discovered the amazing UK feminist literary scene. Book after book had the Virago apple gracing their spines. Becoming a Virago author is a dream I would scarcely have dared to dream. I’m so happy to be part of its legendary history."

Virago will publish Golem Girl in November this year. The One World imprint of Penguin Random House will publish in the book in the US.