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From November 10, 2022 through February 9, 2023, the almost 250 members of the HarperCollins union were on strike. Union members, comprised of the publishing house’s assistant and associate-level employees, picketed for 66 working days. They gained international attention and support as they fought to address the superlatively low pay in their industry, which contributes to the equally low level of diversity among publishing professionals, another aspect of their work strikers hoped to address.
(Read Tayler’s interview with a striking HC union member or listen to Mariquita’s podcast segment on the strike for more background information.)
Many in the industry were overwhelming behind these striking workers. Over 500 authors signed a letter supporting the union. Agents agreed not to submit new manuscripts to the publisher. And, significantly, many critics, reviewers, and book lovers agreed to withhold reviews until the strike ended.
The books that came out during and around that period didn’t receive the kind of coverage they might normally have across various platform and, now that the strike is over, they are no longer the newest titles on the market. Since the union has been granted some of their demands and has returned somewhat triumphantly to regular work, I am shining some light on HarperCollins recent releases that might have flown under the radar while they were striking.
A resonant memoir that has a lot to say about the state of our world and what community means: Heretic by Jeanna Kadlec
Jeanna Kadlec’s tweet expressing her support for HC strikers, while also acknowledging her frustration about the timing of her own memoir and other HarperCollins recent releases drew my attention to these books. Kadlec’s memoir, Heretic, grapples with her own story of living through and leaving evangelicalism as a queer person, and also how evangelicalism has influenced and permeates through American politics and life. It is a deeply personal book that delves into and also reaches far beyond Kadlec’s own experiences.
A historical novel that focuses on stories that have been left untold: Scatterlings by Rešoketšwe Manenzhe
Scatterlings by Rešoketšwe Manenzhe, which was rereleased by HarperVia in 2022, is set in 1927 South Africa in the wake of the Immorality Act, which outlawed sex between Black and white people. While many South African stories focus on men and their pursuit of personal and political power and sovereignty, this novel focuses on the world of women and family. It also tells a larger story about the displacement of African people, colonialism, and slavery–and about how we define home, what it means to leave, and who gets to return.
A novel about friendship that will make you laugh and cry: We All Want Impossible Things by Catherine Newman
We All Want Impossible Things by Catherine Newman is my favorite kind of love story–one that focuses on female friendship. Edith and Ashley have been best friends for over forty two years, living through most of the stages of their lives together. This book finds Edi in a hospital bed during the final stage of hers and Ashley grappling with their shared history and her lone future. Newman expertly manages to imbue this story and its hospice setting with a humor and grace.
An unconventional family drama: Small World by Laura Zigman
Small World by Laura Zigman is about how families form around loss–how they divide and come back together in its aftermath. One of the Mellishman sisters died in childhood and the story begins with the adult reunion of the surviving two daughters, who move in together after getting divorced. Their new living arrangement forces the women to look back at their past–with humor, wit, sadness, and hope.
A new Fantasy trilogy with a female protagonist and pirates: The Adventures of Amina Al-Sirafi by Shannon Chakraborty
Amina al-Sirafi was a legendary pirate on the Indian Ocean but, at the start of this book, she’s retired into a life of motherhood. Tempted by a quest to rescue her former crewman’s kidnapped daughter, she returns to her former life and her old ways. The Adventures of Amina Al-Sirafi by Shannon Chakraborty is an action-packed fantasy, full of mythology and magic. Al-Sirafi, a middle-aged mom, who is also a skilled and experienced seafarer is an incredible protagonist. This is a promising start to a new series.
A Gothic Fairy Tale Romance: The Last Tale of the Flower Bride by Roshani Chokshi
An unnamed academic marries an heiress named Indigo, who makes him promise not to delve into her past, but circumstance force them to return to Indigo’s childhood home where details of the monstrous deeds she committed as a teenage girl slowly come to light. Infused with magic and mythology, The Last Tale of the Flower Bride is fairy tale in the Grimm brothers sense–at times whimsical and at times horrific–but always memorable.
There are far too many HarperCollins recent releases to list them all here. If you’re looking for some more that were affected by their release dates, I included Kate Baer’s And Yet, a moving book of poetry about motherhood today, in my round up of new and recent releases for National Poetry Month. And Jordy reviewed A Merry Little Meet Cute by Julie Murphy and Sierra Simone, a steamy holiday romance.