Toronto, March 23, 2016—Melissa Danaczko of Doubleday (New York) and Anita Chong of McClelland & Stewart (Toronto), have jointly acquired U.S. and Canadian rights to THE BOAT PEOPLE, a debut novel by Sharon Bala. The book was purchased on a pre-empt, for publication in January 2018. The deal was arranged by Stephanie Sinclair.
Says Danaczko: “THE BOAT PEOPLE is an extraordinary novel about a group of Sri Lankan refugees trying to navigate a byzantine immigration system. Bala is a vivid, compassionate writer, immediately pulling you into the mindset of not only the asylum-seekers from a war-torn country but also those whose job it is to decide their fate. A stunning debut that is at once intimate, urgent and universal in the questions it raises.”
Upon the acquisition, Anita Chong added: “Fiction has the power to create bridges of empathy and understanding, and this is what Sharon Bala has done so powerfully in THE BOAT PEOPLE, by illuminating the universal and deeply human aspects of the immigrant and refugee experience in a way that feels both fresh and urgent. From the bones of a little-known, real-life incident, Bala has crafted a beautiful and high-stakes story that asks difficult but necessary questions—questions that will only become increasingly relevant as the world-wide refugee crisis continues. I devoured this novel, and I know readers will do the same.”
The manuscript for Bala’s novel won the Percy Janes First Novel Award (May 2015) and was short listed for the Fresh Fish Award (October 2015), and has already begun to catch the eye of other writers: “THE BOAT PEOPLE is full of drama and character, sharp bold sentences and movement of all sorts, global and interior,” says bestselling author Lisa Moore (Caught and February). This is “gorgeous writing, compassionate and urgent.”
THE BOAT PEOPLE focuses on thirty-five-year-old Mahindan, who has survived the harrowing experiences of civil war, a prison camp, and a perilous ocean voyage from Sri Lanka. When the rusty cargo ship carrying him and 500 fellow refugees reaches safe Canadian shores, he thinks the struggle is finally over. But in reality, his journey has only begun. Set in Vancouver and Sri Lanka, THE BOAT PEOPLE follows Mahindan and his six-year-old son as they are separated, imprisoned, and forced to navigate the morass of the refugee system. Inspired by real life events, THE BOAT PEOPLE is a timely novel about identity and belonging, family secrets and loss, and the rift that can sometimes form between immigrant parents and their third culture children. It is an important contemporary novel that invites us to explore what people leaving everything they know to become strangers in a strange land are going through, and provokes a more compassionate lens through which to view the current refugee crisis.
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