Curating My Collection: Reading the SJP for Hogarth Selection

            

Possibly best known for her role as Carrie Bradshaw on Sex and the City or Sarah Sanderson from Hocus Pocus, (shout out to all of us 90s kids), Sarah Jessica Parker is a trailblazer with a career in entertainment that spans nearly five decades. Aside from bringing exquisite characters to life through mediums such as television, film, and stage productions she has also built an empire of fragrances, footwear, accessories, apparel lines, and book publications. On March 1, 2022, Zando, an independent publishing house founded by Molly Stern a former publisher at Penguin Random House along with Sarah Jessica Parker announced the launch of SJP Lit an imprint that will publish sweeping, expansive, and thought-provoking stories with global voices. However, this is not the first time the pair have partnered. In 2016, Stern, who at the time was a publisher at Penguin Random House teamed up with Sarah Jessica Parker and introduced the world to A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza through SJP for Hogarth, a literary imprint of Penguin Random House’s Crown Publishing. Over the next year, Parker would publish a second novel, Golden Child, as well as a short story collection entitled Dawn: Stories. When the imprint was first announced along with the publication of A Place for Us critics were skeptical as celebrity imprints can be seen as a desperate attempt to sell books in the literary world. However, as a fan of Sarah Jessica Parker, and as an avid reader I couldn’t help but to be elated. To celebrate and prepare for SJP Lit, we will examine Parker’s three previous publications in a quest to learn not only about the stories she wishes to usher into the world but also to pose the question: what impact is Sarah Jessica Parker having in the literary world?

The first book to be published among the Sarah Jessica Parker imprint, SJP for Hogarth comes, A Place for Us, written by Fatima Farheen Mirza. Published June 12, 2018, A Place for Us in all its pluralities is about the quintessential American family. The reader is introduced to an Indian Muslim American family, who have reunited to celebrate their eldest daughter, Hadia’s wedding. Among the guests is Amar, Hadia’s younger brother who also happens to be estranged from the family. The narrative is interwoven between multiple decades and is told through multiple perspectives introducing the reader to each of the characters and their dynamics with one another. As we peel back the layers, we are witness to pivotal moments that sequentially led to Amar’s estrangement.

This novel is fundamentally a character study in love, loss, and grief. The story is emotional, reflective, while also being hopeful. There were elements throughout the story that made me take a step back, recalibrate, and reexamine my thought process as it provides a window into the perspectives of individuals who have a different lived experience than me, which is truly the greatest gift an author or storyteller can provide.

What also intrigued me regarding all the characters was their inability to articulate what is in their hearts and in their minds. Each keeps their reasoning and motivation for their actions to themselves instead of being open and honest with one another. While I’m not necessarily a fan of this type of story trope, I did feel like it added to the emotional depth of the story.

Fatima Farheen Mirza’s debut novel is an absolute gift to the world. Since reading this novel, granted it’s only been a month, I constantly think about Hadia, Amar, Huda, Layla, and Rafiq. Especially Amar. I constantly question where he is, what he’s doing, and are they all okay? It’s safe to say, his novel and all its characters completely stole a piece of my heart.

The second novel presented among Sarah Jessica Parker’s imprint, SJP for Hogarth and published January 29, 2019, is Golden Child by Claire Adam. Golden Child introduces the reader to Clyde, Joy, Peter, and Paul Deyalsingh, a family living in rural Trinidad. Adam makes it abundantly clear that there is turmoil and corruption happening within this community after a series of home invasions and burglaries have terrorized the island including the Deyalsingh family themselves. This informs the reader immediately that much is at steak for the Deyalsingh family.

Peter and Paul who are Clyde and Joy’s thirteen-year-old twins are the focal points of the story. Peter is believed to be a genius, while Paul is considered odd. Within the first few pages we learn that Paul has disappeared after going for a walk one afternoon and as the story unfolds through multiple timelines and perspectives, we learn what has happened to this brave thirteen-year-old while also learning about the difficult decisions his father Clyde will have to make.

Personally, I loved reading from the perspective of Paul. I found that his point of view was tender and endearing while also showing how talented and gifted he is despite being labeled as slow. I found this and him relatable, as I too struggled with having a learning disability and experienced the same social anxieties that Paul experienced regarding academia. With that being said, I especially loved Father Kavanagh who is an outsider to the community. Instead of viewing Paul as a character who isn’t as quick to learn and home in on skills, he understands that Paul must be taught differently in order for his needs to be met. He is Paul’s advocate, which is something all children need.

Similar to A Place for UsGolden Child is a beautiful but haunting story about family, love, and sacrifice. For me this was a quick read; however, it has been hard to put the book down and walk away from the characters.

Originally titled Seher the Turkish translation for dawn, Dawn: Stories is the third and final book published among the SJP for Hogarth collection. Published here in America on April 23, 2019, Dawn: Stories, is a collection of short stories written by Selahattin Demirtaş a former human rights lawyer who specializes in Women’s Rights while also serving as a Kurdish politician of the Peoples’ Democratic Party. After running for the Turkish Presidency and losing, Demirtaş was arrested and has been detained since 2016. This book was written while being incarcerated and yes there are a few stories shared within the pages of Dawn: Stories that take place inside a prison.

In total this collection contains twelve short stories all of which navigate through the lives of ordinary people living in a war-torn landscape. While I’m not going to dissect each story, I found that they required the reader to be vigilant; aware of the people and places presented among the pages. The stories were at times heartbreaking, and informative, yet provided hope to the reader. Two stories within this collection completely broke my heart. The first, Seher, is a powerful story about a young factory worker who experiences an unimaginable act of violence. The second pertains to a cleaning lady who is caught in the middle of a violent demonstration on her way home from work. Both stories I think about daily! Please note: this book is essential reading; however, I do want to warn that this isn’t a light read. These stories deal with difficult themes and topics.

Despite there only being three publications A Place for Us, Golden Child, and Dawn: Stories, I do feel that the SJP for Hogarth selection is a must to add to your collection. I found each book to be insightful, thought-provoking, and challenging at times while also offering impeccable prose and character development. Reading this collection of books made me reevaluate the privileges I have growing up here in America while also inspiring me to think globally. Not only regarding the literature I consume but also the social and political issues happening abroad. Embarking on this journey gave me a profound appreciation for Sarah Jessica Parker. It is evident that Parker has an incredible passion for global stories and global voices showcasing the commonalities of the human experience while also amplifying diverse voices and diversity in thought. With these three publications, Parker has already made a tremendous impact in the literary world, which only heightens my enthusiasm for her new literary imprint SJP Lit.

To learn more about SJP Lit click here.

 

 

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