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 an entertainment career 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, and 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, and 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 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 has reunited to celebrate their eldest daughter, Hadia’s wedding. Among the guests is Amar, Hadia’s younger brother, who is 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 witness pivotal moments that sequentially lead to Amar’s estrangement.
This novel is fundamentally a character study of love, loss, and grief. The story is emotional and 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 story’s emotional depth.
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 whether they are 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 on 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 turmoil and corruption are happening within this community after invasions and burglaries have terrorized the island, including the Deyalsingh family. This informs the reader immediately that much is at the 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 struggled with 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 for his needs to be met. He is Paul’s advocate, which is something all children need.
Similar to A Place for Us, Golden 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 incarcerated, and yes, a few stories are 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 on the pages. The stories were, at times, heartbreaking and informative, yet they 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 unimaginable 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 that this book is essential reading; however, I want to warn you 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 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 my privileges growing up here in America while 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. Parker has already made a tremendous impact in the literary world with these three publications, which only heightens my enthusiasm for her new literary imprint SJP Lit.
To learn more about SJP Lit, click here.