These 20 upcoming releases from small and university presses consider a wide swath of topics and ideas, and demonstrate the robustness of independent publishing. Take note.


Until I Am Free: Fannie Lou Hamer’s Enduring Message to America

Keisha N. Blain (Oct. 5, $25.95 hardcover)

Announced first printing: 50,000

Publicity and marketing highlights: Interviews with national and regional NPR programs. Events in Boston, Los Angeles, New York, Pittsburgh, et al. Social media outreach around Fannie Lou Hamer’s birthday on October 6.

Historian, author, and MSNBC columnist Blain posits civil rights activist and intellectual Fannie Lou Hamer (1917–1977) as a key political thinker alongside such leaders as Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Rosa Parks, and demonstrates how her ideas remain relevant for contemporary discussions of race, inequality, and social justice. The book was selected as a U.S. Book Show PW Editors’ Pick.


Dance or Die: From Stateless Refugee to International Ballet Star, a Memoir

Ahmad Joudeh (Sept. 21, $24.99 hardcover)

Announced first printing: 30,000

Publicity and marketing highlights: Virtual author visits; national advertising.

Joudeh grew up in Damascus and fought for his dream of being a dancer against the wishes of his family, war, and death threats from ISIS. Ultimately, after an appearance on a Lebanese reality show, he became a celebrity in the Middle East and was recruited by the Dutch National Ballet Company.



Chibundu Onuzo (Oct. 5, $26 hardcover)

Onuzo’s latest tells the story of a mixed-race woman who goes in search of the African father she never knew and had assumed was dead. Margot Grimm Eule of East City Book Shop in Washington, D.C., called it a “compelling story about a woman at a crossroads who, like the symbolic Sankofa bird, must go back before she can move forward.”


Between Tides

Angel Khoury (Aug. 10, $24.95 hardcover)

Announced first printing: 3,000 (second printing ordered)

Publicity and marketing highlights: Galley mailing and preorder campaign concentrated around indie booksellers in the Outer Banks; book club push; regional author tour.

In the 1890s on Cape Cod, a man deserts his wife and his post as keeper of the Chatham Beach Lifesaving Station to start a new family at Cape Hatteras. Decades later, his daughter meets his first wife, reawakening a life she had long buried. Jamie Anderson of Duck’s Cottage Coffee & Books in Duck, N.C., called it “the next big read,” while Creecy Richardson of Sam & Winston in Manteo, N.C., said, “Many writers have attempted to translate the subtle allure and indelible stories of our coast into text; few have actually captured the haunting majesty and gritty realities of this place. Between Tides is timeless and universally beautiful.”


A Single Rose

Muriel Barbery, trans. from the French by Alison Anderson (Sept. 28, $22 hardcover)

Announced first printing: 20,000

Publicity and marketing highlights: Indie Next Campaign; POS material, downloadable poster.

In the latest from the author of The Elegance of the Hedgehog, a woman named Rose is called to Kyoto for the reading of her estranged father’s will. Thus begins her journey to discover the father she never knew and a love she never thought possible. “The characters of Rose and Paul are wonderfully developed, and the descriptions of Kyoto are so vivid, so precise that you will find yourself transported to the tranquil Silver Pavilion, or the bustling side streets and yakitori bars,” said Hannah Reidell of Raven Book Store, in Lawrence, Kans.


On Freedom: Four Songs of Care and Constraint

Maggie Nelson (Sept. 7, $27 hardcover)

Announced first printing: 75,000

Publicity and marketing highlights: New York Times Magazine feature profile, Los Angeles Times feature, and interview on the Ezra Klein Show; eight-city virtual author tour; Winter Institute promotion.

Nelson’s follow-up to The Argonauts, a PW Best Book of 2015, examines the concept of freedom’s complexities in four realms—art, sex, drugs, and the climate—drawing on a vast range of material, including critical theory, pop culture, and the intimacies and routine exchanges of daily life.


The Authority of the Court and the Peril of Politics

Stephen Breyer (Sept. 14, $19.95 hardcover)

Announced first printing: 20,000

Publicity and marketing highlights: Confirmed interviews include appearances on NPR’s All Things Considered, Fox News, Good Morning America, and PBS NewsHour, as well as in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post; 92nd Street Y author event.

A sitting justice reflects on the authority of the Supreme Court, suggests that the judiciary’s hard-won authority could be marred by reforms premised on the assumption of ideological bias, and warns that political intervention in the justice system erodes public trust.


The Electricity of Every Living Thing: A Woman’s Walk in the Wild to Find Her Way Home

Katherine May (Oct. 19, $17.99 trade paper)

Announced first printing: 75,000

Publicity and marketing highlights: Melville House Influencer Program; possible academic adoption.

In 2015, Katherine May set out alone to walk England’s 630-mile South West Coast Path in order to understand why she had stopped coping with everyday life and why motherhood had been so overwhelming. The answer—a diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome—begins to become clear. PW’s review called it “a powerfully descriptive work” that is “candid, rough, and uplifting,” adding, “this moving account shines.”

New Directions

H of H Playbook

Anne Carson (Oct. 5, $22.95 hardcover)

Announced first printing: 10,000

Publicity and marketing highlights: Carson is a featured reader in New Directions’ 85th Anniversary Celebration at City Lights Bookstore. U.S. book launch at McNally Jackson Bookstore; submitted for all major new fiction awards.

Poet Carson’s latest is a recreation of Herakles, a Greek tragedy by the fifth-century BCE poet Euripides, featuring illustrations by the author.

New York Review Books

When We Cease to Understand the World

Benjamín Labatut, trans. from the Spanish by Adrian Nathan West (Sept. 28, $17.95 trade paper)

Announced first printing: 10,000

Publicity and marketing highlights: Shortlisted for the 2021 International Booker Prize; on Barack Obama’s 2021 summer reading list; a PEN Translates award winner; online bookstore events; confirmed reviews in the New York Times Book Review and the New Yorker, and an author profile in Harper’s.

Labatut shows how luminaries such as Alexander Grothendieck, Fritz Haber, and Erwin Schrödinger grappled with the most profound questions of existence. In a starred review, PW said: “Reading like an episodic digest, Chilean writer Labatut’s stylish English-language debut offers an embellished, heretical, and thoroughly engrossing account of the personalities and creative madness that gave rise to some of the 20th century’s greatest scientific discoveries. Like his protaganists, his subject is the all consuming human drive to discover. Hard to pin down and all the more enjoyable for it, this unique work is one to be savored.”

New York Univ.

Taking Down Backpage: Fighting the World’s Largest Sex Trafficker

Maggy Krell (Jan. 11, $22.95 hardcover)

Announced first printing: 12,000

Publicity and marketing highlights: Bookstagram influencer campaign; feature in NYU Press newsletters and on at publication; events in San Francisco, New York, and Washington, D.C.; early interest from ABC’s The View.

Krell, a veteran prosecutor, shares the story of how she and her team shut down, the world’s largest sex trafficking operation, which made millions of dollars off of its victims, many of whom were children.

Rowman & Littlefield

The Devil in the Gallery: How Scandal, Shock, and Rivalry Shaped the Art World

Noah Charney (Sept. 15, $45 hardcover)

Announced first printing: 15,000

Publicity and marketing highlights: Author webinars for booksellers; new TED Talk on the theft of the Mona Lisa, a tie-in to the book; digital advertising; excerpts in major art publications.

A Pulitzer Prize nominee for Collector of Lives: Giorgio Vasari and the Invention of Art, Charney, an art historian and specialist in art crime, offers a history of art through its scandals, rivalries, and shocking acts. PW’s review called it a “delightful romp. Like the topics it addresses, this will undoubtedly add spice to conversations about the meaning and purpose of art.”

Seven Stories

Moon and the Mars

Kia Corthron (Aug. 31, $30 hardcover)

Announced first printing: 30,000

Publicity and marketing highlights: Virtual author tour to New York; Washington, D.C.; and the Miami Book Fair; feature in Ebony magazine; author appearance at Winter Institute; major print advertising, including spots in the New York Times Book Review and B&T’s Forecast.

A winner of the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize for The Castle Cross the Magnet Carter, Corthron returns with a novel set in New York City’s infamous Five Points and explores the city and America just before the Civil War through the eyes of a biracial girl. PW’s review said, “Corthron combines a propulsive coming-of-age story with a fascinating history.”

Soho Press

Blue-Skinned Gods

SJ Sindu (Nov. 2, $26 hardcover)

Announced first printing: 50,000

Publicity and marketing highlights: Galley giveaways at ALA and B&T, and inclusion in the ABA Whitebox; 8–10-city hybrid author tour; print advertising in national publications; trade-focused digital display advertising.

Sindu, a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award for Marriage of a Thousand Lies, sets her new novel in Tamil Nadu, India, where a boy with blue skin is in a family that believes him to be the 10th human incarnation of Vishnu; when the boy questions his divinity, his family unravels. Danica Ramgoolam of Townie Books in Crested Butte, Colo., calls it “a must-read for fans of Indian authors and anyone interested in the Hindu faith and Indian culture, but also the loss of faith and fake gurus.”

Steerforth/T2P Books

Toufah: The Woman Who Inspired an African #MeToo Movement

Toufah Jallow with Kim Pittaway (Oct. 12, $16.95, trade paper)

Announced first printing: 40,000

Publicity and marketing highlights: Virtual and in-person bookstore and library events; lectures at universities; embassy events.

In 2014, a time when Jallow’s native language had no word for rape, she was raped by the dictator of the country and later fled to Canada, where she told her story as a sexual assault victim. The result was the toppling of a dictator, the start of a movement, and the establishment of a foundation to support fellow survivors.

Uncivilized Books

Ex Libris

Matt Madden (Oct. 19, $29.95 hardcover)

Announced first printing: 3,000

Publicity and marketing highlights: Author appearances at BBF and Rain Taxi Book Festival; academic appearances; virtual and in-person book signings; podcasts and videos

Comics scholar Madden constructs a postmodern puzzle narrative in which a man awakens with amnesia in a nondescript room. The protagonist moves from story to story, allowing Madden “opportunity to recreate a dazzling array of comic genres and styles,” PW’s review said. “This endlessly inventive work is a metafictional master class in comics.”

Univ. of Texas

Teaching Black History to White People

Leonard N. Moore (Sept. 14, $19.95 trade paper)

Announced first printing: 10,000

Publicity and marketing highlights: Hybrid national tour and author visits to community groups, national corporations, and university campuses.

Moore outlines how to teach and engage with Black history on college campuses and beyond. He poses provocative questions, such as “Why is the teaching of Black history so controversial?” and “What came first: slavery or racism?”


Enchanted Lion

Make Meatballs Sing: The Life & Art of Corita Kent

Matthew Burgess, illus. by Kara Kramer (Aug. 24, $18.95 hardcover)

Announced first printing: 10,000

Publicity and marketing highlights: Online “Plorkshops” (art-making sessions) with the author and artist; Plork poster for library and classroom; panel discussion at the Corita Arts Center.

Burgess and Kramer recount the story of this nun and artist with words and pictures. Calling it “captivating” in a starred review, PW said it is “a thoughtfully rendered introduction to an endlessly inspiring artist.” Ages 6–13.

Levine Querido

A Snake Falls to Earth

Darcie Little Badger (Nov. 9, $18.99 hardcover)

Announced first printing: 40,000

Publicity and marketing highlights: Instagram and YouTube advertising; appearances at festivals and cons, including the Brooklyn Book Festival and the Texas Book Festival; virtual events with indie booksellers.

The sophomore effort from the author of the well-received debut Elatsoe, Little Badger describes her book as “very speculative.” It’s set in two worlds: a very near future on Earth and a secondary world of spirits and monsters, with a strong focus on Lipan Apache storytelling traditions. Ages 7–12.

Tra Publishing

Sweet People Are Everywhere

Alice Walker, illus. by Quim Torres (Oct. 12, $18.99 hardcover)

Announced first printing: 40,000

Publicity and Marketing Highlights: Video book trailer in English and Spanish; confirmed print interviews with Bay Area News Group and Bookish magazine; live and virtual events, including ones with Marcus Books in Oakland, Calif., and the San Francisco Public Library.

In this picture book, activist and Pulitzer Prize–winning author Walker pens a poem that celebrates humanity by showing how “sweet people” are found around the globe. Ages 4–8.