Penguin Classics introduced the Penguin Vitae hardcover series in 2020 as a way to highlight what it calls “seminal works” by “a diverse world of storytellers from the past.” Many of the featured authors are women, with books by Nella Larsen and Audre Lorde on the launch list. A new edition of 1982’s The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor, due out in May, joins forthcoming reissues from several publishers that convey a variety of female experiences.
Gretchen Schmid, associate editor at Viking/Penguin, tapped An American Marriage author Tayari Jones to write the foreword to Brewster Place. After receiving Jones’s essay, which discussed how reading Naylor in high school affected her development as a writer, Schmid decided to also include it in a new paperback edition released in fall 2020. She sees the two editions as complementary, with the hardcover intended as a keepsake and the paperback used in classrooms.
The Women of Brewster Place, which won the 1983 National Book Award for first novel, got a second life as a TV miniseries in 1989, which is one way that backlist titles, and authors, reenter the public consciousness. A more recent example is the 2020 Netflix miniseries Unorthodox, adapted from Deborah Feldman’s 2012 memoir. At the end of August, Plume is reissuing Feldman’s 2014 follow-up, Exodus, with a new title and a subtitle that nods to the popular series: Exodus, Revisited: My Unorthodox Journey to Berlin.
The release also incorporates new material translated from the German edition, which published in 2017. Ben Lee, v-p and associate publisher of paperbacks, says Plume will be doing a “frontlist-level marketing and publicity campaign” for Exodus, Revisited, with a significant push to book clubs.
Another Plume author, Julie Dash, is a filmmaker first, novelist second. Her 1991 feature, Daughters of the Dust, set in the Gullah community of the South at the turn of the 20th century, was the first full-length film by an African American woman to get a general U.S. release; her 1997 novel of the same name revisits the Gullah 20 years after the events of the film. Of the two, the movie may be better known; Beyoncé’s 2016 “visual album,” Lemonade, included several references to it.
Last August, Dash and her agent, CAA’s David Larabell, approached Plume about reissuing the novel. To help differentiate the book from the film, Lee says, the June reissue, which marks the first time the title will be available in audio and e-book, will include an explanatory subtitle and be supported with a national publicity campaign and promoted on social media and to book clubs.
Similarly, Alexa Pugh, publishing manager at Norton Trade Paperbacks, is seeking to raise the profile of Adrienne Rich’s Of Woman Born, a consideration of motherhood. The 1976 title appeared on a 2020 New York Public Library list of essential feminist books, but, Pugh says, it hasn’t received much recent attention from mainstream women’s magazines, which, given the subject matter, “felt really strange.” The reissue, out at the end of April, will have a new foreword by Eula Bliss (On Immunity) and an introduction by Dani McClain (We Live for the We). Norton is updating the most recent cover, which “looks very 1995,” and will post excerpts from the book on its Instagram account.
In the realm of popular fiction, Atria is giving Jennifer Weiner’s debut novel, Good in Bed, a new q& and reading group guide for its 20th anniversary, plus a new cover in the style of Weiner’s 2019 novel, Mrs. Everything. Her other backlist titles will also get reissued with artwork aimed at giving her catalog a uniform look.
Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the date of an earlier edition of Adrienne Rich’s Of Woman Born.