Deesha Philyaw—the National Book Award finalist whose critically-acclaimed debut, The Secret Lives of Church Ladies, had trouble finding a publisher—has just inked a seven-figure, two-book deal.
The Secret Lives of Church Ladies, a collection of nine stories, was turned down by several major New York publishers before eventually being released by the tiny West Virginia University Press in 2020. It went on to become a surprise hit, winning the PEN/Faulkner Award, the Story Prize and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and is currently being adapted for television by HBO Max with Tessa Thompson producing.
Unsurprisingly, Philyaw and her team have found the major houses to be far more responsive this time around.
As reported by the Associated Press earlier today:
Mariner Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, announced Thursday that it had signed up Philyaw and will publish her novel The True Confessions of First Lady Freeman in 2025. Mariner calls the book a “biting satire” of the Black church and “a deeply provocative” story about family, friendship and “sexual agency.” Philyaw, who attended several different churches as a child, is centering the novel around a megachurch leader.
“In writing True Confessions, I really wanted to explore the narratives that 40- and 50-something Black women sometimes tell ourselves—as well as the narratives told about us—regarding our desires and aspirations,” Philyaw said in a statement.
Her second book for Mariner, Girl, Look, is billed by the publisher as a “poignant new collection, giving a vivid snapshot of the interior lives of Black women across generations, drawing readers to consider Black women and girls’ vulnerabilities, invisibility, and beautiful contradictions, in a post-COVID, post-Breonna Taylor world.” Mariner has not set a release date for Girl, Look.