Those familiar with the New York Times magazine’s coverage of efforts to diversify publishing may recognize Laura Warrell’s novel Sweet, Soft, Plenty Rhythm as Lisa Lucas’s first acquisition as Senior Vice President & Publisher of Pantheon and Schocken Books at Penguin Random House.
Warrell’s debut novel is told in the voices of a chorus of diverse women who all love the same trumpet player and ladies’ man, Circus Palmer. Jazz, sex, family, longing, and passion fill the pages. Author Jason Reynolds calls it, “dark and sexy, freeing and frightening, ecstatic and lonely… A modern masterpiece.” We were thrilled to partner with fellow booksellers Cafe con Libros to bring Laura and Lisa to our stage to present this thrilling debut.
Presented with Cafe con Libros.
Sweet, Soft, Plenty Rhythm
By Laura Warrell
Published by Pantheon
It’s 2013, and Circus Palmer, a forty-year-old Boston-based trumpet player and old-school ladies’ man, lives for his music and refuses to be tied down. Before a gig in Miami, he learns that the woman who is secretly closest to his heart, the free-spirited drummer Maggie, is pregnant by him. Instead of facing the necessary conversation, Circus flees, setting off a chain of interlocking revelations from the various women in his life. Most notable among them is his teenage daughter, Koko, who idolizes him and is awakening to her own sexuality even as her mentally fragile mother struggles to overcome her long-failed marriage and rejection by Circus.
Delivering a lush orchestration of diverse female voices, Warrell spins a provocative, soulful, and gripping story of passion and risk, fathers and daughters, wives and single women, and, finally, hope and reconciliation, in answer to the age-old question: how do we find belonging when love is unrequited?
Laura Warrell is a contributor to the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and the Tin House Summer Workshop, and is a graduate of the creative writing program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her work has appeared in HuffPost, the Rumpus, and the Los Angeles Review of Books, among other publications. She has taught creative writing and literature at the Berklee College of Music in Boston and through the Emerging Voices Fellowship at PEN America in Los Angeles, where she lives.
Lisa Lucas is the Senior Vice President & Publisher of Pantheon and Schocken Books at Penguin Random House. Previously, Lucas was the Executive Director of the National Book Foundation for five years. Prior to joining the Foundation, she served as the Publisher of Guernica, a non-profit online magazine focusing on writing that explores the intersection of art and politics with an international and diverse focus. Prior to that, she served as Director of Education at the Tribeca Film Institute, on the development team at Steppenwolf Theatre Company, and as a consultant for the Sundance Institute, San Francisco Film Society, the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, and ReelWorks Teen Filmmaking. Lucas also serves on the literary council of the Brooklyn Book Festival. Find her on Twitter at @likaluca.