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  1 Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist
Author: Yapa, Sunil
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Class: Fiction
Age: Adult
Language: English
Demand: Moderate
LC: PS3625.A

Print Run: 100000
ISBN-13: 9780316386531
LCCN: 2015935822
Imprint: Lee Boudreaux Books
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Pub Date: 01/12/2016
Availability: Out of Stock Indefinitely
List: $26.00
Physical Description: 312 pages ; 25 cm H 9.5", W 6.375", D 1.125", 1.14 lbs.
LC Series:
Brodart Sources: Brodart's TOP Adult Titles
Awards: Library Journal Starred Reviews
Starred Reviews: Library Journal
TIPS Subjects: General Fiction
BISAC Subjects: FICTION / Literary
FICTION / Political
LC Subjects: Protest movements, Fiction
SEARS Subjects: Protest movements, Fiction
Reading Programs:
Brodart's TOP Adult Titles | 10/01/2015
A well-traveled runaway named Victor vows to make the deal of a lifetime by selling marijuana to the thousands of anti-globalization protestors that fill the streets. The story follows the lives of seven key people against the backdrop of the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle. First novel, 320pp., 100K
Starred Reviews:
Library Journal | 10/15/2015
This debut novel set during the 1999 World Trade Organization (WTO) riots in Seattle is a punch in the gut. In the years after Kent State and Rodney King but before the Black Lives Matter movement, the Battle of Seattle stands out as an example of poorly planned police response to public protest, and Yapa shines a blinding Maglite on the scene. He starts with Victor, the estranged adopted son of the police chief. All Victor wants is to unload a large quantity of marijuana so he can "break free from the gravity of home's heavy hold." Instead, he gets mixed up with John Henry, a middle-aged idealistic revolutionary and King, his badass former lover who ministers to the teargassed crowd with Maalox(R)-infused water. In addition to Chief Bishop, who's acutely aware that his long-lost son has reappeared under an I-5 underpass, there are two cops: Julia, and her partner Park, severely disfigured and completely insane. Rounding out the cast is Dr. Charles Wickramsinghe, a delegate from Sri Lanka, whose life's work has been negotiating for his country's acceptance into the WTO. VERDICT Yapa's writing is visceral and unsparing. Noteworthy, capital-I Important and a ripping read, his novel will be on many "best" lists in 2016. [See Prepub Alert, 8/1/15; "Editors' Fall Picks," LJ 9/1/15.]. Christine Perkins, Whatcom Cty. Lib. Syst., Bellingham, WA. 320p. LIBRARY JOURNAL, c2015.
Journal Reviews
BookPage | 01/01/2016
Sunil Yapa, author of the gripping, profoundly humane first novel Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist, used to hide his laptop in the oven of the beach house he was renting in Chile. "That was my security measure," Yapa says with a bemused laugh during a call to Woodstock, New York, where he currently lives. "I'd put it in a baking tray and hide it in the oven!" What Yapa was protecting was the 604-page first draft of his novel about the chaotic protest during the 1999 World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle that erupted into violence. In Chile, where he lived frugally while he was teaching himself to write, Yapa didn't have access to a printer, the cloud or a backup hard drive. The novel lived only on his laptop. Maybe you can guess where this is going. But first, a little more background: Yapa grew up mostly in State College, Pennsylvania. He knew from a young age that he wanted to write fiction. Libraries were his favorite haunt. And while he had many friends as a child, his mother often had to tell him to stop reading and shoo him out of the house to play. But as the son of an immigrant--his father is a recently retired Penn State geography professor from Sri Lanka; his mother is from Montana--"there was a sense that being a writer wasn't a serious occupation or a useful use of your time. My father never said that to me, and in fact he's very proud that I'm doing it. But it's something that I absorbed and something I've heard reflected from other second-generation immigrant kids. It was very difficult to think about all he had sacrificed to get here and raise my brother and me in a middle-class life and take being an artist seriously." So from the age of 17 to 27, Yapa tried to follow in his father's footsteps and get a Ph.D. in geography. But then he began to travel, "and I realized I didn't want to be an academic; what I wanted to do was write fiction." Yapa also discovered a surprising way to support his writing habit. "I worked as a traveling salesman. A friend and I would travel all over the country to the biggest colleges and universities and sell posters. We would compress a year's work into two intense months and make $10,000 or $15,000--not enough to live in New York or San Francisco or, really, anywhere in the U.S." But with help from his grandfather, who encouraged his writing, he and his friend discovered that they could live on what they had made for a whole year in Chile or Guatemala without working. "We didn't live the high life, but I was able to teach myself to write for almost seven years before I sent anything out." Yapa was eventually accepted to the Hunter College M.F.A. program, where he honed his talents with guidance from writers like Peter Carey, Colum McCann and Claire Messud. After graduating, he returned to his traveling-salesman gig to support the completion of his novel. One night on a sales trip to Chicago, the laptop containing the only copy of his book was stolen from his hotel room. "I thought, oh god, I'm going to write this thing again because it's not going to leave me alone." "I never recovered it. It was just gone. I was devastated, of course. I was depressed for three months. But I honestly think it was a moment when I knew I must be a writer because the story started bubbling up again in my brain, and I thought, oh god, I'm going to write this thing again because it's not going to leave me alone." Yapa now thinks there were benefits to the loss of the first draft. The disappeared draft had more than 50 characters. The published book includes a streamlined and compelling cast of characters--fully realized personalities who dramatize the stories of the people who clashed in Seattle on the first day of the WTO meeting. These... Review exceeds allowable length. Alden Mudge. 320p. BOOKPAGE, c2016.
Booklist | 11/01/2015
Yapa's gripping debut offers a fiery and twisting fictional take on the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle. Seen through the eyes of multiple narrators, the events surrounding the shutdown of Seattle's streets are brought to vivid life and laid bare. A young runaway is inadvertently caught up in the fervor; a seasoned organizer acts with compassion and strength; the chief of police resists government pressures to turn against the protestors; a WTO delegate from Sri Lanka seeks a foothold for his country in the powerful organization--all of these characters and more collide with each other in the charged atmosphere that so many watched from afar in 1999. Yapa is a skilled storyteller, revealing just enough about his characters and the direction of his plot to engage his readers, yet effectively building dramatic impact by withholding certain key details. In the style of Colum McCann's Let the Great World Spin (2009), Yapa ties together seemingly disparate characters and narratives through a charged moment in history, showing how it still affects us all in different ways. Paulson, Heather. 320p. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, c2015.
Kirkus Reviews | 11/01/2015
A ground-level reimagining of the violent protests at the 1999 World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle, told from a host of perspectives. The emotional core of Yapa's debut novel is the fraughtly named Victor, a 19-year-old who's come to Seattle after a few years of globe-trotting to sharpen his social-justice sensibilities--and to confront his stepfather, the fraughtly named Bishop, head of the city's police force. The downtown streets are swarming with protesters determined to halt the movement of WTO delegates, who are seen as pillaging poorer nations in the name of free trade, and the story bounces dutifully among a handful of characters representing the various factions. There's John Henry, a middle-aged and weathered protest vet; Timothy, a hotheaded cop impatient with nonviolent resistance; King, a live-wire tough-talker; Julia, a cop who's softened following a stint in Los Angeles policing the Rodney King riots; and Charles, a Sri Lankan delegate baffled by the chaos in the streets but determined to make his meetings. Yapa's grasp of the pre-9/11 global diaspora is sound, and he's knowledgeable about the tactics that both protesters and law enforcement use against each other. But lacking much in the way of deep characterization--we are meant to believe that Bishop made a bonfire of Victor's mother's lefty books and that Victor fled the country because of it--the novel is largely a parade of pat sentiments and facile contradictions. King is committed to nonviolence--but does she have a violent past? Charles cares for his countrymen--but is he selling them out? The purpler prose only highlights the thinness of the storytelling: Bishop has "a heart full of loss and a head full of doom"; chanting, John Henry says, is "how we hold the fear in our mouths and transform it into gold." American novels about protest have been thin on the ground since the days of Ken Kesey and Edward Abbey. The genre deserves a better revival effort than this. 320pg. KIRKUS MEDIA LLC, c2015.
Library Journal Prepub Alert | 07/06/2015
Yapa has studied with Peter Carey, Colum McCann, Nathan Englander, Claire Messud, and Zadie Smith, and his manuscript drew immediate attention from the editor, who started reading it mid-day Friday and completed the purchase by Sunday; the galley was subsequently in great demand at BookExpo America. All good news for this first novel, and I can report that the language, pacing, and jigsawwing of the various stories look to be smart and smooth-as-silk assured. The novel is set during Seattle's 1999 World Trade Organization protests, as edgy but resilient runaway Victor weaves through the throngs, trying to sell marijuana and setting off sparks both personal and political. There's pathos here; with a 100,000-copy first printing. Barbara Hoffert. 320p. LJ Prepub Alert Online Review. LIBRARY JOURNAL, c2015.
Publishers Weekly | 10/12/2015
Yapa's chilling debut is set amid the real-life protests that disrupted the 1999 World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference in Seattle, which resulted in hundreds of arrests, police resignations, and an increased media spotlight on the WTO. The novel follows a fictional group of police officers, dissidents, and a diplomat as they struggle through the summit's first chaotic day, full of tear gas, epiphany, and violence. On one side are the activists and their hangers-on: Victor, a nomadic 19-year-old trying to sell weed to protesters; King and John Henry, veteran nonviolent advocates who arrive at the protests to act as medics; and Charles, a political representative from Sri Lanka who quickly finds himself a target of both protesters and police. Representing the law are Chief Bill Bishop, Victor's estranged stepfather, bent on protecting his city; and officers Tim and Julia, whose past run-ins with terrorism and riots influence their fierce approach to peace. Yapa shows great skill in juggling these seven narratives as he builds a combustible environment, offering brief glimpses of the past to round out each character--and in the case of King, to reveal a deadly secret. As the peaceful protests turn brutal, however, the author's firm grasp of his story loosens a bit. But by the novel's end, Yapa regains his stride, resulting in a memorable, pulse-pounding literary experience. Agent: P.J. Mark, Janklow & Nesbit Associates. (Jan.). 320p. PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, c2015.
Review Citations
New York Times Book Review | 01/17/2015