Brooklyn Independent publisher Akashic Books has recruited bestselling author Ann Hood to head Gracie Belle, a new imprint that will specialize in books on grief, loss and recovery. The imprint, named after Hood’s daughter who passed away at a young age, will release one or two books a year. It first title, a memoir called Now You See The Sky by Catharine Murray, will be released in November.
Now You See The Sky, is about the author’s middle son, who was diagnosed with cancer at the age of five, and how her family coped with his steady decline. Hood, who met Murray at a writers conference, said she read the book in manuscript and “was blown away by its elegance and beauty.”
Murray’s memoir, according to Akashic and Hood, is the kind of book that publishers often shy away from. Temple, who said “publishers are timid about works of grief,” wanted to create a place where such titles could find a home.
With this in mind, Temple reached out to Hood, who is a faculty member in the New School’s MFA program in Creative Writing and who also edits Akashic’s Providence Noir series. Temple described her as both a friend and “an important figure in the grief community.”
Hood wrote the acclaimed 2008 memoir Comfort: A Journey Through Grief, about the death of her five-year-old daughter. Since the title’s publication, she has become a key figure in a growing community of writers and readers focused on literary efforts to address the tragedy of premature death, loss and grief.
Hood said that because of her grief memoir, students “who are writing about grief have sought me out as teacher. All of their stories have touched me deeply.” But, in more than a decade working with talented writers focused on works about grief, Hood said that “not one [of these manuscripts] has found a [publishing] home. The rejections are always the same: no one wants to read something so sad.”
While these books are focused on tragedy and loss, Hood said there is a viable market for them. “Unfortunately there is an ever-growing audience for grief books as everyday new people lose loved ones,” she explained. “And those people—like me—are seeking well-written, honest, hopeful stories to help them through.”
“Ann is smart, savvy and passionate about the imprint,” Temple said. “When you’ve suffered a horrible loss you need community and you need books to make sense out of a world that makes no sense at all,” Temple said.