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Virago to release ‘coming of age’ collection aimed at young women, Maya Angelou completists

In a bid to reclaim some of that £3 million of sweet young adult money from Pottermore, Virago Modern Classics is preparing to publish a collection of six hardbacks that share themes of ‘coming of age’. The titles will be released as physical editions only, with similarly styled covers designed by Mira Nameth, and will retail at £12.99 apiece. Virago is seemingly hoping to tap into the ‘gotta catch ’em all’ collector mentality that so easily takes hold of the young and suggestible, making this initiative very much the Pokemon of things involving Maya Angelou.

For yes, Angelou is one of the six authors featured, represented by I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, her poetic 1969 autobigraphy of a childhood spent overcoming racism through the power of literature. It’s the only work of non-fiction of the six, and is one of three that have never previously been published as Virago Modern Classics: also making their debut on the imprint are Emma Donoghue’s 2000 historical novel Slammerkin, based on the true case of an 18th century servant who killed her master, and, staying with period recreations, Sarah Waters’ lauded 1998 piece of Victoriana Tipping The Velvet (whose 2002 BBC adaptation, in keeping with the coming of age theme, no doubt ushered many a young boy into manhood). This release will also be the first time Waters’ novel has been available in hardback in the UK.

Featuring alongside the Waters, Donoghue and Angelou are three titles previously available as Virago Modern Classics: Miles Franklin’s 1901 debut My Brilliant Career, Rosamond Lehmann’s 1932 Invitation to the Waltz and Rumer Godden’s 1946 The River, the first of 15 Godden novels that Virago plan on republishing and disappointingly not a premonitory account of the recording of the Bruce Springsteen album of the same name.

As you may have noticed, all six of these authors are female, and all of their featured novels are, broadly speaking, feminist to a greater or lesser degree, which suggests that Virago isn’t targeting young adults so much as it’s more specifically targeting young women. Presumably it’s taken one look at the boys and given a weary, resigned sigh, as well it might.

Chris Ward

Chris Ward

Chris Ward writes and says things about books and music and films and what have you, even when no one is reading or listening.
He was chief hack and music editor of webzine Brazen from 2006 to 2010, and hosted Left of the Dial on Subcity Radio from 2008 to 2011.
He can be heard semi-regularly on the podcast of Scottish cultural blog Scots Whay Hae ('20th best website in Scotland!' - The List), and in 2011 founded Seen Your Video, a film and music podcast and blog based in Glasgow. He has a Masters degree in Scottish Literature from the University of Glasgow that will never have any practical application. You are on a hiding to nothing if you follow him on Twitter expecting any kind of hot publishing scoop.


  • Exciting news! Although virago only publish books by women.. And generally speaking most of them are feminist (ish).. Doesn’t mean that boys can’t enjoy the books though! In fact, if that deters them then it’s quite sad..

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