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.