Perhaps her fellow commuters took no notice of the figure on the F-train tapping away at her laptop or scribbling in her notebook as the subway train rattled into Manhattan.  How were they to know that the young woman in question was writing the first draft of a memoir that has set publishers on both sides of the Atlantic scrambling to make pre-emptive offers.

Viking UK publisher Mary Mount has pre-empted UK & Commonwealth rights to what is described as ‘a truly remarkable memoir’, Beautiful Country by Qian Julie Wang, which is ‘the story of a childhood spent in severe poverty as an undocumented Chinese immigrant in Brooklyn’, according to the publisher’s synopsis.  ‘From the sushi factory to elementary school, the ‘shopping days’ (days spent scavenging the neighbourhood for furniture for their home) to emergency treatment in hospital, Wang’s memoir is an utterly compelling and unforgettable account of what it means to live a life under the perpetual threat of deportation’.

Mount concluded the deal with Karolina Sutton at Curtis Brown on behalf of Andrianna Yeatts at ICM Partners in New York.   At Doubleday in the US, Margo Shickmanter acquired North American rights, also in a pre-empt.

Mount said: “This is one of the most moving and illuminating memoirs I’ve read. It goes deep beyond the headlines and truly makes the reader understand what it means to live an undocumented life, the unbearable threat that hangs over everyday existence. In prose that is brilliantly vivid and completely compelling Qian Julie Wang has written an essential book for our times.”

The 33 year-old author is a lawyer working in New York. She received a law degree from Yale and wrote the first draft of the memoir on her daily commute on the F train to work in Manhattan. Beautiful Country is her first book, though she has also written for the New York Times.  It will be published in spring 2022.