One of the most painful aspects of grief is how isolated one can feel when experiencing it. Literature has often comforted the bereaved, provided solace and wisdom to those suffering, and aided readers in the painstaking journey of recovery. To ensure that this continues, Akashic Books, an independent publisher based in Brooklyn, New York, has created an imprint especially for books focused on grief, loss, and recovery.
Best-selling author Ann Hood will head the new imprint, named Gracie Belle, after Hood’s daughter, who died at age five and is the subject of her memoir Comfort: A Journey Through Grief (Norton, 2008). Hood, who has taught writing for many years and in June launched a low-residency MFA program at Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island, noticed that many of her writing students had excellent manuscripts about grief, loss, and recovery but weren’t able to find a publisher for them. “The rejections pretty much said that it’s just too sad and no one will want to read them,” Hood says. “Well, of course it’s sad—but I think a good grief memoir not only helps others who are suffering loss, but also gives hope that they can get to the other side.”
Hood says that most titles about grief on the market are written by health-care professionals and serve more as self-help guides and resources for readers looking for tools to cope. Gracie Belle’s books, meanwhile, will consist of good narrative writing about what grief feels like. “These are stories of survival and incredible spiritual and psychological resilience,” says Johnny Temple, Akashic’s publisher and editor in chief. “An audience that needs these books needs them more than the average reader needs the average novel. It’s more psychologically urgent. My needing One Hundred Years of Solitude, which I do feel I need, is different than someone who has lost a child needing Comfort by Ann Hood. They read to cope with reality, to stay alive, and to remember why life is worth living.”
The imprint’s first title, the memoir Now You See the Sky by Catharine H. Murray, will be published in November. Of the book, which recounts the loss of Murray’s six-year-old son to cancer, Hood says, “A good grief memoir like [Catharine’s] not only takes us through the grief journey, but reminds us that part of that journey is love and ultimately hope.”
Although Gracie Belle is not currently open for submissions, Hood plans to publish one or two memoirs a year. She says in the future she may consider expanding to poetry and fiction that is “well-written, faces grief head-on, and offers hope and affirmation.” For now Hood’s goal is to publish work that helps readers and authors feel less alone. “Literature helps people through all kinds of experiences and emotions,” she says. “In times of joy and celebration as well as times of great sadness, literature reminds us what it is like to be human.”
Gila Lyons has written about feminism, mental health, and social justice for the New York Times, Salon, Vox, Cosmopolitan, HuffPost, Good, and other publications. Find her on Twitter, @gilalyons, or on her website, gilalyons.com.