Santa Monica Press has been an independent adult nonfiction publisher for more than a quarter of a century and will be launching a range of teen books next February.
Los Angeles native who founded Santa Monica Press in 1994, editor Jeffrey Goldman was motivated to take the foray into YA through decades of experience as a board member, chairman, and teaching volunteer at the nonprofit literacy organization Words Alive. His work as a typist at the Monarch School in San Diego, which helps children affected by homelessness, was particularly convincing.
“I knew from my own children’s education and friendships with the librarians at their school that teenage literature can have a profound impact on a young person,” said Goldman. “But what I saw at Monarch School was how YA literature can literally change lives. High school kids with little interest in school came across the carefully selected books from the Words Alive curriculum. “
The publisher recalled a particularly important encounter with a student who had recently arrived at Monarch’s after visiting various schools and detention situations. “That boy was one of the greatest student writers I have ever met,” said Goldman. “But he thought nothing of it, because he had never had anyone at home to encourage him until he read the book Words Alive gave him: Jimmy Baca Santiago’s Memoir, A Place to Stand. This book changed his life. He devoted himself to his writing. “
And Goldman got involved on an additional release mission. “I decided it was time for Santa Monica Press to take on a new challenge that would affect young readers while raising funds through book sales to support literacy organizations like Words Alive,” he said. The press will donate a percentage of the proceeds from their new teenage imprint to this and other nonprofit groups dedicated to promoting literacy.
Bring the list to life
Santa Monica Press / Teen’s debut list includes two memoirs and two novels: Pork Belly Tacos with a Side of Anxiety: My Journey Through Depression, Bulimie, and Addiction by Yvonne Castañeda, Flowing with the Pearl River: Memoir of a Red China Girl by Amy Chan Zhou, The Seamstress’ Daughter: A Novel by Linda Boroff, and Ventura and Zelzah: A Novel by JG Bryan. Santa Monica Press books are distributed by PGW.
Given that Santa Monica Press / Teen will publish between six and ten titles annually, Goldman found that its introductory list is representative of the future focus of imprinting. “True to our roots, it’s a diverse mix,” he said.
A look at the debut releases shows this. In Pork Belly Tacos with a Side of Anxiety, Yvonne Castañeda tells her story of how she grew up in Miami as the daughter of a Mexican mother and a Cuban father, struggling with the conflict between the cultural norms of her Latin American heritage and the expectations of American society. Amy Chan Zhou’s memoir “Flowing with the Pearl River” describes the harrowing experiences of her family during the Cultural Revolution in China and their later emigration to the USA
Goldman stressed the value of memoirs by authors “with unique voices and relatable stories” that the press is actively seeking for their YA list. “Working with teenagers in the classroom, I’ve seen the impact memoirs can have on readers when they realize that writers have gone through similar crises as they have,” he said. “If it’s not life-saving, this reading experience can be life-changing.”
Historical fiction – especially work that Linda Boroff’s 20th The Dressmaker’s Daughter offers a “unique perspective on the Holocaust,” as Goldman put it. The focus is on a brave Jewish teenager who endures the brutality of the Nazi troops that invade their Romanian homeland and ultimately escapes to freedom. In Ventura and Zelzah, JG Bryan tells the coming-of-age story of four boys in a suburb of Los Angeles in the confusing, revealing 1970s.
Goldman pointed out that the second list of the imprint will contain a fictional work venturing into an earlier century – the 19th century. Andrew Komarnyckyj’s The Revenge of Joe Wild, set during the Civil War, features an Illinois boy who runs away and joins the Union Army after being falsely charged with the murder of his friend. The novel, Goldman quipped, was “a book in the great tradition of the Great American Novel – written only by a British! I assure you, we will always keep things eclectic here at Santa Monica Press. “