Our guest this week Sunil Yapa talks about his first novel Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist, which takes place on one cold November day at the 1999 The World Trade Organization protests in Seattle. There couldn’t be a more timely book as it takes on big themes like economic inequality, police brutality, and race.
In the novel, Sunil seamlessly switches from the perspectives of seven people: Victor, a biracial 19-year-old hoping to sell weed to the protesters; Bishop, his estranged father who is also the police chief; a pair of officers trying to control the crowd; the Sri Lankan finance minister trying to get his country into the WTO, and the two non-violent protesters who are on a mission to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Our conversation jumps all over the place — from the influence of his dad’s Marxist beliefs, to his years traveling the world, to selling posters on college campuses to make some cash to fund his adventures — we hope you enjoy Sunil’s obvious passion for the writing life.
Sunil Yapa’s debut novel YOUR HEART IS A MUSCLE THE SIZE OF A FIST is the lead title for Lee Boudreaux’s eponymous new imprint, Lee Boudreaux Books at Little, Brown & Company. Publication date is January 12, 2016.
Sunil Yapa holds a BA in economic geography from Penn State University, and received his MFA in Fiction from Hunter College in New York City in 2010, where he worked with two-time Booker Prize winning author Peter Carey, and the 2009 National Book Award winner (Let the Great World Spin) Colum McCann. While at Hunter Sunil was also awarded the Alumni Scholarship & Welfare Fund Fellowship, which is given to one fiction student every three years, and was twice selected as a Hertog Fellow, working as a research assistant for Zadie Smith (Changing My Mind), as well as Ben Marcus (The Flame Alphabet).
He is the recipient of the 2010 Asian American Short Story Award, sponsored by Hyphen Magazine and the Asian American Writers’ Workshop in New York, and has received scholarships to The New York State Summer Writers’ Institute, The Norman Mailer Writers’ Center in Provincetown and The Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. His writing has appeared in American Short Fiction, The Margins, Hyphen Magazine, The Tottenville Review, Pindeldyboz: Stories that Defy Classification, and others.
The biracial son of a Sri Lankan father and a mother from Montana, Yapa has lived around the world, including time living in Greece, Guatemala, Chile, Argentina, China, and India, as well as, London, Montreal, and New York City.