February 6, 2020

Now is the time for a book deemed “ahead of its time” to be published


Time is a funny thing. Some say time is a relative, an illusion, a flat circle, etc. To be “ahead” of time is another thing. Claude McKay is a man who wrote a very current book touching on post colonialism, black queer love, and the long-term ramifications of slavery in the early 20th century. Talya Zax reports for The New York Times that the book Romance in Marseille has finally found its publisher 87 years later, and will be published February 11th by Penguin Classics

The book’s plot and themes are just as relevant today as they were when written by McKay. However, some themes were deemed too scandalous to delve into. His first book Home to Harlem was published in 1928 and it became the first American bestseller by a black U.S. citizen. Home to Harlem was more of an outsider’s critique to the Harlem renaissance and class politics, which proved very popular at the time to booksellers. The more radical subject matters in Romance in Marseille are less about race but focusing more on sexuality, gender, nationality, and class stature. 

The story of Romance in Marseille follows openly queer characters going about their everyday lives in the height of the Harlem renaissance. Naturally in 1933, this was a tough sell to publishers. McKay was openly bisexual in a time when homosexuality was illegal.

McKay’s other unpublished works are also being explored for potential future releases. Manuscripts show more stories and poetry that are being examined. Now is the perfect time to explore his work. 


Andréa Córdova is a publicist at Melville House.