Esi Sogah joined Kensington Publishing in January 2013 and was recently promoted to executive editor. She has worked with such authors as Alyssa Cole, Kate Clayborn, Mary Monroe and Dr. Jen Gunter. She acquires across all genres, fiction and nonfiction, and has recently taken on the role of managing strategy for the Dafina imprint, which focuses on books featuring stories of race and cultural identity. Dafina is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2020 and is home to such authors as Mary B. Morrison, Kiki Swinson, Shelly Ellis, Rochelle Alers and Tu-Shonda L. Whitaker.
On your nightstand now:
Oh man. Too many books, to be honest. I was in an editing and production flurry at the end of 2019, working on a lot of heartwarming, holiday-themed books like The Gift of Family by Mary Monroe, as well as updated versions of classic titles, like Here and Now by Kimberla Lawson Roby, which means I bought a bunch of books for myself as a reward that I am only now getting a chance to read. I'm reading (and loving) The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern. Next up is How We Fight for Our Lives by Saeed Jones.
Favorite book when you were a child:
I probably read The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin dozens of times as a kid--and a few more times as an adult. I wanted nothing more than to be Turtle Wexler. Looking back, I think I probably connected strongly with the feeling of being slightly out of place. Not unnoticed, but maybe not fully seen. And as an editor, I can see that The Westing Game was probably the beginning of me being fascinated by what a well-crafted plot and careful characterization can do. (A very close second is From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg.)
Your top five authors:
Virginia Woolf, Charles Dickens and Toni Morrison spring to mind immediately. I learned so much about writing and humanity through their work. To round out the top five, I've always believed your favorites are the ones you return to again and again. With a foundation in romance fiction, I'd have to say Lisa Kleypas and Beverly Jenkins. As an editor, they are shining examples of authors who show you humanity in all its glory and really celebrate what it is to live and love. As a reader, I can get lost in any one of their books, no matter how many times I've read it.
Book you've faked reading:
Well, this might get my romance card taken away from me, but pretty much anything by Jane Austen--with the exception of Northanger Abbey, which I'm told is the least-Austen Austen. But Jane has still taught me so much! Namely, how to identify what makes something work for its audience, even if the audience doesn't happen to be me.
Book you're an evangelist for:
From our list, I think everyone should read God Don't Like Ugly by Mary Monroe, absolute classic. And, new to our list, I am unbelievably excited to launch Rebekah Weatherspoon's Cowboys of California series with A Cowboy to Remember, which seamlessly blends romance, fairytales and the lesser-known past and present of black cowboys. Looking outside our house--it doesn't get much better than Rules of Civility by Amor Towles. I think I texted lines from that book to pretty much everyone I know.
Book you hid from your parents:
I don't know that I hid any books from my parents. (Although my mother did hide her romance novels from me. Unsuccessfully.)
Book that changed your life:
In thinking about books that shaped my current life, Beloved is top of the list. I read it in high school, and it spoke to me more deeply than anything else I had read to that point. And, at the time I was editor of my high school paper and got the chance to interview Ms. Morrison. Which is a memory I treasure to his day.
During my editorial career, working on Uptown Thief and the entirety of Aya de León's Justice Hustler series gave me new understanding of the power of genre fiction to not just entertain but also inform and inspire real change.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
In house: Wifey by Kiki Swinson. She absolutely changed the game.
Out of house: Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt.
Books I'm looking forward to:
We've got so many great books coming out in 2020, so I can't possibly cover them all, but I do want to highlight (Im)Perfectly Happy by Sharina Harris, about four friends who revive their college group, the Brown Sugarettes Masterminds, in order to figure out where their lives turned off the planned path. The Seaside Café by legendary Rochelle Alers launches her new Book Club series. We've also have some incredible repackaged classics from Wahida Clark and Donald Goines, plus some very exciting new projects that I can't talk about yet!