Yet he's equally excited that his best-picture nominee has helped make
"This story so important. It was lost for 150 years. How is that possible?" asks McQueen, who is nominated for best director. "I'm just so happy that the public has embraced the movie and the book."
12 Years a Slave is No. 14 on USA TODAY's Best-Selling Books list, sitting in the top 20 with other movie tie-in editions including Divergent, The Monuments Men and The Book Thief.
But those are contemporary titles, some already huge best sellers before a movie version was even in the works. 12 Years a Slavehas come out of virtual obscurity to climb best-seller lists.
Interestingly, the book sold well in its own time. In surprisingly accessible prose for a 19th-century narrative, Northup describes how he was lured from
"This is a book nobody was really aware of, except scholars in the field, which is being introduced to the country," says
Siciliano says Penguin has sold more than 150,000 copies both digitally and in print. (Adding to overall sales: The book is in the public domain, so there are low-priced versions of the e-book available from different publishers. Various print versions also are available.)
Penguin first published 12 Yearsin 2012, with a different jacket, as part of its African-American Classics series. Then Siciliano was surprised by a call from
Penguin released the movie tie-in paperback in September, with a first printing of 30,000 copies and a new foreword by McQueen.
Since the movie nabbed nine Oscar nominations, Penguin has seen "huge reorders from bookstores" and new orders from mass retailers including Target and
Now Penguin is working with McQueen and Plan B to reach out to secondary schools and curriculum developers across the
McQueen likens Northup's book to
"I live in
At least two teachers who have recently taught 12 Years a Slave agree it belongs in secondary schools.
"I do think it's an awesome book for 11th-graders, even 12th-graders," says
Last year, several of Kauth's seniors read the book for a group project. Kauth says she "wanted students to learn more about the North and slavery, about some of the awful stuff that was going on here."
In the South, the book also is being read by high school students.
She says that at first, students were angry at what Northup endured, but she encouraged them to see the positives in his fight for freedom.
Soon, she says, they were "creating a 21st-century version of Solomon," seeing him as "part
Booth-Horton, who is black, says the book is "controversial" and "hard," but it should be taught in schools. She thinks the Penguin teachers' guide is important.
"Any hard story should be told," she says, "but told under guided hands."
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