Sunil Yapa

We live in a world in which our lives are linked with people thousands of miles away. Each person has a real life. Empathy is a radical act, particularly when you use it to connect with people who are very different from you. Loving others is wonderful, but caring for others is profound.

pen/faulkner award finalist

 Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Pick




A symphony of a novel. Sunil Yapa inhabits the skins of characters vastly different to himself: a riot cop in Seattle, a punk activist, a disillusioned world traveler and a high-level diplomat, among others. Through it all Yapa showcases a raw and rare talent. This is a protest novel which finds, at its core, a deep and abiding regard for the music of what happens. In the contemporary tradition of Aleksandar Hemon and Phillip Meyer, with echoes of Michael Ondaatje and Arundhati Roy, Yapa strides forward with a literary molotov cocktail to light up the dark.
— Colum McCann
The new year explodes with a fantastic debut novel…What is so enthralling about this novel is its syncopated riff of empathy as the perspective jumps around these participants — some peaceful, some violent, some determined, some incredulous. “Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist” ultimately does for the WTO protests what Norman Mailer’s “Armies of the Night” did for the 1967 March on the Pentagon, gathering that confrontation in competing visions of what happened and what it meant.
The Washington Post
Fast-paced and unflinching…Yapa vividly evokes rage and compassion. Underlying the novel, and at once reinforced and rejected, is the chief’s mantra: “Care too much and the world will kill you cold
The New Yorker

Sunil Yapa is the author of Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist (Lee Boudreaux Books, 2016), a finalist for the 2017 PEN/Faulkner award, and a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Pick. It was also named one of the best books of 2016 by Amazon, Time Magazine, The Washington Post, Bustle, and others. 

Set during one day of the 1999 Seattle WTO protests, the novel was described as “fast-paced and unflinching” by The New Yorker, “a genuine tour-de-force” by The Seattle Times, “generation-defining” by The Toronto Star, and garnered comparisons to Jonathan Franzen, Don DeLillo, and Tolstoy.

In an interview about the book for Lithub, Yapa notes,“We’re exhausted by our own anger and outrage and looking for reconciliation, looking for something beyond the anger, whatever that might be. In the book I suggest it’s human connection. “Love” is so overused, but yes, it’s that agape love for your fellow human being. Che Guevara said that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love. I’m right there with Che.”

Yapa’s fiction and non-fiction have appeared in American Short Fiction, Guernica, O Magazine, Poets & Writers, The Margins, Hyphen, Slice, LitHub and others. 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.

An accomplished speaker, Yapa has appeared on public radio and national television, including NPR’s Morning Edition, public radio in San Francisco, Seattle, New York, and Australia; in 2016 he was a guest on NBC’s Late Night with Seth Meyers.  He also spoken about his novel, and its themes of protest, empathy, and hope all over the world, including Hong Kong, South Africa, Australia, and more than 100 events in the US.

Yapa holds a BA in economic geography from Penn State University, and received his MFA in Fiction from Hunter College in New York City. While at Hunter, Yapa 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 and Ben Marcus.

 The biracial son of a Sri Lankan father and a mother from Montana, Yapa has lived around the world, including The Netherlands, Thailand, Greece, Guatemala, Argentina, Chile, China, and India, as well as, London, Montreal, and New York City. He currently divides his time between New York City and Montreal, and teaches in the low-residency MFA Program at Sierra Nevada College in Lake Tahoe.



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