While 12 Years a Slave, the film, has been turning up at award show after award show, with its cast and crew nailing down quite a few trophies this season, it turns out that the memoir it’s based on isn’t doing too badly, either.
Director Steve McQueen’s film bringing the profound and painful story to life has helped make Solomon Northup’s tale a best-seller, hundreds of years after it was first published in 1853, USA Today reports.
But the British filmmaker isn’t through with the book. He is currently working with Penguin Books, publisher of the paperback edition with the movie tie-in, to push for the book to be studied in secondary schools. “This story is so important. It was lost for 150 years. How is that possible?” asks McQueen, who’s nominated for best director at the Oscars. “I’m just so happy that the public has embraced the movie and the book.”
The book is currently No. 14 on USA Today’s best-seller list, sitting next to contemporary titles, some of which were best-sellers before the movie was even a concept.
According to USA Today, the book did sell well when it was first published but then inexplicably disappeared into obscurity. “This is a book nobody was really aware of, except scholars in the field,” John Siciliano, executive editor of Penguin Books, told USA Today.
Penguin, which has sold more than 150,000 digital and print copies, says that ever since the movie was nominated for nine Oscars, the publisher has seen “huge reorders from bookstores” and mass retailers like Target.
Penguin is also joining McQueen and Brad Pitt’s Plan B production company to get secondary schools and curriculum developers in the U.S. and Great Britain involved, hoping “to put the book in their hands,” USA Today notes.
“I do think it’s an awesome book for 11th-graders, even 12th-graders,” Anne Kauth told the news site. Kauth teaches literature at Saratoga Springs High School in New York, where Northup lived before he was kidnapped.
Read more at USA Today.