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ZSH Literary
Janet Silver   [ Download hi-res version ]

Janet Silver

Janet Silver, the Literary Director of Zachary Shuster Harmsworth, brings more than thirty years of experience as an editor and publishing executive to her work as an agent. She joined ZSH after 25 years at the former Houghton Mifflin Company, where she was Vice President and Publisher.

Janet's clients are award-winning and bestselling writers of the highest caliber literary fiction and nonfiction, including memoir, biography, history, science, philosophy, and poetry. Her authors include Cheryl Strayed, author of the #1 New York Times bestselling memoir Wild, which has sold 2 million copies and is now a major motion picture starring Reese Witherspoon. Among her other celebrated clients are the widely acclaimed Anthony Marra, whose debut novel A Constellation of Vital Phenomena was a New York Times Best Seller and won the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Award; Monique Truong, winner of the Asian American Literary Award for her novel The Book of Salt; Michael Byers, a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award for his story collection The Coast of Good Intentions; novelist Christopher Castellani, winner of a Guggenheim Fellowship and author most recently of All This Talk of Love; and Hanna Pylväinen, winner of a Whiting Award for her novel We Sinners.

Many writers on Janet's list have been featured in prestigious publications, including The New Yorker; The Atlantic; Wired; The Paris Review; The New York Times Magazine; The Wall Street Journal; Harper's; The Best American Essays; The Best American Short Stories; and elsewhere. In addition to the honors for the authors noted above, her clients have won many other awards, including the New York Public Library Young Lions Award, the Pushcart Prize, the O.Henry Award; the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the L.A. Times Book Prize.

Janet's clients benefit from both her extensive inside knowledge of the publishing process and her highly regarded, in-depth editorial insight. At the former Houghton Mifflin, she worked with such esteemed authors as Philip Roth, Tim O'Brien, Jonathan Safran Foer, Cynthia Ozick, and John Edgar Wideman, and she launched the careers of many prize-winning young writers, including Peter Ho Davies, author of The Welsh Girl; and Jhumpa Lahiri, winner of the Pulitzer Prize. As Publisher, Janet oversaw the release of such groundbreaking bestsellers as Richard Dawkins's The God Delusion and Jerome Groopman's How Doctors Think.

Janet holds a B.A. from Brown University and an M.A. in English Literature from the University of Chicago. She lectures on the publishing industry nationwide and has been featured in Poets and Writers, Boston Magazine, and "The Emily Rooney Show" on WGBH TV. She serves on the Board of Trustees of the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown and the advisory board of Ploughshares magazine.

Blue Talk and Love
By Mecca Jamilah Sullivan | Riverdale Avenue Books, 2015

Blue Talk and Love tells the stories of girls and women of color navigating the moods and mazes of urban daily life. Set in various enclaves of New York City—including the middle-class Hamilton Heights section of Harlem, the black queer social world of the West Village, the Spanish-speaking borderland between Harlem and Washington Heights, and historic Tin Pan Alley—the collection uses magic realism, historical fiction, satire and more to highlight young black women's inner lives. The story lines range widely: a big-bodied teenage girl from Harlem discovers her sexuality in the midst of racial tensions at her Upper East Side school; four young women from Newark, New Jersey, are charged with assaulting the man who threatens to rape them; a pair of conjoined black female twins born into slavery, make their fame as stage performers in the Big City. In each story, the characters push past what is expected of them, learning to celebrate their voices and their lives.

Congratulations On Your Martyrdom!
By Zachary Tyler Vickers | Break Away Books, 2016

Searing, troubling, and funny, these revolutionary, linked stories flit and dart among the shadows of small town life, and the touching and heartbreaking characters that occupy it. Employees use roadkill instead of faux pelts during a build-a-critter battle for mall supremacy. Former band geeks are harassed with mutilated musical instruments and then murdered. The collection is haunted by allusions to a fatal cannonball jump that crescendos in the explosive final story. An extraordinary addition to the canon of gonzo fiction, Congratulations on Your Martyrdom! introduces Zachary Tyler Vickers as an exciting new author whose unflinching prose grabs you and won't let go.

Bitter in the Mouth
By Monique Truong | Random House, 2011

Bitter in the Mouth is a brilliant, virtuosic novel about a young woman's search for identity and the true meaning of family. "What I know about you, little girl, would break you in two" are the prophetic last words that Linda Hammerick's grandmother says to her. Growing up in small-town North Carolina in the 1970s and '80s, Linda already knows that she is profoundly different from everyone else, including the members of her own family. She can "taste" words. In this and in other ways, her body is a mystery to her. Linda's awkward girlhood is nonetheless enlivened and emboldened by her dancing great-uncle Harper, and Kelly, her letter-writing best friend. Linda makes her way north to college and then to New York City, trying her best to leave her past behind her like "a pair of shoes that no longer fit." But when a family tragedy compels her to return home, Linda uncovers the startling secrets of her past. Monique Truong's acclaimed novel questions our assumptions about what it means to be a family and to be a friend, to be foreign and to be familiar, to be connected to and disconnected from our bodies, our histories, ourselves.

The Devouring Dragon: How China's Rise Threatens Our Natural World
By Craig Simons | St. Martin's Griffin, 2014

China's rise is assaulting the natural world at an alarming rate. In a few short years, China has become the planet's largest market for endangered wildlife, its top importer of tropical trees, and its biggest emitter of greenhouse gases. Its rapid economic growth has driven up the world's very metabolism: in Brazil, farmers clear large swaths of the Amazon to plant soybeans; Indian poachers hunt tigers and elephants to feed Chinese demand; in the United States, clouds of mercury and ozone drift earthward after trans-Pacific jet-stream journeys. Craig Simons's The Devouring Dragon looks at how an ascending China has rapidly surpassed the U.S. and Europe as the planet's worst-polluting superpower. It argues that China's most important 21st-century legacy will be determined not by jobs, corporate profits, or political alliances, but by how quickly its growth degrades the global environment and whether it can stem the damage. Combining in-depth reporting with wide-ranging interviews and scientific research, The Devouring Dragon shines a spotlight on how China has put our planet's forests, wildlife, oceans, and climate in jeopardy, multiplying the risks for everyone in our burgeoning, increasingly busy world.

Broadway Baby
By Alan Shapiro | Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2012

As a little girl growing up in Boston, Miriam Bluestein fantasized about a life lived on stage, specifically in a musical. Get married, have a family—sure, maybe she'd do those things, too, but first and foremost there was her career. As a woman, she is both tormented and consoled by those dreams in her day-to-day existence with her family, including a short-tempered husband, a cranky mother, and three demanding children, one of whom, Ethan, shows real talent for the stage. It is through Ethan that Miriam strives to realize her dreams. As she pushes him to make the most of his talent, the rest of her life gradually comes undone, with her husband becoming increasingly frustrated and her other two children—Sam, a mass of quirks and idiosyncrasies, and Julie, hostile and bitter—withdrawing into their own worlds. Still Miriam dreams, praying for that big finale, which, when it comes, is nothing that she ever could have imagined. Broadway Baby marks the fiction debut of a nationally acclaimed award-winning memoirist and poet, "an acute observer of moments, people, art and language [who] packs even seemingly simple stories with many layers of meaning" (Publishers Weekly, starred review).

Devotion and Defiance: My Journey in Love, Faith and Politics
By Humaira Awais Shahid | W. W. Norton & Co., 2014

In the fall of 2001, a newlywed English professor took on a job editing the "women's section" of one of Pakistan's leading Urdu newspapers. She soon transformed pages of celebrity gossip and fashion advice into a vehicle for the investigation of the true lives of Pakistani women. News of acid attacks on hapless women, the trading of girls as currency in tribal disputes, and other abuses transformed this young mother into a fiery advocate for women's rights—one guided by Islamic ethics and ideals of social justice as she taught rural leaders to distinguish between religion and tribal custom. Her commitment to her countrywomen led her to a seat in the Provincial Assembly of the Punjab, where she fought to protect women, girls, and the poor.

A Sandhills Ballad
By Ladette Randolph | University of New Mexico Press, 2009

After her life as she knows it is ended by heartbreak, Mary Rasmussen, a strong-willed and independent young ranch woman living in the Sandhills of western Nebraska, suddenly feels that all she has believed in—God, her instincts, the land itself—has failed her, and she abandons her cultural and emotional ties, succumbing to circumstances she thinks she is powerless to control. In a rash decision, she marries a conservative, patriarchal preacher who doesn't understand Mary, the ranching community, or anything beyond his own beliefs.

We Sinners
By Hanna Pylväinen | Picador, 2013

In this stunning, highly acclaimed debut novel, Hanna Pylväinen's We Sinners introduces us to an unforgettable family, bound together and torn apart by their intense religious devotion. Despite the ways all eleven of the Rovaniemis have built their lives around the conservative religion's rigid guidelines—music, television, makeup, and even school dances are strictly prohibited—their eventual places in the wider world and their paths to get there could not be more different, or more painful to each other. The children who reject the church learn that freedom comes at an almost unbearable cost, and those who stay struggle daily with the temptations of modern culture. Wholly absorbing and unflinching in its emotional honesty, We Sinners shows us how far we will go for faith and for each other, and the consequences when love—or God—is not enough.

Honey from the Lion
By Matthew Neill Null | Lookout Books, 2015

After fleeing his childhood farm in the wake of scandal, Cur Greathouse arrives at the Cheat River Paper & Pulp Company's Blackpine camp, where an unlikely family of sawyers offers him new hope. But the work there is exacting and dangerous with men's worth measured in ledger columns. Whispers of a union strike pass from bunk to bunk. Against the rasp of the misery whip and the crash of felled hemlock and red spruce, Cur encounters a cast of characters who will challenge his loyalties: a minister grasping after his dwindling congregation, a Syrian peddler who longs to put down his pack and open a store, a slighted Slovenian wife turned activist, and a trio of reckless land barons. Cur must accept or betray the call to lead a rebellion and finally reconcile a forbidden love.

Battle at the End of Eden
By Amanda Rose Martinez | The Atlantic Books, 2012

A globe-trotting tale that marks the very first time original Atlantic reporting is being published as an ebook, Battle at the End of Eden takes readers inside the fight to preserve the most delicate places on Earth. All across the globe, on exotic islands far from view, the world's rarest animals are quietly dying off. To many, the vexing wave of extinction portends an ecological crisis. To a cadre of brash scientists who think they've discovered a solution, these desperate times call for desperate measures—a strategy involving guns, poison, traps, and a wholesale rethinking of modern conservation.

The Needle
By Jennifer Grotz | Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011

Following her debut collection, Cusp, chosen by Yusef Komunyakaa to win the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference Bakeless Prize, the composed, observed quality of Jennifer Grotz's The Needle will remind readers of the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop and Ellen Bryant Voigt. Whether she is describing a town square in Kraków, where many of these poems are set, the ponies of Ocracoke Island, a boy playing a violin, or clouds, she finds the lyrical details that release an atmosphere of heightened, transcendent attention in which the things of the world become the World, what Zbigniew Herbert called "royal silence."

Magnetic North
By Linda Gregerson | Mariner Books, 2008

Touching on subjects as diverse as a breakthrough discovery in cell biology and the films of Ingmar Bergman, the anatomy of a possum and the Nazi occupation of Poland, Gregerson seeks to distill "the shape of the question," the tenuous connection between knowing and suffering, between the brightness of the body and the shadows of the mind. "Choose any angle you like," she writes, "the world is split in two." Longtime readers of Gregerson's poetry will be fascinated by her departure from the supple tercets in which she has worked for nearly twenty years: Magnetic North is a bold anthology of formal experiments. It is also a heartening act of sustained attention from one of our most mindful American poets.

What You Are Now Enjoying
By Sarah Gerkensmeyer | Autumn House Press, 2013

From Wonder Woman as an angst-ridden teenager to ghost twins to monster catfish to the secret relationships between polygamous wives, the stories in What You Are Now Enjoying approach the familiar in unfamiliar ways, allowing us to recognize and claim the unordinary moments in our own often ordinary lives.

All This Talk of Love
By Christopher Castellani | Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2013

It's been fifty years since Antonio Grasso married Maddalena and brought her to America. That was the last time she saw her parents, her sisters and brothers—everything she knew and loved in the village of Santa Cecilia, Italy. Maddalena sees no need to open the door to the past and let the emotional baggage and unmended rifts of another life spill out. But Prima was raised on the lore of the Old Country. And as she sees her parents aging, she hatches the idea to take the entire family back to Italy—hoping to reunite Maddalena with her estranged sister and let her parents see their homeland one last time. It is an idea that threatens to tear the Grasso family apart, until fate deals them some unwelcome surprises, and their trip home becomes a necessary journey. All This Talk of Love is an incandescent novel about sacrifice and hope, loss and love, myth and memory.

Dirt Work: An Education in the WOods
By Christine Byl | Beacon Press, 2014

Christine Byl first encountered the national parks the way most of us do: on vacation. But after she graduated from college, broke and ready for a new challenge, she joined a Glacier National Park trail crew as a seasonal "traildog" maintaining mountain trails for the millions of visitors Glacier draws every year. Byl first thought of the job as a paycheck, a summer diversion, a welcome break from "the real world" before going on to graduate school. She came to find out that work in the woods on a trail crew was more demanding, more rewarding—more real—than she ever imagined. In Dirt Work, Byl probes common assumptions about the division between mental and physical labor, "women's work" and "men's work," white collars and blue collars. The supposedly simple work of digging holes, dropping trees, and blasting snowdrifts in fact offers her an education of the hands and the head, as well as membership in an utterly unique subculture. Dirt Work is a contemplative but unsentimental look at the pleasures of labor, the challenges of apprenticeship, and the way a place becomes a home.

The Coast of Good Intentions
By Michael Byers | Mariner Books, 1998

Michael Byers's award-winning collection The Coast of Good Intentions tells graceful tales of achingly unresolved lives on the Pacific Northwest coast. Byers captures the lives of ferry workers, carpenters, park rangers, and adolescents leaving home, against a backdrop of crab factories, cranberry bogs, the fog-shrouded shore, and the Seattle skyline. A poignant debut collection, these stories are "richly peopled with compelling characters whose wisdom and experiences span the generations" (San Jose Mercury News).

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
By Cheryl Strayed | Vintage Books, 2013

A National Bestseller; An "Oprah Book Club" Selection; Winner: Barnes & Noble Discover Award, Indie Choice Award, Oregon Book Award, Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award, Midwest Booksellers Choice Award

At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother's death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and she would do it alone. Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena
By Anthony Marra | Hogarth, 2013

Winner: National Book Critics Circle's John Leonard Prize; Anisfield-Wolf Book Award in fiction; Carla Furstenberg Cohen Fiction Award

Two doctors risk everything to save the life of a hunted child in this majestic debut about love, loss, and the unexpected ties that bind us together. "On the morning after the Feds burned down her house and took her father, Havaa woke from dreams of sea anemones." Havaa, eight years old, hides in the woods and watches the blaze until her neighbor, Akhmed, discovers her sitting in the snow. Akhmed knows getting involved means risking his life, and there is no safe place to hide a child in a village where informers will do anything for a loaf of bread, but for reasons of his own, he sneaks her through the forest to the one place he thinks she might be safe: an abandoned hospital where the sole remaining doctor, Sonja Rabina, treats the wounded. Though Sonja protests that her hospital is not an orphanage, Akhmed convinces her to keep Havaa for a trial, and over the course of five extraordinary days, Sonja's world will shift on its axis and reveal the intricate pattern of connections that weaves together the pasts of these three unlikely companions and unexpectedly decides their fate.