One World One Book: The Boat People

By Amanda Holman | November 6 2017 | AdultGeneral

Penguin Random House Announces The Boat People by Sharon Bala as the first 2018 One World, One Book pick

For readers of Khaled Hosseini and Chris Cleave, The Boat People is an extraordinary novel about a group of refugees who survive a perilous ocean voyage only to face the threat of deportation amid accusations of terrorism.

The Boat People is a spellbinding and timely novel that provokes a deeply compassionate lens through which to view the current refugee crisis.


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When a rusty cargo ship carrying Mahindan and five hundred fellow refugees from Sri Lanka’s bloody civil war reaches Vancouver’s shores, the young father thinks he and his six-year-old son can finally start a new life. Instead, the group is thrown into a detention processing center, with government officials and news headlines speculating that among the “boat people” are terrorists now posing a threat to Canada’s national security. As the refugees become subject to heavy interrogation, Mahindan begins to fear that a desperate act taken in Sri Lanka to fund their escape may now jeopardize his and his son’s chance for asylum.

Told from three Perspectives

Mahindan; his lawyer, Priya, a second-generation Sri Lankan Canadian who reluctantly represents the refugees; and Grace, a third-generation Japanese Canadian adjudicator who must decide Mahindan’s fate as evidence mounts against him.

Historical Roots and Contemporary Relevance

The novel was inspired by the Canadian government’s aggressive response to a group of Sri Lankan refugees arriving by sea in 2010, but it’s easy to layer the fundamental issues onto our own broken immigration system–especially as rigorous screening (and fear mongering) continues to hinder Syrians from seeking asylum in the United States.

Law and Order

With its complex dynamic between lawyer and defendant, and its probing spotlight on the prejudices and racial profiling that are all too common in the justice system, The Boat People will remind readers of TV’s many successful legal shows, such as The Good Wife and Law and Order.

Our commitment

We believe in this book. We believe in this book with such passion, that we acquired World rights, and are committed to providing all global marketing and publicity necessary to turn it into an international bestseller. Your Penguin Random House International Sales team is dedicated to making this book a success. Our publishers and the author herself will support us – and you – every step of the way.

Attached is a sell-sheet, and global marketing plan. Printed and electronic galleys are available. Please reach out to to receive your galley and customized marketing plan.

Global Marketing The Boat People

The Boat People Sell Sheet