The Book

“Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist”
By Sunil Yapa

book cover art

Grief-stricken after his mother’s death and three years of wandering the world, Victor is longing for a family and a sense of purpose. He believes he’s found both when he returns home to Seattle — until he gets swept up in a massive protest. With young, biracial Victor on one side of the barricades and his estranged father — the white chief of police — on the opposite, the day descends into chaos, capturing in its confusion the activists, police, bystanders, and citizens from around the world who arrived that morning brimming with hope. By the day’s end, they will have all committed acts they never thought possible.

As heart-breaking as it is pulse-pounding, Yapa’s virtuosic debut asks profound questions about the power of empathy in our hyperconnected modern world, and the limits of compassion, all while exploring how far we must each go for family, for justice and for love.

Get the Book

Available in book, eBook and audio versions at all public libraries in Bellingham and Whatcom County, or purchase it from your favorite local independent book store, Village Books!

Author Sunil Yapa

Photo by Beowulf Sheehan

Sunil Yapa’s first novel – Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist – was a Time Magazine Best Books of the Year in 2016, an Amazon Best Book of the Year, a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Pick, and an Indies Next PickThe New Yorker writes, “Fast-paced and unflinching…Yapa vividly evokes rage and compassion.” The Seattle Times writes, “Yapa’s melding of fact and fiction, human frailty and geopolitics, is a genuine tour-de-force.”

Sunil Yapa holds a BA in economic geography from Penn State University, and received his MFA in Fiction from Hunter College in New York City in 2010, where he worked with two-time Booker Prize winning author Peter Carey, and the 2009 National Book Award winner (Let the Great World Spin) Colum McCann. While at Hunter Sunil 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 (Changing My Mind), as well as Ben Marcus (The Flame Alphabet).

The 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 lives in upstate New York.

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. His writing has appeared in Guernica, American Short Fiction, The Margins, Hyphen Magazine, The Tottenville Review, Pindeldyboz: Stories that Defy Classification, and others.

Interviews and Reviews


Cascadia Weekly: The Battle in Seattle (March 9, 2016)

Bustle: What Reading Sunil Yapa’s ‘Your Heart Is A Muscle The Size Of A Fist’ Means To Me As An Activist (February 22, 2016)

Vice: ‘Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist’ Is a Gutsy Protest Novel for Right Now (January 27, 2016)

The Seattle Times: A visceral fictional portrait of Seattle’s 1999 WTO riots (January 17, 2016)

NPR: ‘Your Heart Is A Muscle’ Is A Florid, Ambitious Tale of Protest (January 12, 2016)


NPR Morning Edition: When ‘Your Heart Is A Muscle,’ Empathy Is A Revolutionary Act (January 21, 2016)


Little, Brown and Company: The Book as a Political Statement and Black Lives Matter (December 2016)

Little, Brown and Company: Author Sunil Yapa on The Literary Show Project (December 2016)

American Booksellers Association: Indies Introduce Q&A with Sunil Yapa (March 2016)

Late Night with Seth Meyers: Interview with Sunil Yapa (January 2016)

Little, Brown and Company: Sunil Yapa talks about his novel (January 2016)

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