Introducing Penguin Vitae

By Kayleigh Voss | June 3 2020 | General


Because what you read matters.

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What classic books would you place together on a shelf to represent the course of your life? This is the question that sparks our new hardcover series, Penguin Vitae, or, loosely translated, “Penguin of one’s life.” A diverse world of storytellers from the past speaks to us at pivotal chapters of our lives and connects a community of readers across time and generations. Penguin Vitae invites readers to curate their own personal Penguin Classics canon from this series and to discover other seminal works of timeless inspiration, intellectual engagement, and creative originality. Here are the first books from our new series, designed by Penguin’s creative director Paul Buckley. Let us know which one is your favorite on social media (we’re @PenguinClassics everywhere).

Penguin Classics is honored to publish Sister Outsider, essential nonfiction by black lesbian poet and feminist writer Audre Lorde. Featuring a foreword by Mahogany L. Browne, this groundbreaking collection of writings on race, gender, and LGBTQ issues is incisive, unflinching, and lyrical, reflecting struggles but ultimately offering messages of hope.

Sister Outsider

Before Night Falls, the acclaimed memoir of homosexual Cuban author Reinaldo Arenas, chronicles his tumultuous yet luminary life, from his impoverished upbringing in Cuba to his imprisonment in the hands of a Communist regime. With a foreword by Jaime Manrique, who knew Arenas through his last years, this memoir breaks the silence that protects the privileged in a state where homosexuality is a political crime, and reveals the true story of the iconoclastic life that inspired Arenas’s novels.

Before Night Falls

When Kate Chopin’s novel The Awakening was first published in 1899, charges of sordidness and immorality seemed to consign it into obscurity and irreparably damage its author’s reputation. But a century after her death, The Awakening is widely regarded as Kate Chopin’s great achievement. Our edition of this celebrated work of early feminist literature features an introduction by Claire Vaye Watkins.

The Awakening

As a timely and tragic tale about the fluidity of racial identity and the complexity of being human, Passing, by Nella Larsen, resonates with each generation of readers. Larsen’s classic Harlem Renaissance novel, here featuring an introduction by Emily Bernard, powerfully plays on multiple levels of race and gender, whiteness and blackness, and social obligation and personal freedom.


The Yellow Wall-Paper and Selected Writings is a collection by landmark American feminist and socialist thinker Charlotte Perkins Gilman penned in response to her frustrations with the gender-based double standard that prevailed in America as the twentieth century began. Our edition includes, among other writings, both “The Yellow Wall-Paper,” the unforgettable short story depicting a woman’s mental breakdown, and the wry novel Herland, as well as an introduction by Kate Bolick.

The Yellow Wall-Paper

Mahogany L. Browne