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Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist

3.61  ·  Rating details ·  6,443 ratings  ·  1,056 reviews
The Flamethrowers meets Let the Great World Spin in this debut novel set amid the heated conflict of Seattle's 1999 WTO protests.

On a rainy, cold day in November, young Victor--a boyish, scrappy world traveler who's run away from home--sets out to sell marijuana to the 50,000 anti-globalization protestors gathered in the streets. It quickly becomes clear that the throng de
Hardcover, 314 pages
Published January 12th 2016 by Little, Brown and Company
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Average rating 3.61  · 
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 ·  6,443 ratings  ·  1,056 reviews

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Will Byrnes
Feb 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
...the days of community policing were over. The world was a bottleful of sparkling darkness and the cops were charged with keeping the cork in it while the rich shook and shook.
The contradiction inherent in the title is realized in Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist as Sunil Yapa, in his remarkable first novel, brings us inside the 1999 anti-WTO protests that rocked Seattle. Over the course of a single day the seven main characters struggle with rage and love, alienation and connecti
Elyse  Walters
Aug 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"He traveled because he knew he did not belong. The home where he had been born was not his home. Something was missing. From him or from his home, he didn't know, and so he wandered.

Victor, with brown skin, had been on the road for three years. He left home at age 16. He circled the globe, east to west, north to south. He grew a beard and lost weight. He ran out of money. He took on odd jobs. His mother, Suzanne had died. He was heartbroken and lonely for her. His step father, Chief Bishop, - a
Diane S ☔
Jan 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
In this powerfully written novel Yapa takes the reader into the heart of the WTO protests of the 1999 held in Seattle. I remember watching scenes of this on the news, wondering how this could be happening, wondering why. This book takes a more personal slant by introducing us to a few different characters from all sides. Throughout the long day, as things spiral out of control we will learn their stories and what led them to converge in this time and place.

Hard to read at times, the brutality is
Ron Charles
Nov 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
The new year explodes with a fantastic debut novel called “Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist.” Sunil Yapa, the 38-year-old author, sets his story amid the melee of the Seattle WTO protests in 1999. Indelible coverage of that disaster and all the videos of police brutality around the country since then may have withered our capacity to be shocked, but Yapa’s ­re-creation of those horrible hours in the Emerald City arrives like a punch in the chest.

Think back to that innocent age before Se
Peter Boyle
Feb 10, 2016 rated it it was ok
It's difficult to spin a convincing narrative around a single incident from multiple perspectives. You need to keep the overarching story motoring while ensuring your characters are distinct and compelling, and find a natural way to segue from one viewpoint to the next. I thought Ryan Gattis did an excellent job of this recently with the electric All Involved. I'm not so sure Sunil Yapa pulls it off here.

The backdrop is the 1999 "Battle of Seattle", where activists clashed violently with police
Feb 13, 2016 rated it liked it
1999 WTO protests.
People around the world live in abject poverty. The mentally ill are out on the streets. Children are starving. Big Pharma is creating monopolies of health. American corn subsidies are impoverishing agricultural nations. The US is shoving hormone treated beef down the throats of unwilling Europeans, under the guise of 'free trade'. Workers are being exploited. Terrible injustice permeates human existence.

But, there is hope: "He heard them saying in the streets, 'Another world
The heart or the fist, which will it be? A hard-hitting novel with an unforgettably resonant title, this is set at the 1999 Seattle WTO protest. Yapa explores the motivations and backstories of activists, police officers, and delegates as the day deteriorates into violence. King was my favorite character, but they’re all well drawn. I particularly enjoyed the asides about Dr. Charles Wickramsinghe, would-be WTO representative from Sri Lanka; the scene where he sits down with arrested protestors ...more
Nov 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-i-own
Seattle 1999.
Rarely do I read books that talk about events that happened in my lifetime, but this afternoon I cracked the spine of a new book purchase and found myself looking through many different pairs of eyes during the events of the Seattle protests as the World Trade Organization (WTO) prepares to meet.
He heard them in the streets saying, "Another world is possible," and beneath his ribs broken and healed and twice broken and healed and thrice broken and healed, he shuddered and though
Book Riot Community
Man, this book is possibly the most suspenseful character study I’ve ever read. Taking place over the course of one day during the World Trade Organization protest in 1999, this compressed narrative is an absolute gut-punch. I read it in two sittings, 150 pages each and was both in awe of the lyrical and sparse descriptions and the knot in my stomach, not knowing how it was going to all come together. The chapter narration switches among seven characters, and each person is a unique, beautiful, ...more
Apr 21, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2016-reads
Overwrought, melodramatic, and overwritten. I didn't care for the writing, the characterization, the handling of the facts, or the muddled politics. Notes:

The writing
I hated the lyrical prose. Many sentences are utter nonsense or just overwritten. The female cop, "Ju" - her "philosophy" of policing? It makes no sense at all. Is King from western Pennsylvania's coal-mining country or a "New York City girl, a Brooklyn transplant?" Chanting protestors are described as "A thousand voices joined in r
Carol -  Reading Writing and Riesling
I have never read anything so violent or dark...I know clearly why I prefer crime fiction to these agonising truths.

My View:
This is not a book for the faint hearted or for those who feel deeply. I feel too deeply, I don’t think this was a book for me. Several times I started reading this and then the extreme, up close, in your face level of violence made me stop. Violence committed by a few, whose individual actions spurred “pack rage,” and more senseless violence (and this is by the “peacekeep
I can tell that Yapa has an MFA. It comes across in the writing. There are beautiful descriptive passages. The language is florid and sometimes breathtaking. There is a rhythm that comes across as trained or methodical. In fact, by the end of the book I began to view it as experimental or an assignment. Intriguing premise. A few hours inside the WTO demonstrations back in the 90s. The entire novel took place in the space of about 5 hours with multiple characters and points of view and flashbacks ...more
Jan 07, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
2.99 on 01/07/17

A chilling, powerful, beautiful debut novel by Sunil Yapa.
This is the fictional account of what may have happened on the streets of Seattle in 1999. The WTO came to host the Ministerial Conference which was to be "peacefully" protested. The story is seen through the eyes of 7 different characters. I thought Yapa did an excellent job of communicating the perspective of each character with the reader.

Another place, another time, jarringly real with today's new reason for social ci
Jun 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I didn’t expect to like this book. To begin with, I knew nothing about the 1999 WTO protest in Seattle around which the novel centers. (Literally, nothing. As in, I can’t believe I was alive when this happened, because I have never heard of it ever in my life.) Then came an unflattering-bordering-on-mean review from NPR, and I was regretting placing my library hold. However, I decided to give debut author Sunil Yapa a grudging 50 pages to impress me. I promised myself I could stop after those 50 ...more
Mar 25, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction-i-own
I would round this up to 2.5 if possible. (OK bordering on good). I have been trying to decide for a while now how to rate this. While the story itself was interesting (I don't remember hearing about the true events this book is based on) I did not like the style in which it was written There are multiple viewpoints, which is fine by me but I didn't like that from paragraph to paragraph it could be a different time period. (I read another book like that a long time ago and it didn't bother me in ...more
Dec 30, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first half of this book is a hot mess. Character development is all over the place and so many things happen that I just could not believe. A 19-year-old homeless drug dealer would not leave his backpack full of drugs (his way out) in a dumpster. He just wouldn't. Nope. He also wouldn't join the protesters as quickly as he does. Nope. It's rushed and weird and all over the place. I kind of hated it. This review perfectly captures how I feel about the first half of this book: http://www.npr.o ...more
Dec 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
1999 seems like a few years ago: It was the spring I graduated from high school - the autumn that I started University.

Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist outlines the way that the world has changed dramatically in the last 17(!) years - but also how people stay the same.

Globalization was not new, but it is something that the collective consciousness was beginning to pay attention to in 1999. This book looks at one night - the first night of the World Trade Organization's meeting in Seat
Michael Livingston
Sep 22, 2019 rated it liked it
Fast-paced, chaotic, a bit confusing and ultimately an attempt to make the world a better place - surely I can't be the first to draw parallels between this book and the massive WTO protests in Seattle around which it's set. There are a few too many neat coincidences for this to really hit home, but Yapa does build the drama expertly so that it's very hard to stop reading. ...more
Betsy Robinson
Jun 09, 2015 rated it liked it
Cinematic, commercial literary fiction. With a feeling reminiscent of the wonderful new TV series American Crime, this is the story of individual people and their relationships within the bloody 1999 protest against the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle. All sides — police and protestors, with a focus on a father cop and estranged son protestor, as well as other characters — are believably represented, which is emotionally powerful.

I'm so torn about this book that I've hesitated to re
Shawn Mooney (Shawn The Book Maniac)
First of all, reading Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist made me fall more than a little in love with Sunil Yapa. What a generous, large-hearted vision he brought to this, his debut novel.

Over the course of the first day of the infamous 1999 Seattle WTO protests, we dip into the consciousness of three police officers, including the chief; three protesters, including the police chief's long-lost son; and a Sri Lankan delegate, who has flown in to seek his nation's membership in the WTO an
Superstition Review
Aug 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing

“A thousand voices hoarse with fear and rage. A thousand voices joined in rhythm. It was a primal sound, a roar like a waterfall, a thousand voices becoming for the briefest of moments one voice, one roar, threaded through with frustration and yearning, their desperation to break through to another plane. One where the city belonged to them and they had no reason to be afraid.”
Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of Your Fist is a novel about people. Sunil Yapa writes about the protest that took plac
This novel details one day in the history of protest: the 1999 WTO protests, aka, the Battle in Seattle.

It is an interesting study of seven participants : what motivates their actions and they, as people.

John Henry: organizer and planner. Maps out the city. Coordinates the lockdown that snarls the intersections surrounding the convention center. Peaceful and full of love. The Heart.

King: John Henry's lover who has a violent secret. On the spectrum of peacefulness, fighting to maintain her own.

God help us, we are mad with hope. Here we come.
This novel walks a fine line between eye-rolling earnestness and conscience-shaking indictment. It worked for me, it will not work for some. A dozen themes and portraits of inequality presented within: I highly recommend reading.

This passage from one of the delegates from a third-world county desperately seeking entrance into the WTO to gain an inkling of trade parity sums up the message of the day's tale well:
But he knew It was only human nature
Dan Radovich
Jun 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The story Yapa tells in this wondrous work takes place over the course of one afternoon in 1999 Seattle at the World Trade Organization meeting. Victor is a young runaway searching for himself and money - so he opts to sell marijuana to the thousands of gathered protesters. His father, Bishop, is police chief in charge. The estrangement of these two is not cliche as written by Yapa. Chapters alternate to tell the story of characters fighting for peace - fighting for change - fighting for power. ...more
Oct 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: x2016-october
Well-written, character-driven fiction. I loved the cast...even the ones I hated. The setting was perfect. This book really made me think. I may end up bumping it up to five stars after I digest it for a while.
Loring Wirbel
Jun 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
The societal institutional and cultural memory seems to be fraying and becoming more transitory with each passing day. We all carry group memories of Kent State or Wounded Knee, but how many people remember 1999's Battle for Seattle, or any of the anti-World Trade Organization protests that followed through the time of the Bush election? Yapa writes about Nov. 30, 1999 less than 20 years later, and it all seems a distant dream. In fact, in the aftermath of the collapse of the Doha rounds in the ...more
Cecil Paddywagon
Jun 30, 2016 rated it did not like it
And how, he wondered—or did he?—could he insert more urgency to the plot, more thump thump thump to the fear-quaking heart, the very heart that is a muscle the size of a fist, your fist, the fist of uprising, of freedom, of redemption? How, he wondered—and yes, he did wonder, yes, he did—how could he make his specious thoughts, the thoughts of the brain, the brain, a muscle like the heart, but different—how could he, the writer, the creator, the master of words, words, which bring freedom, words ...more
Apr 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
i really don't know what to say about this/what i thought, even.

on one hand, it's narrated by seven people and they all had the same damn voice. on the other hand, i kind of really fell for the heart of the book, even if it was melodramatic. on one hand, the guy loves sentences with upwards of seven clauses. on the other hand, the pages turned easily once i got going.

i'll think more about this and get back to you.
A debut novel that should make a big splash in the early months of next year. Powerful story, electric writing and deep empathy combine to make this look at a single explosive day a book to reckon with. If you come near me anytime after publication date I will shove a copy into your hands.
Eric Anderson
Sep 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The protest surrounding the 1999 Seattle meeting of ministers from the World Trade Organization is a tragic event that raised awareness of the anti-globalization movement. Thousands of protesters blocked the streets leading up to where the meetings were due to take place. They faced serious police opposition as authorities forcefully tried to disperse the crowds using tear-gas and pepper spray while making many arrests of protestors and innocent bystanders alike. It’s truly shocking watching vid ...more
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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 ...more

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