Friday News: Challenging the status quo
The Subversive Women Who Self-Publish Novels Amid Jihadist War – For almost thirty years now, Kano market literature has been a force in northern Nigeria’s cultural marketplace, and its most popular books are written by Hausa women. Some even feature adultery and other taboo subjects, and authors are now utilizing self-publishing technologies to produce their work, battling the patriarchal strictures of Hausa society to do it.
These women write sultry romances, scandalous family dramas and other stories. Some are universal—the classic Cinderella tale of a poor woman marrying a rich man—but others are more socially risqué, like the story of a divorced woman romantically involved with a virgin man. Whatever the plot, these stories frequently denounce child marriage, sex trafficking, and slavery in all its forms. They are often handwritten, transcribed onto a computer, self-published and sold in markets throughout the Sahel region of Africa. The women who write them brave censorship and become leaders of their community, working within the bounds of society even as they shape it. . . .
Despite the government’s best efforts, the popularity of littattafan soyayya [“books of love”] only grew. These days, the government generally leaves writers alone. The books provide the authors with a decent living—the most popular making between $600 and $1,200 per novel—raising their stature at home and within the community. Local universities often invite authors to speak, and their work is the subject of dissertations. “Wherever I go, people respect me, they show their love to me,” [author Sa’adatu Baba] Ahmed says. – Wired
“You Will Be Tokenized”: Speaking Out About the State of Diversity in Publishing – Inspired by the recent Lee & Low survey on diversity in publishing, this is a great piece from Molly McArdle and Brooklyn Magazine, and I recommend reading it with this companion piece, “We’ve Been Out Here Working”: Diversity in Publishing, a Partial Reading List. McArdle sums up the great commentary provided by different writers and publishing professionals this way:
Where are we going? I spoke to fifty people across the book world—from emerging and established writers to agents to editors to publicists to critics, from lit mags to MFA programs to mainstream media to small presses to the Big Five publishing houses—in an effort to feel out this answer, as well as document the lived reality of working inside a monoculture.
Everyone wants—or says they want—change. Many expressed exhaustion, either from working within the system or advocating for changes without it; just as many spoke of their continued commitment to change. Many expressed frustrated with the term “diversity” itself, as if it referred to a concept decorative rather than fundamental. “Equity,” instead, offered a more exacting definition. Many also hoped that the hearts of people would change, that the people currently working in publishing would suddenly or gradually make different decisions. (Of this I am skeptical: the solution to the patriarchy isn’t finding a better patriarch.) Many repeated what Claire Vaye Watkins wrote in the blazing conclusion to her essay, “On Pandering”: “Let us burn this motherfucking system to the ground and build something better.”
What do you, I wonder, if the house is already on fire? – Brooklyn Magazine
SIMON & SCHUSTER TO LAUNCH MUSLIM CHILDREN’S BOOK IMPRINT CALLED SALAAM READS – Given the global prominence of Islam, it shouldn’t be a surprise that traditional publishing has now recognized the potential of this market. It’s unclear what makes publishers wake up to the fact that books are not just purchased and read by white Christian males from English-speaking countries, but clearly more of those epiphanies need to happen.
“There are 3.3 million Muslims in the United States, 1.6 billion in the world, and they are an underserved literary market,” Jon Anderson, president of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, said in the company’s press release. “Children’s books are a fantastic way to get to know our local and global Muslim neighbors. Simon & Schuster is thrilled to offer a home to books that share the stories of Muslim children, in all their diversity.”
The publisher also announced its first four acquisitions for Salaam Reads on Wednesday, including three picture books: Salam Alaikum, based on the song by Harris J; Musa, Moises, Mo, and Kevin by Huda Abdul-Razzak and Azhar Sheraze, about four kindergarteners sharing different holiday traditions with one another; and Yo Soy Muslim by Mark Gonzales, on multicultural heritage. The first middle-grade book Simon & Schuster has announced for the imprint, The Gauntlet of Blood and Sand, tells the story of a Bangladeshi-American girl from Queens on a “quest to save her brother from a supernatural board game.” Salaam Reads will release at least nine books each year. – Newsweek
An 11-year-old book lover’s drive for change – I’m thrilled to see Marley Dias continue to get media attention for her #1000BlackGirlBooks campaign. If you’re not familiar with her story, she was talking to her mother about wanting more books with protagonists who “looked like her,” and she came up with the idea of collecting 1000 books featuring black girls. You can also check out her delightful interview with Charlie Rose at about the 44-minute mark here, and her appearance on Larry Wilmore’s show here. Maybe publishers should just be paying more attention to readers like Marley Dias?
Last week, Marley donated the 1,000 books to a primary school in rural St. Mary, Jamaica, where her mother is from. Marley and a team of volunteers gave them away to many Jamaican children with limited access to books. . . .
Those who would like to donate books to Marley’s drive can sent them to:
59 Main Street
West Orange, NJ 07052 – CBS News