December 29 2016
IT’S THAT time of year and an opportunity for us to look back on what we covered in our books section during 2016.
The first month of the year is always dominated by the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF).
Last year, Attika Choudhary and Suman Bhuchar covered the festival for us, mainly doing video interviews from the festival.
The big coup was getting Marlon James, the Booker Prize Winner in 2015.
He didn’t do very many video interviews in Jaipur but Attika and Suman persuaded him to spend a few minutes talking about the festival, his impressions of India and the challenges of writing his magisterial and epic Booker Prize winning, “A Brief History of Seven Killings”.
As a person of colour and a gay man, who grew up in very conservative Jamaica, and now teaches in the US, he has an extremely interesting and telling backstory.
Among the other interviews at JLF was Attika’s one with Meera Syal who talked to her about her latest novel, “The House of Hidden Mothers”. We can speculate…did Indian legislators read the novel about surrogacy in India?
In Syal’s novel, a British Asian woman goes to India to have a surrogate baby there with her younger white partner.
Earlier this year, the Indian parliament voted in new laws around surrogacy, making it far more difficult for couples from outside India to ‘rent a womb’ as some dismissively call, surrogacy.
Our interview with Syal
Suman interviewed co-director of the festival William Dalrymple, and you can hear how JLF has grown to become what it is today – the world’s largest free literary festival.
Our interview with Dalrymple is here.
Look out for our coverage of next year’s – JLF 2017.
In February, we held our first ever event in partnership with www.globooks.net – A Novel Affair at St George’s Hotel in London.
The occasion brought together one emerging star and another well-established one. Huma Qureshi had her first collection of short stories (based on real interviews) “In Spite of Oceans” published to wide acclaim in 2014. The Guardian features’ writer spoke to us about making the transition from journalist to creative writer and her upbringing and literary sensibilities. It is here.
Roopa Farooki has had six novels published and has been shortlisted for major literary prizes. A trainee doctor now, she spoke to us about her new work (still in progress we believe), her literary life and why she was doing medicine now. The interview is here.
A Novel Affair was more than just a talk from two authors – it was also about sharing a passion and interest in books and we encouraged guests to bring a book to give away and write an anonymous description for it.
It proved a tremendous success and we are looking at doing another one in 2017… watch this space!
The round-up of the evening is here –
There are also a couple of short video interviews with authors Qureshi and Farooki and Choudhary put the questions.
You can see them here – http://vimeo.com/asianculturevulturecom
Later that month, there was a unique literature festival and an announcement of a major new literature prize.
The Bare Lit Fest brought together many diverse voices from the UK and put them centre stage. Organised by the Media Diversified website, it was a huge success and should be returning in 2017.
Alongside it, there should be announcement of the winner of the very first Jhalak Prize – a literary award open to non-white authors. A shortlist is expected to be announced next month. More about both here
Another big literary extravaganza we got excited about was Asia House’s Festival of Asian Literature, held in May.
The culture and business institute in London always manages to attract an exciting and eclectic range of authors and speakers.
A pre-festival event included a talk by Paul MM Cooper about his novel, “River of Ink” set in ancient Sri Lanka. The highly acclaimed novel and its author, a graduate of the famous creative writing course at the University of East Anglia (UEA), told us in an interview what drew him to the subject and his interest in Sanskrit and the Buddhism of the time. It is here.
The actual festival saw a huge star open it – but not one you might actually associate with the world of books.
Nadiya Hussain, who was crowned ‘Great British Bake Off’ winner in 2015, opened the festival in conversation with well-known and hugely respected author and columnist, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. The two talked about Hussain’s (then forthcoming, now published) books, a children’s one and one for adults, both with cooking and food at the heart of them. You can read the report from the talk here.
In the summer, JLF visited the South Bank as part of the annual South Asian multi-arts festival Alchemy. Perhaps the pick of the talk for us was the one about the term, ‘British Asian’. Sathnam Sanghera, novelist and Times journalist, pronounced it “utterly meaningless”. Worth reading that in context though – it is here.
In October, we covered one of the great publishing stories of our time with the publication of the book of essays, called “The Good Immigrant”. It got a slot on the highly prestigious Radio 4 ‘Book of the Week’.
From rather inauspicious beginnings, creator and editor Nikesh Shukla fashioned a book of power and meaning, bringing together some 21 different non-white voices to look and assess the state of multi-cultural Britain.
The crowd-funded title went onto win the inaugural Books are My Bag Award (through a public vote), and has countered the general notion that books by non-white authors (apart from the very famous ones) don’t sell.
“The Good Immigrant” has been one of the publishing sensations of 2016 and its significance should continue to reverberate in a post-Brexit Britain, where some believe we have gone backwards in terms of race relations, diversity and our attitudes towards immigrants (of all shades) and refugees.
Shukla himself showed the power of social media and how it can be harnessed for a good cause. He spoke to us about this and more here.
At the end of this year, we were delighted to be covering the announcement of the Virginia Prize for Fiction Award, which went to “Shambala Junction” by Indian-born, US-based writer and academic, Dipika Mukherjee.
A bi-annual literary competition organised publishers, Aurora Metro, (which publishes a lot of work by non-white authors and support new playwright texts), it invites writers to submit manuscripts in keeping with the spirit and ideals of the great 20th century writer, Virginia Woolf. The prize was presented to Mukherjee as part of the Richmond Literature Festival 2016 – Woolf resided there for a time and first set up her publishing press, Hogarth there.
Mukherjee talked to us about what winning the prize (of publication) meant to her…it’s here.
Thanks all, have a great 2017 and see you all then!
(Sailesh Ram, editor www.asianculturevulture.com)