Progressive conversations about books, publishing and writing.
Mehfil 7 - Presenting Kashmir, Anew
37:41Amrita Ghosh talks to Kashmiri scholar and academic Hafsa Kanjwal her new book Colonizing Kashmir: State-building Under Indian Occupation (2023). The episode presents Kashmir and its long conflict in a new narrative. Kanjwal resets the usual ways of understanding Kashmir’s past and looks at the immediate postcolonial years of 1950s and 1960s in which Kashmir was slowly integrated into India with various nation-building strategies. Kanjwal questions binary terms like colonial and postcolonial, and offers a way of rethinking the Partition as the dominant trope for understanding the conflict in Kashmir. She talks about the ways through which an idea of Kashmir was presented within frameworks of statist integration politics through film, tourism, pamphlets, the use of emotionality and affect, and through racial connotations of a Kashmiri identity. Ghosh and Kanjwal discuss the representation of Kashmir within contemporary cultural productions and the recent slew of Bollywood films and online series that are once again deploying Kashmir to erase and reframe conflict in specific ways. Hafsa Kanjwal is an assistant professor of South Asian History in the Department of History at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania, where she teaches courses on the history of the modern world, South Asian history, and Islam in the Modern World. As a historian of modern Kashmir, she is the author of Colonizing Kashmir: State-building Under Indian Occupation (Stanford University Press, 2023)Amrita Ghosh is Assistant Professor of English, specializing in South Asian literature at the University of Central Florida. She is the co-editor of Tagore and Yeats: A Postcolonial Reenvisioning (Brill 2022) and Subaltern Vision: A Study in Postcolonial Indian English Text (Cambridge Scholars 2012). Her book Kashmir’s Necropolis: New Literature and Visual Texts is forthcoming with Lexington Books. She is the co-founding editor of Cerebration, a bi-annual literary journal.
Radical Publishing Futures 12: Hoopoe Fiction
33:06In our 12th episode of Radical Publishing Futures, Nadine El-Hadi, senior acquisitions editor at Hoopoe Fiction joins Meg Arenberg from her office near Tahrir Square in Cairo. The discussion focuses on the special position of Hoopoe and the American University in Cairo Press as a pioneering publisher of Arabic literature in English translation that is also located in the Middle East North Africa region itself. The speak about the particular opportunities and challenges of publishing primarily translations, and the burden of shifting narratives of Arab culture and Islam that predominate in the West. Nadine also talks about the growing worldwide audience for translated literary fiction that has buoyed Hoopoe in its early years as a separate imprint of AUC Press, literary culture in Egypt, and the various paths by which a novel in Arabic ends up as an English title on Hoopoe’s list. The two discuss the stunning new translation of Libyan novelist Ibrahim al-Koni’s latest novel, The Night Will Have its Say, which retells the Muslim wars of conquest in North Africa, among other recent titles published at Hoopoe. Nadine El-Hadi is senior acquisitions editor at American University in Cairo Press. She runs both the press’s Arabic Language Learning List as well as its fiction imprint, Hoopoe Press.
Writing Somalia: Nuruddin Farah
54:06Novelist, essayist and master trilogist Nuruddin Farah is one of the most important contemporary authors working today. In a writing career that spans more than five decades, Farah has published thirteen novels, dozens of essays and plays, all of which critically engage various dimensions of Somali history, culture and politics. Farah wrote his first novel From a Crooked Rib in 1970 and has not looked back since and has since penned three trilogies: Variations on the Theme of African Dictatorship, the Blood in the Sun trilogy and then the Past Imperfect trilogy. He has famously declared that he writes about Somalia to “keep it alive” because, he says, “I live Somalia, I eat it, smell the death of it, the dust, daily.” Farah is the winner of the Kurt Tucholsky Prize, Lettre Ulysses Award, Neustadt International Prize for Literature, Premio Cavour and St. Malo Literature Festival Prize, among others. In this conversation, writer and editor Bhakti Shringarpure of the Radical Books collective speaks with Farah about his life, his prolific writing career, his penchant for stylistic experimentation and what it means to be a writer whose works become representative of a country and its people, both in Somalia and abroad.This conversation was hosted by Melahuset in Oslo (Norway) on September 28, 2023 to a live audience.
Léonora Miano: A Glossary for Black Identities
1:01:47Cameroonian writer Léonora Miano joins guest host Greg Pierrot for the 10th episode of our Trailblazing African Feminists series. Miano was born in Doula, Cameroon and lived in France from 1991. She studied American literature at Nanterre university and this led her to African American and Caribbean writers that considerably influenced her work. She is the author of 16 books and the winner of prestigious awards such as as the Goncourt des Lycéens, Grand Prix Littéraire d'Afrique Noire, Femina Prize, Grand Prix du Roman Métis, the latter both for Season of the Shadow, translated into English by Seagull Books (India). Miano is an important literary and media figure in Cameroon and France, and is known for her provocative feminist and anticolonial ideas and for her exploration and embrace of the concept of the Afropean identity. In this podcast, Miano tells the story of how she became a writer and speaks of her interest in the question of African origins for black communities in the Americas and Europe. She also touches upon the issue of belonging for Africans abroad, all of which are recurrent topics in her fiction and essays. Pierrot and Miano discuss the freedoms and limits of terms such as Afropean, Francophonie and contending with a glossary of Black identities. Greg Pierrot is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Connecticut (Stamford) and the author of The Black Avenger in Atlantic Culture and Decolonize Hipsters.
Radical Publishing Futures 11: Feminist Press
35:45Radical Publishing Futures returns with a conversation between Meg Arenberg and director of Feminist Press Margot Atwell. Margot offers some perspective on the pioneering role of the Feminist press and its interdisciplinary journal WSQ, not only for radical independent publishing in the US but for women and gender studies as an academic field, as well as its ongoing relationship with the Graduate Center at the City University of New York. Meg and Margot also discuss the affinities between roller derby and feminist publishing, the special joys of working collaboratively with a small staff where everyone is involved in the acquisitions and editing processes, accessibility tools, and the work of building community with readers and indie bookstores alike.Margot Atwell is a writer, editor, publisher, and community funding expert and before taking on the executive director role at Feminist Press just over a year ago, she directed publishing at Kickstarter and also worked previously at the independent publisher Beaufort Books, and founded and ran the micropress Gutpunch. Margot is the coauthor of The Insider’s Guide to Book Publishing Success (from Beaufort Books) and Derby Life: A Crash Course in the Incredible Sport of Roller Derby (from Gutpunch Press). Meg Arenberg is the managing editor for the Radical Books Collective.
Color of Publishing 3, perspectives from the United Kingdom
47:52In the third episode of Color of Publishing, we focus on publishing perspectives from the United Kingdom with two prolific editors and writers, Margaret Busby and Ellah P. Wakatama. Host Bhakti Shringarpure engages the two experts in a wide-ranging conversation about the history of publishing in the UK, questions of diversity and representation, book acquisitions, taste and culture-making, and structural racism. Busby and Wakatama have been witness to the long arc of how publishing has evolved and they speak about the transformations they have witnessed in the business over the years but they also recall the times when diversity was almost non-existent. They are keen to celebrate the successes and the changes taking place in UK publishing as there are more opportunities now for Black, Asian and international writers. However, even as prizes, festivals and book advances grow, they worry whether the shift can be sustained. Busby and Wakatama also acknowledge the importance of camaraderie and shared mission between each other as Black women in publishing over the years .Margaret Busby is a Ghanaian born writer, editor and broadcaster. She was Britain's youngest and first black female book publisher when she co-founded the publishing house Allison and Busby in the 1960s. She has edited the Daughters of Africa anthology and the second New Daughters of Africa anthology. She was awarded the London Book Fair Lifetime Achievement award in 2021 and the CBE, and she is a member of The Royal Society of Literature. She was appointed the president of English PEN in 2023.Ellah P. Wakatama was born in Zimbabwe, educated in the US and has been a London-based writer and editor for the past many years. She is editor-at-large at Canongate Books and chair of the Caine Prize for African Writing. She has edited several anthologies and has contributed to several of them as well. She was given an OBE for services to the publishing industry in 2011, and New African Magazine also named her one of “100 Most Influential Africans” in 2016.
Color of Publishing 2, perspectives from the United States
1:03:37In the second episode of Color of Publishing, we focus on publishing perspectives from and about the United States with Elizabeth Méndez Berry (One World Books) and Porscha Burke (Random House). Host Bhakti Shringarpure engages the two experts in a wide-ranging conversation about book acquisitions, editorial processes, taste and culture-making, equity, and structural racism as it impacts the publishing industry and the book market. Méndez Berry and Burke speak openly about what brought them to publishing and the challenges they encountered in the industry with regards to race as well as gender. PEN America’s scathing report Reading Between the Lines: Race, Equity, and Book Publishing has “found deep and persistent obstacles to bringing more titles by authors of color to commercial success” and that 95% of books published in the United States from 1950 to 2018 were written by white authors. Employees as well as senior level positions in the publishing industry remain disproportionately white. Méndez Berry and Burke take listeners through the many invisible stages of book production (acquisitions, book deals, editorial, cover design, promotions, distribution and marketing) and the obstacles encountered by writers of color at every stage. Méndez Berry cautions that when “we primarily publish books by white authors, the number of stories that we’re avoiding or suppressing is significant.” Burke speaks about her career as service-oriented in order to transform publishing and create space for diverse authors and diverse stories. Elizabeth Méndez Berry is Vice President and Executive Editor of One World, an imprint of Random House in New York. She is an award-winning writer and editor who writes about culture, gender, criminal justice and politics, and has also co-founded several philanthropic institutes. Porscha Burke has revolutionized publishing in her fifteen years at Random House. She has worked with authors such as Maya Angelou and Reverend Amy Butler, and has led the publication of new editions of The Autobiography of Malcolm X and The Black Book that were originally edited by Toni Morrison. She received her MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Goucher College, where she currently teaches book proposal writing.
Color of Publishing 1, debrief of the PEN America Report
47:15On October 17th 2022, PEN America published a report titled “Reading Between the Lines: Race, Equity and Book Publishing” with the goal to expose and explore the fact that the publishing industry has “entered a moment of moral urgency about the persistent lack of racial and ethnic diversity among employees and authors.” In our three-part series focused on this crisis in publishing, we debrief listeners on this report and gather perspectives from publishing professionals in the United States (Elizabeth Méndez Berry & Porsche Burke) and the United Kingdom (Margaret Busby & Ellah P. Wakatama). In this episode, Bhakti Shringarpure and Suchitra Vijayan break down the PEN America report section by section while also revealing the industry’s problematic practices and bad habits through their own experiences. The report is divided into 5 parts. The first section offers a snapshot of the transitions taking place in the industry, and the crisis around racism and diversity exposed and expressed due to the uprisings for Black lives that began in 2020. The second section addresses the lack of diversity among the staff, editors and executives in the publishing world which then limits the types of books being acquired, produced and sold. In this long section, there are shocking revelations about hostile work environments, reported micro-aggressions, and the practice of typecasting editors and authors of color. The third section tackles pervasive prejudices such as “diverse books don’t sell” or that certain communities of color “don’t read” or the notion that one book per community of color is “enough.” Writers of color are trapped because they “are not only damned if they tell stories that white gatekeepers wrongly believe they've already read—they're also damned if they don't tell stereotypical stories that white publishers actually have already read and expect.” The fourth and fifth sections deal with questions of sales, marketing and promotion practices that continually disadvantage authors of color. Bhakti Shringarpure and Suchitra Vijayan are both writers and co-founded the Radical Books Collective. Read the PEN America report: https://pen.org/report/race-equity-and-book-publishing/Other links:#PublishingPaidMe https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PublishingPaidMe#WeNeedDiverseBooks https://diversebooks.org/Archive Editor Erin Overby's thread on racism at the New Yorker: https://twitter.com/erinoverbey/status/1437767832159277058
Mehfil 6 - Bhoot Prayt: Ghostly Encounters
51:15A quirky episode on ghosts, hauntings and horror on this week’s Mehfil. Two women writers from India and Pakistan interrogate ghostly encounters and how to write about them. Host Amrita Ghosh welcomes Jessica Faleiro from Goa (India) and Sehyr Mirza from Lahore (Pakistan) to explore the writing of ghosts, hauntings and horror on a personal level as well as with regards to collective traumas such as the Partition or colonial histories. The writers speak of childhood experiences with haunted houses, ghostly sightings and collective psychosomatic experiences. They reflect on whether stories of paranormal afterlives create narratives of resistance in the present. Faleiro speaks about her “real” ghostly experience in her grandmother’s ancestral house that sent her off on a journey to write about these topics. Mirza also recalls her grandmother's poignant and moving tales from before the Partition as well as horrifying stories during the period of Partition that inspired Mirza to write. Both writers discuss the rich repertoire of the horror genre within the South Asian context starting with the simple traditions of families and friends gathering around to narrate spooky stories. Ghosh asks the writers about their books. Faleiro’s book Afterlife: Ghost Stories from Goa excavates Goa’s rich history by weaving in the Spanish Inquisition and Portuguese colonialism through paranormal encounters set within the present. Mirza talks about her edited anthology titled The Other in the Mirror: Stories from India and Pakistan in which she takes on the ghost of the Partition that continues to haunt people and that still creates fear of the “other" by continuing to maintain borders and divisions. She also speaks of her own story within that collection, one that instrumentalizes haunting for political symbolism. Faleiro and Mirza also point to new trends in literature and films within the horror genre in India and Pakistan and the possibilities opened up by the rise of digital media. Lastly, the conversations moves to ask if scary stories set us free from our fears or whether they simply serve to make us more afraid.Jessica Faleiro’s fiction, poetry, essays and travel pieces have been published in Asia Literary Review, Forbes, Indian Quarterly, IndiaCurrents, Coldnoon, Joao Roque Literary Journal, Mascara Literary Review, Muse India and the Times of India as well as in various anthologies. Her first book Afterlife: Ghost stories from Goa (2012) is about a Goan family and their ‘ghostly’ encounters and her second book The Delicate Balance of Little Lives (2018) is a collection of interlinked stories about five middle-class Goan women trying to cope with loss. She won the Joao Roque Literary Award ‘Best in Fiction 2017 for her short story ‘Unmatched.’ Faleiro is currently the Commissioning Editor for the Joao Roque Literary Journal. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Kingston University, UK, talks about creativity, and runs creative writing workshops.Sehyr Mirza is a journalist and creative writer based in Lahore, Pakistan. Her work has appeared in The BBC, Deutsche Welle, Dawn, The News International, Outlook India, Huffington Post, The Wire, Pakistan Today and other outlets. She is the editor of an anthology titled The Other in the Mirror: Stories from India and Pakistan published by Yoda Press in India and Folio Books in Pakistan. Mirza has also received fellowships at Atlantic Council, Washington DC, The Swedish Institute and she has been a visiting fellow at Rajeev Circle Fellowship, San Francisco. She was the recipient of Women Waging Peace Award by Kroc Institute for International Peace and Justice in 2019 and holds a degree in English Literature from Goldsmiths, University of London.Amrita Ghosh is Assistant Professor of English, specializing in South Asian literature at the University of Central Florida. She is the co-editor of Tagore
Mehfil 5 - Translating South Asia
1:04:50This Mehfil explores the exciting world of South Asian translation especially the regional and vernacular literature that has lately been garnering international attention and winning prestigious awards. In Translating South Asia, host Amrita Ghosh talks to two renowned translators from the neighboring countries of India and Bangladesh. The conversation is not only about translations from Bengali to English but also the reverse, and how it plays out in the publishing world in the subcontinent. Arunava Sinha and Shabnam Nadiya take us on their journey into how they began translating and how it became a vocation. They speak about their first books of translation and their initial experiences and challenges in the process. They also discuss how the translation scene has changed writing, publishing and readership on the Subcontinent, spaces that were initially reserved for Anglophone works. Nadiya talks about her latest translation of Shaheen Akhtar’s rich novel, Shokhi Rongomela into Beloved Rongomela and the challenges she faced, along with some of the decisions she made during the intricate process of creating a Bengali worldview for the Anglophone readership. Ghosh talks to Sinha about his translation of the epic novel Dozakhnama by Rabisankar Bal and the challenges of translating an original consisting of multiple language presences such as Urdu and Bengali. In a rich conversation, the writers also discuss the space of politics within translation, the publishing industry and the importance and the limits of adhering to a political position within a work. The episode ends with Ghosh putting both writers to a quick translation test of the word and concept of “Mehfil!” Shabnam Nadiya is a Bangladeshi writer and translator based in California. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, she was awarded the Steinbeck Fellowship (2019); a PEN/Heim Translation Grant (2020); and the 2019 Himal Southasian Short Story Prize. Her work has been published in Joyland, Asymptote, Flash Fiction International, Al Jazeera Online, Pank, Amazon’s Day One, Chicago Quarterly Review, Wasafiri, Words Without Borders, and Gulf Coast. Nadiya’s translations include Leesa Gazi’s novel Hellfire (Eka/Westland, September, 2020), Moinul Ahsan Saber’s novel The Mercenary (Bengal Lights Books, 2016; Seagull Books, 2018) and Shaheen Akhtar’s novel Beloved Rongomala, 2022). Arunava Sinha is Associate Professor of Creative Writing at Ashoka University. He translates classic, modern and contemporary Bengali fiction and nonfiction into English, and from English into Bengali. Over fifty of his translations have been published so far. He has conducted translation workshops at the British Centre for Literary Translation, UEA; University of Chicago; Dhaka Translation Centre; and Jadavpur University. Besides India, his translations have been published in the UK and the US in English, and in several European and Asian countries through further translation. His research interests are focused on the translation of fiction, non-fiction and poetry between the languages of India, including English. Amrita Ghosh is Assistant Professor of English, specializing in South Asian literature at the University of Central Florida. She is the co-editor of Tagore and Yeats: A Postcolonial Reenvisioning (Brill 2022) and Subaltern Vision: A Study in Postcolonial Indian English Text (Cambridge Scholars 2012). Her book Kashmir’s Necropolis: New Literature and Visual Texts is forthcoming with Lexington Books. She is the co-founding editor of Cerebration, a bi-annual literary journal.To inaugurate our Mehfil which means a celebratory gathering in Urdu, we asked Uday Bansal to compose a small poem for us. It was read out by Amrita Ghosh at the start of the program.Tumhaari taal se betaal / Duniya tumhaari shaunq se ghafil