There will be many publishers congratulating the founder and leader of the Emirates Publishers Association, Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi at next week’s Sharjah International Book Fair in the United Arab Emirates, following her election in Frankfurt as the next vice president of the International Publishers Association. Her election means that in two years’ time she will succeed Mexico’s Hugo Setzer as president.
Her appointment is of significance. She will become only the second woman to lead the IPA in its 122-year history and the first Arab woman to be its vice president or president. A moderniser, yet someone with a respect for tradition (her father is the Ruler of Sharjah and Member of the Supreme Council of the UAE), she is a much respected figure who knows how both the Arab world and the western world thinks and works. As the founder of the non-profit Kalimat Foundation for Children’s Empowerment – and the founder and publisher of Kalimat publishers in Sharjah – she has overseen the provision of children’s books for Arab refugees and libraries in Jordan, Armenia, Germany and Brazil, and indeed this humanitarian side to her work, particularly when it concerns children, is very close to her heart. She is also very keen on emerging markets and helping new voices emerge, and played a leading role in organising the IPA’s inaugural Africa seminar in Lagos, Nigeria this year.
Of course, that city’s most famous daughter, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was undoubtedly the star attraction at Frankfurt. There were cheers and lengthy applause when she arrived at the opening press conference. With the case of the Supreme Court judge Brett Kavanaugh on everyone’s mind at the time – he was accused of sexual assault – it was hoped that she would make reference to it. She didn’t disappoint. “There is an inability to feel empathy for women because the stories of women are not truly familiar; the stories of women are not yet seen as universal,” she said. “This to me is why we seem to live in a world where many people believe that large numbers of women can simply wake up one day and make up stories about having been assaulted. I know many women who want to be famous. I don’t know one single woman who wants to be famous for having been assaulted. To believe this is to think very lowly of women.”
Imprints, imprints. In the US, Crown Publishing is to merge with Random House to reflect changes in the market, particularly the growth of non-fiction categories which is Crown’s strength. The two names will continue for the time-being, but at Simon & Schuster it seems that Touchstone will be less prominent in the New Year. Its backlist will remain but new titles will go into either Atria or Gallery Books. Meanwhile, in the UK, January will see the closure of Granta’s Portobello. Suddenly, these names and colophons gain a poignancy, marking out publishing history.
Free speech advocacy group and writers’ body PEN America is suing President Trump to stop him “from using the machinery of government to retaliate or threaten reprisals against journalists and media outlets for coverage he dislikes”, actions which it says are in violation of the country’s First Amendment. It notes too that “the president has also threatened book publishers and authors who have published critical volumes.”
Congratulations to Mr B’s in Bath which has exceeded its crowdfunding target for its imaginative “indoor woodland of books” for children – and a collective ‘well-done’ to all those individuals who came on board with pledges. Another good news funding story came from San Francisco too, where the city authorities, in partnership with non-profit Working Solutions and the Small Business Development Centre, awarded 11 independent bookstores $103,000 in grant money. The money is part of the Bookstore SF Program, begun by the late Mayor Ed Lee which sought to fund bookstore “revitalisations” emphasising their roles as social hubs and their importance to local communities.
The London Book Fair has announced its third Building Inclusivity in Publishing Conference, which takes place on 27 November. In the US HarperCollins has opened applications for its second ‘New to Publishing Information Session and Networking Event’. Change is definitely happening, but there is always more to be done, and The LBF conference will once again highlight areas of concern as well as successful new initiatives.
Roger Tagholm writes our Snapshot of the Week.