The Trailblazer Awards: 5 Minute Interview with Hannah Chukwu

The Trailblazer Awards: 5 Minute Interview with Hannah Chukwu

Following our recent award announcement, we thought it only right for you to get to know this year’s Trailblazers. Up next is Hannah Chukwu.

Hannah Chukwu is an award-winning Assistant Editor at Hamish Hamilton, Penguin Random House UK, where she works on literary fiction and non-fiction, working with authors such as Bernardine Evaristo, Zadie Smith and Arundhati Roy. She is an editor for Five Dials magazine and the series editor for Black Britain: Writing Back. She is also Policy and Campaigns Consultant for the campaign ‘Lit in Colour’; run by PRH and the Runnymede Trust, the campaign aims to diversify the English GCSE curriculum. She co-founded the theatre production company Chucked Up Theatre in 2016, is a Trustee at education equality charity The Brilliant Club and a Board Member of Creative UK. She now lives in London.

In your opinion, what impact has the recent changing world had on bookshops/the publishing industry, and what are your predictions for their/its future?

My dream for the industry is that now that we have learnt how many of the jobs in publishing can be done from home or in a more flexible context, we will continue to adapt working practices to be more accessible and suited to unique individual needs.  I hope that this will mean the future of publishing is much more diverse, with many more voices heard at every level, as we are forced into re-imagining our workforce.

Tell us what you do in 20 words.

I am paid to lounge around and read for a living. (According to everyone after first hearing my job title.)

What was your first job in the book industry?

My first job was as an Editorial Trainee with Hamish Hamilton whilst on Penguin Random House’s six-month traineeship scheme cryptically called ‘The Scheme’; I absolutely loved it, and they still haven’t been able to shake me off.

What was the last book you read, and where did you buy it from?

The last book I read was Memorial by Brian Taylor, which I LOVED – it was kindly given to me by Poppy Mostyn-Owen, alongside another brilliant, strangely comforting proof called Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead by Emily Austin.

What’s next on your reading list?

My lack of impulse control on the first week of bookshops being open again meant I recently picked up Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart, Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro, Drive Your Plough Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk and Mixed/Other by Natalie Morris.

Which writer would you have loved to have met and why?

I would have loved to have met Toni Morrison, who continually inspires me as a writer, editor and human.

Has a book ever changed your life?

Yes – probably too many to count. The two that always stand out to me are Red Dust Road by Jackie Kay and Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie. As a mixed-race Scottish and Nigerian woman who grew up in Manchester and Glasgow and hadn’t had the opportunity to spend much time with my family in Nigeria, they both taught me a lot about my own family and made me think deeply about my identity.

What was your favourite book when you were a child?

I was completely obsessed with Helen Dunmore’s Ingo Chronicles series, to the point I was genuinely heartbroken when I eventually admitted to myself that, unlike Sapphy, I categorically could not breathe underwater.

Tell us about a passion you have outside the business.

I am very passionate about the education sector – especially around access to opportunities for those from underrepresented backgrounds, as well as reforming and decolonising the UK curriculum. I feel really lucky every day to work in a role that intersects and overlaps with both of those issues.

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