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Major deals for debut by British Nigerian writer

by | Aug 30, 2020 | News

With concerns over diversity still much to the fore on both sides of the Atlantic, a “fiercely-fought” three-way auction has just concluded in the UK for a debut novel by British Nigerian journalist Jendella Benson.  Glory is described by the winning UK publisher Trapeze, part of the Hachette group, as a “rich and heart-warming story of loss, love and family chaos”.

It tells the story of Glory Akíndélé who arrives back in Peckham [south east London] from her seemingly glamorous life in LA, to mourn the sudden death of her father, and finds her previously close family has fallen apart in her absence.  The synopsis continues: ‘Her brother, Victor, has been jailed; her sister, Faith, appears to have lost her independence and ambition; and their mother, Celeste, is headed towards a breakdown. Glory is thrown by their disarray, and rather than returning to America she decides to stay and try to bring them all together again. However, when she unearths a huge family secret, Glory risks losing everyone she truly cares about in her pursuit of the truth.’

Sam Eades, publishing director, Trapeze Books, won UK and Commonwealth rights, excluding Canada, from Juliet Pickering at Blake Friedmann, in a two-book deal.  In the US, William Morrow acquired the novel in a six-figure pre-empt.  Translations into other languages have not yet been sold.

Benson’s mother was a first generation migrant from Nigeria and her daughter grew up trying to find her identity – was she British or Nigerian?  Benson, who is head of editorial at Black Ballad, the UK-based lifestyle platform that seeks to tell ‘the human experience through eyes of black British women’, says she drew on her own experience in writing the novel.  “Knowing how powerful it can be to see yourself and characters that you immediately recognise reflected in what you read, I really wanted to write a story that was rooted in the experience of being from a British-Nigerian family but also captured all the colours and contradictions of being a black British Millennial who is still trying to make sense of their place in the world…

“I’m really excited to introduce Glory and her loving but complicated family. This book was inspired by my own ‘quarter-life’ crisis and the push and pull you often feel as a young adult between defining yourself as an individual and the loyalty you have to your family and their expectations…

“Glory’s struggle to find herself and deal with the burdens of family secrets and shame is something that I think everyone can relate to in one way or another and I’m really happy that Sam and the whole Trapeze team immediately understood what Glory’s story was about. This is a slice of British life that as a reader I know we don’t get to see enough, so to say that I’m delighted to contribute to the British literary landscape in this way is probably an understatement.”

Eades said: “Glory is a thoughtful exploration of Nigerian heritage and how tradition and history shapes families and the relationships within them. It is also a compulsive page-turner, with several revelations and narrative turning points that will have readers racing to the end. And at this book’s centre is Glory, and what I love about her as a character is her ability to connect those around her, at a time where human connection feels more important than ever. Jendella is a phenomenal talent, and I’m thrilled that she has chosen Trapeze Books as her publisher.”

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