London’s Saqi Acquires Two Titles on Muslim Female Experience
UK independent Saqi Books has bought two contrasting novels depicting the lives of Muslim women past and present. The first, River Spirit, is by Leila Aboulela and explores 19th-century British colonialism in Sudan. The second, An Unlasting Home, is by the Kuwaiti writer Al-Nakib and looks at how the country has changed.
Saqi publisher Lynn Gaspard bought River Spirit direct from Grove Atlantic in the US. The synopsis says: “River Spirit provides a fresh look at 19th-century British colonialism in Sudan, from a Sudanese perspective and specifically that of women. Based on actual historical events and extensive research, it is a coming-of-age love story between a Black woman and an Arab man as well as a powerful tale of a people who, against the odds and for only a brief time, gained independence from foreign rule.”
Aboulela said: “I grew up in Khartoum and was always enthralled by the story of the siege of the city. At a time when we are rethinking our notions of empire, this episode in history with its ingredients of religious strife, corruption and personal vanities is particularly pertinent. Saqi‘s books are always distinctive and bold. They are the ones with the ambition and flair to bring this novel into the hands of the ideal reader.”
An Unlasting Home by the Kuwaiti-based writer Al-Nakib follows Sara, a Kuwaiti philosophy professor accused of blasphemy, which has been imagined as a capital crime. It is described as “a richly imagined family saga that traces Sara’s complicated relationship with Kuwait, a country she recognises less and less since her return from the US 11 years earlier”.
Al-Nakib said: “I am thrilled that my debut novel, An Unlasting Home, will be published by Saqi in London next spring. It is my sincerest wish that this multigenerational saga of five formidable women, ranging from the Middle East to India and the United States, will resonate with readers across cultures. As a story of migratory passage, inherited trauma, mothers and daughters, resilience, and looking for home, it speaks to the shared human experiences many of us face over time. I also hope it reinforces our sense of how precious and fragile the right to free speech remains.”
Margaret Halton at PEW Literary in London acquired UK and Commonwealth rights in An Unlasting Home on behalf of Anjali Singh at Pande Literary in Harlem, New York.