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Shereen Malherbe

Writer & author of Jasmine Falling

Month

March 2016

Diversity & Books: Reading, Publishing & Telling More Stories

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‘At the start of 2016, The Guardian reported a ‘survey of workforce at 34 book publishers and eight review journals in [the] US reveals 79% of staff are white’. It isn’t a surprise that bookstores around the UK tend to reflect this lack of diversity, with few non-dominant narratives or books by people of colour, making their way onto our shelves. At the same time, a survey by London Short Story Festival, argues that ‘By 2051, one in five people in the UK, is predicted to be from an ethnic minority’.

Are things beginning to change with a greater focus on diversity in books? Recently I have witnessed an unprecedented amount of focus on mainstream publishers and literary agents in their attempts to reach out to BAME (a term generally used in the UK to represent Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) authors. Popular social media campaigns began with Naomi Frisby & Dan Lipscombe’s #DiverseDecember#ReadDiverse2016. Last week, we saw the introduction of major publisher Simon & Schuster announcing the imprint Salaam Reads for Muslim children’s books. We have also just witnessed the launch of the Bare Lit Festival, a much-needed global platform, hosted in London, for celebrating talent among BAME writers. One of the initiatives of Media Diversified (the organisers behind Bare Lit & other projects) is to increase the diversity within the publishing industry since, ‘BAME people are under-represented in the media industry by a magnitude of over 300%.’

This all has personal resonance for me. I began writing my novel, Jasmine Falling a few years ago. My novel follows the journey of Jasmine; a British/Palestinian girl, who travels to Palestine in search of her missing father. I spent the last two years marketing it to the UK publishing industry. I have had a rollercoaster ride of anticipation, from rejections to full manuscript requests and promises of a contract. What became clear was an emerging pattern of responses mostly summarizing their inability to target or understand my market. A personal favourite of mine was when a response from a literary agent landed on my doormat explaining that ‘the Palestinian background [of my novel] jars with the chick-lit character.’ Did that mean my character was incapable of experiencing the same emotions as any other woman because of her heritage? I am not saying that is the sole reason my book wasn’t taken on by a UK agent or publisher. There are of course many factors that inhibit the entry of all writers, but surely the lack of diversity in the industry can’t help.’

To read more, visit Muslimah Media Watch

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Sisters Magazine Reviews Jasmine Falling

Sisters Magazine

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Sisters Magazine

 

Excerpt

‘Jasmine Falling is also a rich Middle Eastern tale that makes us fall for a land ripped between war and other social ills. The beauty and the richness of the land are still present no matter what it went through and still goes through as shows through the pages that Malherbe penned so well. In the end, we realise that this story is also a folklore tale of love, hope, redemption, loss, and unwavering faith.

If stories of Palestine and Israel fascinate you, Jasmine Falling is definitely for you. Also, if the spirits (the unseen) of this world are something that intrigue you, don’t hesitate to give this story a chance as they have their explanations and roots in all the Abrahamic religions.’

For the full review visit, Sisters Magazine.

A Feature for The Middle East Eye: Alia Khan: Pioneering the Islamic fashion revolution

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Alia Khan, pioneer and founder of Dubai’s Islamic Fashion Design Council (photograph courtesy of Alia Khan)

The founder of Dubai’s Islamic fashion council talks about the emerging market and how it’s helping shape the mainstream clothing industry.

Read the article at the Middle East Eye.

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