There are few literary publishers or editors of color in the Netherlands. And that is what Ebissé Rouw, Anousha Nzume and Mariam El Maslouhi want to do something about. Their first edition will be released on Thursday: The good immigrant, in which 23 stories are collected from authors from “different generations and all walks of life, people who are often debated and spoken about. Here they have their say – in their own way, in their own style, and in their language ”.
The aim is to have four publications published each year in collaboration with Pluim publishing house. The three provide the content and do the first editing, Pluim takes care of the financial side, and the final editing. The income is shared. “We talked to about four other publishers, but some of them compromised our creative autonomy,” says Rouw in an Amsterdam café where Nzume connects via zoom from New York.
According to the book world, we are segregating ourselves. But they understand that it is commercially interesting
Ebissé Mourning Dipping sauce editor
The three women already have a fortnightly podcast, Dipsaus, which focuses on the voice of women of color. In fact, they are now expanding their activities with book publications. Within the book world, their plans are viewed as “controversial and radical”. “According to the book world, we are segregating ourselves,” says Rouw. “But they understand that it is commercially interesting, in America and the United Kingdom there has been a race against black writers for two to three years. We bring people who can achieve success and we have a dedicated network. ”
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A report was published at the end of June Re:Thinking ‘Diversity’ in Publishing in which the state of affairs with regard to diversity at Anglo-Saxon publishers was mapped. This showed that there is an increasing will to publish books of people of color. Only, they say, publishers often still have a simplistic idea of the market: authors of color are marketed as ‘exotic’ by default, for example, as ‘thriller’, almost nothing is published. Dipsaus wants to bring all genres with their publications, from novels, non-fiction to thrillers and young adult.
What the three are going to do is “pioneer,” according to Nzume. At the moment it is still the case that “people continuously look at new poetry with the eyes of the Fifties”, and prose is judged “based on the idea that The evenings and Willem Elsschot are normative for Dutch literature. How is that for young people who use a completely different style, and who understand each other much faster with short sentences, for example? If they really want to achieve something with their writing, do they have to fit into that pattern? I find that so stifling. ”
Now we want to make something that makes you feel like, yes, this is really mine, I’m a protagonist in this story, in this world
Mariam El Maslouhi Dipping sauce editor
All three agree that the differences are not just about style, but also about plot. El Maslouhi received the novels at school Suez Kade by Jan Siebelink and Hajar en daan recommended by Robert Anker, because it contains Moroccan girls who have a relationship with their older, white teacher based on an idea of exoticism and orientalism. Mourn adds: “If you are a black woman, the tip is that you are Joost Zwagermans The Outdoor Woman must read, because that is about a Surinamese woman. ”
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As a result, El Maslouhi no longer wanted to read Dutch literature and plunged into non-fiction by Moroccan and Egyptian feminists, of whom Nawal el Saadawi is her hero. “That was a voice that said something about who I was. We want to offer that voice with our publications. Now we want to make something that makes you feel like, yes, this is really mine, I’m a protagonist in this story, in this world. If you The good immigrant then we don’t explain things because we assume that the people who read this understand it. ”
A version of this article also appeared in NRC Handelsblad on July 30, 2020
A version of this article also appeared in nrc.next dated July 30, 2020