Tsehai Publishers, which focuses on books about Ethiopian and African issues, is about to expand its publishing program to include African-American works. In collaboration with Loyola Marymount University, where it is located, Tsehai is launching a new imprint called the Harriet Tubman Press that will released trade fiction, nonfiction and academic titles.
“I didn’t expect to play in this space,” said Elias Wondimu, an Ethiopian immigrant who founded the press 18 years ago. Speaking about the changes to the Los Angeles neighborhood where the press is based, he said that gentrification has muted what was once a thriving African-American arts community. He hopes that this new imprint will bring back some of what's been lost in his neighborhood.
Wondimu's own experience in the U.S. led him to publish widely about African topics. Now he plans to build on the changes that he has seen locally and try to fill a national void, by bringing more African-American voices to the foreground.
“We chose the name Harriet Tubman for several reasons,” he said. "To follow her example in paving a new path towards an equal and just society; to honor our ancestors who endured so much to provide us our freedom; and to proclaim our commitment to document and share our stories.”
Harriet Tubman Press will launch this fall with a ten-year retrospective on Voices From Leimert Park, edited by Shonda Buchanan, who will serve as literary editor of the imprint. Brad Elliot Stone, professor of philosophy and chair of African American studies at LMU, will head academic publishing for the imprint.
Tsehai is growing in other ways. The press, which has published 110 books in five imprints, along with two academic journals, is in the midst of finalizing a contract with a book distributor. It is also about to join the Association of American University Presses.
Correction: V. Kali was originally listed as a co-editor of Voices From Leimert Park. Shonda Buchanan is the sole editor.