The ongoing turmoil in the Middle East along with the unfolding refugee crisis there and across Europe has been the source of a clutch of manuscripts on offer at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair.
Foundry Literary + Media has been shopping rights to two titles with the most recent being Hope More Powerful Than the Sea: A Young Refugee’s Story of Love, Terror and Survival. Written by Melissa Fleming, head of communications for the U.N. High Commission for Refugees, the book is the story of Doaa, a 19-year-old woman who survived four days at sea en route from Syria to Greece and over the course of the trip lost her fiancé but saved a young child. Flatiron Books will publish the book in the U.S.
The second book, set to be released by HarperOne in the U.S. in January 2016, is The Lightless Sky by Gulwali Passarlay who, as a 12-year-old, fled Afghanistan and for the next year worked his way through eight countries to settle in the U.K. Now 21, Passarlay is set to graduate from the University of Manchester and his book, written with Nadene Ghouri, “will offer a compelling perspective on a contemporary human rights issue,” the agency said.
Among other books making the rounds at the fair, Dan Simon at Seven Stories Press is shopping a second book by Italian journalist Loretta Napoleoni, Merchants of Men: The Kidnapping Business Inside the Refugee Crisis, which “goes further than the news headlines, combining investigative reporting, economics and political philosophy,” the publisher said. Napoleoni’s previous book The Islamist Phoenix: The Islamic State and the Redrawing of the Middle East, sold at or soon after last year’s fair in 20 countries.
In a few deals that have been done for refugee-related books, Faber UK editor Laura Hassan acquired world English language rights to The New Odyssey: The Story of the European Refugee Crisis by Patrick Kinglsey, the Guardian’s migration correspondent, from Jonathan Conway at Jonathan Conway Literary Agency, for publication in summer 2016. Kingsley’s manuscript draws on his travels in 17 countries during 2015, to witness the experience of hundreds of people enduring long, perilous journeys across deserts, seas, and mountain ranges to reach Europe, as well as the smugglers, coast guards, volunteers, hoteliers, border guards, and politicians who play their part.
At Virago Press, Lennie Goodings, who admits to being “sometimes wary of journalist’s accounts of something as complex as this, because their stories are often only skin-deep and immediate,” has acquired UK and Commonwealth rights, excluding Canada, to a memoir by Souad Mekhennet, from Devon Mazzone at Holt, for publication in spring 2017.
Mekhennet was born in Germany to a Turkish mother and Moroccan father, and is a correspondent for the Washington Post. “In pursuit of today’s most pressing question -- Why are some young Muslim women and men rejecting their parents’ dreams of economic betterment and personal freedom in favor of radical rebellion in the Middle East? – she has confronted some of the world’s killers, unmasked Jihadi John, and gone deep into Muslim communities in the west,” says Goodings.
Bless the Hands of the Soldiers by David Kirkpatrick has been acquired by Viking’s Wendy Wolf in a deal brokered by Elyse Cheney of Elyse Cheney Literary Associates. Kirkpatrick was a Middle East correspondent for the New York Times and has been Cairo bureau chief for the past five years. The book “is a painful personal and political chronicle of the region’s chaotic recent history and uncertain future” according to Cheney, who adds that “drawing on the history of Egypt’s entanglement with the West and the political history of the Middle East, it is also a necessary corrective to our shortsighted view of the possibilities for democracy in the region."