Saturday 12 March 2016

Make Mine an Indie: Granta Books

It may seem weird that in all these months of writing Make Mine an Indie posts I'm just now getting to Granta Books. I blame Google, really, as I've discovered all bar a few of these publishers through searching 'independent publishers UK', and Granta just haven't come up. That said, I have been aware of them, as both the magazine and the publisher, for many years and have previously owned many of their short story collections.

Granta Books

Granta Books was founded in 1989 after the success of the magazine and was originally distributed and publicized by Penguin. In 1997 they expanded and gained  a sales department as well as hugely increasing the publishing programme. In 2005 Granta Books was taken over by the publisher behind fellow member of the Independent Alliance, Portobello Books, and is known for publishing literary fiction and quality, often narrative, nonfiction.

I love that Granta's website, as well as linking to their new titles, has a regularly updated section of 'Essential Granta Books'. I find it really intriguing to see what a publisher feels are their defining publications, and I particularly like that the selection currently include This Book Will Save Your Life by A.M Homes (otherwise known as 'the doughnut book' in our house) which I read and loved several years ago.

Like Canongate, there are a lot of books on Granta's list that I've had my eye on for a while, and I could make a pretty long list of things I'm excited to read. To see all the other titles not mentioned in this post that I want to get hold of check out my indie wishlist. I really love the diversity of genres and topics covered by Granta; it really feels like I could learn a lot without having to try very hard!

Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien
From the Granta Website:

In Canada in 1991, ten-year-old Marie and her mother invite a guest into their home: a young woman who has fled China in the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square protests. Her name is Ai-Ming.
Image of Do Not Say We Have NothingAs her relationship with Marie deepens, Ai-Ming tells the story of her family in revolutionary China, from the crowded teahouses in the first days of Chairman Mao's ascent, to the Shanghai Conservatory in the 1960s and the events leading to the Beijing demonstrations of 1989. It is a history of revolutionary idealism, music, and silence, in which three musicians, the shy and brilliant composer Sparrow, the violin prodigy Zhuli, and the enigmatic pianist Kai struggle during China's relentless Cultural Revolution to remain loyal to one another and to the music they have devoted their lives to. Forced to re-imagine their artistic and private selves, their fates reverberate through the years, with deep and lasting consequences for Ai-Ming - and for Marie.
Written with exquisite intimacy, wit and moral complexity, Do Not Say We Have Nothing magnificently brings to life one of the most significant political regimes of the 20th century and its traumatic legacy, which still resonates for a new generation. It is a gripping evocation of the persuasive power of revolution and its effects on personal and national identity, and an unforgettable meditation on China today.

Given my obsession with Chinese history I don't think the inclusion of this title on my list will shock anyone. It sounds fantastic and fascinating and I really really want to read more fiction about China this year. 

Negroland by Margo Jefferson
From the Granta Website:

Image of NegrolandThe daughter of a successful paediatrician and a fashionable socialite, Margo Jefferson spent her childhood among Chicago's black elite. She calls this society 'Negroland': 'a small region of Negro America where residents were sheltered by a certain amount of privilege and plenty'. With privilege came expectation. Reckoning with the strictures and demands of Negroland at crucial historical moments - the civil rights movement, the dawn of feminism, the fallacy of post-racial America - Jefferson brilliantly charts the twists and turns of a life informed by psychological and moral contradictions.

I first heard about this book during Nonfiction November last year and then again (I believe) on Book Riot's All the Books podcast. It sounds fascinating, and I don't think I've ever read anything from quite this point of view before. One of my most highly anticipated nonfiction books to read this year I think!

The Seven Good Years by Etgar Keret
From the Granta Website:

Image of The Seven Good YearsOver the last seven years Etgar Keret has had plenty of reasons to worry. His son, Lev, was born in the middle of a terrorist attack in Tel Aviv. His father became ill. And he has been constantly tormented by nightmarish visions of the Iranian president Ahmadinejad, anti-Semitic remarks both real and imagined, and, perhaps most worrisome of all, a dogged telemarketer who seems likely to chase him to the grave. Emerging from these darkly absurd circumstances is a series of funny, tender ruminations on everything from his three-year-old son's impending military service to the terrorist mindset behind Angry Birds.

Moving deftly between the personal and the political, the playful and the profound, The Seven Good Years takes a life-affirming look at the human need to find good in the least likely places, and the stories we tell ourselves to make sense of our capricious world.

I'm currently having a little bit of an Israeli obsession, since reading The People of Forever Are Not Afraid, and I'm looking for as much as I can from this part of the world. This sounds great. 

This House is Not for Sale by E.C Osondu
From the Granta Website:

Image of This House is Not for SaleThis House is Not for Sale is a story about a house in an African neighbourhood, the Family House, owned and ruled over by the patriarchal, business-minded Grandpa - by turns benevolent and cruel - and home to his wives, children, grandchildren, and the many in his service. It tells the stories of the people who live there, of the curse placed on the house by one of its former occupants, of the evil and brutality that transpires there, and finally of its downfall.
By the acclaimed author of Voice of America, This House is Not for Sale is a brilliantly inventive debut novel which draws on the rich oral traditions of Nigeria and is full of wisdom and dark humour. From everyday violence and magic, to the voices of gossiping neighbours, here is an utterly engrossing story of an African community, its culture and traditions, and the power of storytelling.
Since I read the story in Diving Belles where the narrator is a house, I'm really interested in stories about houses and what goes on there. This sounds fascinating in a kind of macabre way, and also I'm excited about the chance to learn more about Nigeria and its folklore and culture. 
There is so much to be excited about with Granta. I strongly urge you to go over to their website or twitter and find out more!

Catch up with the Make Mine an Indie series here

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