Time for publishers to cultivate a new wave of Asian writing

Farhana Shaikh
Friday 31 December 2010 01:00
Comments

I set up The Asian Writer, an online literary magazine, to raise the profile of published authors, after becoming frustrated that they were given little mainstream exposure. I wanted to give emerging writers a platform to showcase their work. As an aspiring novelist, I wished to create a safe haven for like-minded individuals who were defying their parents' wishes by pursuing a career in writing instead of banking. As a publishing graduate I struggle with the concept of Asian writers being pigeonholed and packaged into writing one type of fiction – especially when the needs of millions of readers are being so poorly served. The few Asian writers who earn mainstream success appear out of touch with their own people (I'm thinking Kiran Desai, Michael Ondaatje and Salman Rushdie here). Kudos to those who have carved a niche for themselves by going against the grain. Both Roopa Farooki and Nisha Minhas have been successful at targeting the chick-lit market, for example.

I realise that more needs to be done to persuade the industry to publish a range of Asian writing, but I also know that the talent is out there. I've recently edited a collection of contemporary Asian writing from writers all over the world. The finished book offers a blend of eclectic short stories and poetry on the theme of celebration, as well as interviews which capture the experiences of writers from across the South Asian diaspora.

Hope comes in the form of the recent Costa nominations in the first novel category. It appears that cool can be taken seriously too. Publishers should take note of emerging voices in British Asian writing without fearing failure if they take on a hip new author who doesn't just write about marriage and samosas. India is the largest consumer of books written in English; now it's time for publishers to cultivate a new wave of Asian writing with mass appeal. www.theasianwriter.co.uk

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