Bloomsbury Wildlife is publishing a trilogy of books by journalist Anita Sethi exploring themes of identity, place and belonging, starting with I Belong Here: A Journey Along the Backbone of Britain.
Bloomsbury Wildlife acquired world English rights including audio to I Belong Here by Sethi in February, with the second and third books in the trilogy, Nocturne and Forces, subsequently acquired in May. The deal was struck directly with the author.
"An act of resistance", I Belong Here stems from events that took place in summer 2019, when Sethi was on a journey through Northern England and became the victim of a race hate crime. In the aftermath, Sethi experienced panic attacks and anxiety, as well as claustrophobia that made her long for wide open spaces and the great outdoors.
"She was intent on not letting her experience stop her travelling freely and without fear," the publisher said. "The Pennines called to Anita with a magnetic force; although a racist had told her to leave, she felt drawn to further explore the area she regards as her home, to immerse herself deeply in place. Anita’s journey through the natural landscapes of the North is one of reclamation, a way of saying that this is her land too and she belongs in the UK as a brown woman, as much as a white man does ... Her journey transforms what began as an ugly experience of hate into one offering hope and finding beauty after brutality. Every word written against the rising tide of hate speech, such as this book, is an act of resistance."
Alice Ward, commissioning editor, said: “Anita’s passion to expose the toxic thinking deeply rooted in our society by exploring wildlife and womanhood, nature, place and belonging, is truly inspiring, and we are proud to have the opportunity to bring her series of three narrative works to a wide audience. I Belong Here, Nocturne and Forces herald a refreshing and powerful new voice in nature writing. Anita has delivered I Belong Here and it is an absolute masterpiece.”
Literary journalist Sethi was born in Manchester and her work has been published in anthologies including Common People edited by Kit de Waal and The Seasons nature writing anthology edited by Melissa Harrison.
She commented: "I'm absolutely thrilled to be working with Alice and the team – and at Bloomsbury Wildlife to have found the perfect home for my books to belong – on the UK's most prestigious nature writing list. Being racially abused is a traumatic experience and the mental health effects can last far longer than the day of the incident; it can shatter your sense of safety in the self and world. I wanted to turn my experience of hate into one of hope and explore the ways in which nature and wildlife can heal and restore us – and why we must care better for nature. Through writing this nature trilogy I aim to fight and write against racism, hatred and inequality, and show how we are all connected."
I Belong Here will publish in hardback on 8th April 2021. Nocturne and Forces will follow in the same format in June 2022 and April 2024 respectively.