Bloomsbury assistant editor Jessica George’s "gut-punching" debut, Maame, has gone to Hodder & Stoughton in an eight-way auction and has been snapped up in the US following a seven-figure pre-empt.
The 26-year-old's book is described as “funny, heart-breaking, utterly relatable and powerfully authentic”, aimed at fans of “Chewing Gum”, Queenie and Dolly Alderton.
In her first acquisition for the publisher, commissioning editor Olivia Barber acquired UK and Commonwealth rights, excluding Canada, in a two-book deal from Jemima Forrester at David Higham Associates. Maame will be published as a lead fiction hardback in spring 2023.
North American rights were acquired in a seven-figure pre-empt by Sarah Cantin, executive editor at St Martin’s Press, via Michelle Brower at Aevitas. German rights were pre-empted in a six-figure, two-book deal by Sarah Leibl at btb, with translation rights handled by David Higham Associates.
George was born and raised in London to Ghanaian parents and studied English Literature at the University of Sheffield. After working at David Nurnberg Associates Literary Agency and a theatre she is now an assistant editor at Bloomsbury. She also worked as a Waterstones bookseller for three years.
Maame tells the story of Maddie (called ‘Maame’ by her family for as long as she can remember), a 20-something British Ghanaian woman, as she grapples with the expectations of her family, caring for her father, friendship, love and loss. “With tenderness, hilarity and raw emotion, the novel sharply depicts Maddie’s sense of being torn between two worlds as she navigates flatshares, dating apps, microaggressions at work, the shock of grief, and learning how to become the woman she wants to be – one frantic Google search at a time,” Hodder said.
“’Maame’ has many meanings, but in my case it means woman,” the blurb reads. “How do you become the woman you’re meant to be?’
Barber said: “I am absolutely thrilled to be publishing Jessica’s debut, and so proud to welcome her to the Hodder list. Maame combines moments of gut-punching emotion with poignant honesty and joyous relatability – it’s an irresistibly fresh coming-of-age story from a vital new talent. Maddie’s vivid, funny, sharply perceptive voice captured the hearts of the whole team, she’s a character you can’t help but root for, and whose story will resonate with so many readers.”
George said: “It goes without saying that this book means a great deal to me so I couldn’t be happier to have found such incredible publishers, home and abroad. I’m incredibly excited and honoured to join Hodder & Stoughton, St Martin’s Press and btb. Olivia Barber, Sarah Cantin and their teams have shown me nothing but enthusiasm, passion and dedication from the moment Maame landed in their inboxes and I cannot wait to get started.’
Forrester said: “When I first read Jessica’s debut I knew I was reading something incredibly special. Not many authors could handle such wide-ranging themes as grief, familial duty, mental health, racism, female pleasure, the complexity of love and the power of friendship with such total aplomb. Jessica is wise beyond her years, fiercely talented, incredibly grounded and an absolute star in the making. I’m so proud to represent her and delighted to have found such passionate, determined and nurturing publishers to introduce Maame to the world.”