John Murray snaps up lead fiction debut from Ahsan after author pitch

John Murray snaps up lead fiction debut from Ahsan after author pitch

John Murray has made a novel by Shahnaz Ahsan its lead fiction debut for 2020, after publisher Mark Richards met her at a writers’ pitching event.

Richards snapped up world rights to Hashim & Family from Lucy Luck at C&W – who also met Ahsan at the same venue. The novel will be published in £14.99 hardback in April 2020 with a cover design by Jon Gray.

Hashim & Family is an epic story of two cousins as they emigrate to Britain, following their lives over the next two decades as they encounter racism and struggle to integrate into the UK, while upheaval in their homeland of East Pakistan causes them to question where they belong.

Its synopsis explains: “The novel opens on New Year’s Eve 1959, as Hashim arrives in Manchester from East Pakistan to join his cousin Rofikul. It follows them and their wives Munira and Helen over the next twenty years as they make their way in the new country – cold, often unfriendly and sometimes worse, but sometimes capable of showing great warmth – and as the births and deaths in their own families start to find their echo in the painful birth of a new country, Bangladesh.”

Explaining how the deal came about, Richards said: "On a January evening two and a half years ago I went to talk to a group of writers about their novels. I was, I’ll admit, somewhat reluctant to go; it was cold and dark, and the last thing I wanted to do was get on a train and spend the evening far away from my sofa. But I’m extremely glad that I did, because among the writers that night was Shahnaz Ahsan.

“Her extraordinarily assured first novel Hashim & Family deals with the biggest of issues – immigration, racism, nationalism, and the meaning and pull of home – but it is a novel always rooted in the lives of its characters, and by the end they feel like people you too have known, and cared for, for 20 years.”

Ahsan said: “My grandparents were the bravest people I have ever known. Leaving behind the only home they had ever known, they travelled thousands of miles to Britain to start a new life. Hashim & Family is a story of their generation: their sacrifices and their struggles. And in the current climate of hostility towards migrants in the West, it is crucial that the stories of these families are told and celebrated.”