Quercus imprint MacLehose Press has acquired My Pen is the Wing of a Bird: New Fiction by Afghan Women, an anthology of contemporary women's short stories with an introduction by BBC chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet.
Publisher Katharina Bielenberg bought world rights from Lucy Hannah, director of Untold, a development programme for writers in areas with ongoing or recent conflict. North American rights have been sold to Beth deGuzman at Grand Central. Publication is scheduled for 17th February 2022.
The publisher explained: "Afghanistan has a rich literary history, but chronic instability, compounded by the current crisis, has meant that women's voices have largely remained hidden. This anthology of short stories from 18 writers is the result of two years of international collaboration between writers, translators and editors.
"The writers are from across Afghanistan and from the country's two main linguistic groups (Pashto and Dari). These short stories are inspired by family, work, tradition, sexuality, friendship, and real-life events. Afghan women’s contemporary literature has remained hidden for too long, and this anthology gives readers around the world a chance to read their stories."
One of the contributing writers said: "Men always want to speak on behalf of Afghan women, but now it is time for Afghan women to speak for themselves. Without fear, we want to share our art and our thoughts with the world."
Hannah, who will write an afterword for the anthology, commented: "These stories are by new writers, most of whom have never been published before. Their fiction is unexpected, raw, and very real. A region’s upheaval cannot be fully explained without local, and particularly, women’s perspectives; this collection of contemporary Afghan women’s writing is long overdue."
Bielenberg added: "These extraordinary, bold and diverse pieces of fiction open a window onto the lives of women in Afghanistan in these last years. The project has come to fruition at a critical time, when these voices need to be heard more than ever."