A new independent political press, run by and for people of colour, is to focus on tackling institutional racism in the industry.
Brekhna Aftab and Farhaana Arefin launched Hajar Press with the intention of publishing "ambitious and politically engaged fiction and non-fiction" by writers of colour with "original and transformative ways of seeing the world".
Arefin, who is an editor at Hurst, said: "Literature is about speaking truth and reimagining the world—it's political. If publishers and literary agents really want to fight racism, they need to push beyond diversity and tackle political questions: what structures make us unequal, and how can publishing change society? I see engaging in this struggle as a publisher's most basic moral responsibility."
Hajar intends to have "a strong community focus", with book clubs and other events for its readers and writers to meet each other and share ideas.
Aftab has previously worked at Pluto Press, the Left Book Club and Verso Books. She said: "We grew tired of the industry treating 'diversity' as a commercial trend. With Hajar, we are challenging the rigid categories imposed on writers of colour that have stifled their creative horizons. We want to build a fundamentally new project that allows us to take ownership of our narratives, one that brings together literary innovation with a clear social and political goal."
The press intends to publish between six to eight books a year, including a semi-autobiographical novella and a collection of autofiction vignettes. The books will be announced in the next two months.