Pan Macmillan has pre-empted rights to a memoir described as “Malala meets Bend It Like Beckham”.
Carole Tonkinson acquired UK and Commonwealth rights to a memoir by Pakistani squash player Maria Toorpakai Wazir from Sandy Hodgman and Einstein Thompson Literary.
This is the fourth acquisition for Tonkinson’s yet-to-be-named non-fiction imprint, which launches this spring.
Wazir was born on the Pakistan/Afghan border in South Waziristan and her sporting prowess was evident from childhood.
Because of her gender she was not allowed to involve herself in physical games, but at the age of four her father agreed to raise her as a boy and in that guise she won the Pakistan Junior Boys weight-lifting competition, but when she began to excel at squash, she was asked to supply her birth certificate and her gender was discovered.
After kidnap and death threats from the Taliban, Wazir was confined to her home, but persisted by hitting balls against the four walls of her bedroom for three years and emailing Western squash programmes seeking rescue.
Former Canadian World Squash Champion Jonathan Power came to her aid and Wazir now lives and competes in Toronto.
Wazir said: “Growing up in violence introduced me to peace. I play squash as a way to purify myself, to promote selflessness and stay true to the real me. I also play sports to bring me closer to humanity. I travel, play and learn. I often say that everyone has a great story, but only few get a chance to be heard. When I was alone it was just my story, but together it's a journey that has no end: playing through the violence and moving towards peace.”
Tonkinson said: “Maria’s courage is awe-inspiring and hers is one of the most inspirational stories I have ever encountered. Her memoir is a dream project for my new list.”
The as-yet-to-be titled memoir was sold in pre-empt to Viking Canada and in heated auctions to Twelve in the US and Heyne in Germany. Rizzoli will publish in Italy.
Pan Macmillan will publish in spring 2016.