Journalist and broadcaster Anita Sethi is publishing two books with The Indigo Press exploring race and place in wake of her experience of a race hate crime earlier this year.
I Belong Here: A Journey Along the Backbone of Britain will be published in 2020 and Nocturne: A Journey Through Darkness the following year, with The Indigo Press acquiring world rights in all languages from Sethi directly.
Telling a story "of resistance and perseverance with universal resonance", I Belong Here was written in response to an incident in spring 2019 in which Mancunian Sethi was told to "go back to where you're from" while taking a TransPennine train from Liverpool to Newcastle. Suffering from anxiety and claustrophobia following the attack, she found herself drawn to the Pennines, the "backbone of Britain", and embarked on a symbolic journey to walk them alone, reclaiming the ancient and beautiful landscapes of her birthplace. According to The Indigo Press, the book that transpired combines "powerful polemical writing about place and people with exquisite evocations of the natural world, moving between urban spaces and remote wildernesses".
Nocturne, a book in which Sethi "interrogates and reclaims the word ‘dark’" one sleepless night, will follow a year on. The Indigo Press called it "a powerful exploration of darkness, in all its forms, decolonising and reclaiming the colour and its symbolism through a series of night-time walks, from sleepless supercities to some of the most isolated, wild places on earth, seeking sunset and searching for sunrise". As well as providing an evocative portrait of the night-time world, the press said it would "[get] to the heart of what it means to be human".
Sethi said she felt compelled to share her story to combat race hate crime and that she hoped it would be launched alongside other activist initiatives to help make the world a safer place.
"After being the victim of a hate crime while making a journey through my birthplace of northern England, I feel more than ever how travelling and walking through the world as a woman of colour is a political and radical act," said Sethi. "Whilst language was used as a weapon of abuse against me, language can also be a force for good, and I wanted to harness it as such in the writing of these books. I felt compelled to share my story in full, between the covers of a book, to help stop anyone else going through what I went through, and to humanise those who are far too often dehumanised.
"Throughout my journeys through both urban and natural landscapes, from cities to remote wildernesses, I’ve been led to explore what it means to belong – and not belong – including the sense of belonging that books canbring. Here’s hoping that the new decade ahead will bring even more activism to help combat the rising tide of hate and inspire greater care for people and places. In 2020, I’m aiming for I Belong Here to be launched alongside other activist initiatives to help the world be a safe place for all to move around in. I’m delighted to be working with such a vibrant new publisher on bringing these books into the world.”
Susie Nicklin, c.e.o. of The Indigo Press, added: "With these two books we are lucky to have the opportunity to publish someone exceptional – a Mancunian who has immersed herself in the literary landscape, and bears witness to the imperatives of our physical landscape. It is shocking that it took a racist hate crime to bring I Belong Here into the world, but Anita’s courageous response with her act of reclamation is testament to her backbone.
"Nocturne also emphasises her determination to occupy a traditionally white, patriarchal space. Both books combine powerful polemical writing about places and people with exquisite evocations of the natural world, moving between urban spaces and remote wildernesses. Anita is an important voice in the fields of place, landscape and nature writing. We are proud to publish a brilliant writer who stands for and embodies our values."
Sethi has already been published in anthologies including Common People (Unbound) and will feature in the forthcoming Women on Nature (Unbound). She has been shortlisted for Journalist of the Year at the Asian Media Awards and Writer of the Year at the Northern Soul Awards.