As a literary agent, the Frankfurt Book Fair has been a launch pad for some of the most powerful women’s voices from around the world. This year will be no different.
Editorial by Barbara J Zitwer
Everyone is thinking about Frankfurt now, and I am too. I have some of the most important books to sell, and they are all written by women. Ensaf Hadar is the Saudi activist and wife of jailed blogger, Raif Badawi, and her book, The Voice of Freedom, will be shown. She is barely five feet tall and doesn’t have an extra ounce of anything on her thin frame, but her voice is gigantic. She has has turned her mission of freeing her husband from death into an international cause, and become a celebrity herself.
The Frankfurt Book Fair will help her just as it has helped so many other women from around the world for decades. I think, in many ways though, this is the most political year for women to speak out about atrocities of the past and the present. This Frankfurt will highlight many profound books, both novels and true stories, which make all of us reflect on the plight of our fellow man. The world is at war and women want to end it. Through their words and their thoughts, readers can find hope, inspiration and courage.
Nineteen-year-old Firada Abbas, helped by journalist Claudia Andrea Hoffman, will reveal her shocking and true story of survival at the hands of her torturers. The Girl Who Beat ISIS: Farida’s Story was already bought by Luebbe, and sold in nine countries so far. Firada is one of the bravest young women I have ever known and I hope everyone will soon know about her, too.
Her voice will ring loud and clear through the halls of the fairgrounds, I am quite sure. Because the Frankfurt Book Fair doesn’t discriminate against women. To the contrary, the fair has always been a place that has helped us. Kyung-sook Shin’s international bestseller and breakout novel, Please Look After Mom, took off at the fair five years ago. Virtually unknown outside of Korea, Shin became a true overnight sensation at Frankfurt and the validation of international publishers put her on the map and helped her win the Man Asian Prize and become a New York Times bestseller.
This year I will be selling her most personal novel, The Girl Who Wrote Loneliness, an autobiographical work that is set during the tyrannical political government in the 70’s when she was a factory girl at the age of fifteen. Pegasus Books is publishing it in the US this September. And Han Kang’s masterpiece about the Gwanju massacre of the same era, Human Acts, to be published by Portobello Books in January, will be calling out to publishers and agents and scouts from my table, 1N, at the agents center. Published last year in Korea, it was the number-on bestseller and won the Manhae Literary Prize. A little boy lost during a bloody student massacre is both tender, heartbreaking and like nothing else you have ever read.
For more than fifteen years, “our girl’s dinner” will meet on Tuesday night during the fair. This dinner, for all of us publishing women who attend, is always our favorite event. We started out as a group of three and have grown from year to year. Sometimes our table has seated twenty; other years, it has been five. We women agents talk books and deals for about ten minutes and then after one glass of wine, we share our lives, our loves, our passions, our fears, and our enduring friendship. This year the fate of the world will be on everyone’s mind. How can we as women help make the world a better place? How can we change things and stop the bloodshed and hatred? We will…book by book.