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Jamaican Novel Reaps International Praise

Jamaican Novel Reaps International Praise

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A Million Aunties (Blouse & Skirt Books), the forthcoming novel by award-winning author Alecia McKenzie, has amassed enthusiastic praise from writers and critics alike and is about to get a dual release in the Caribbean and North America. The novel comes to the world through a strategic alliance godfathered by Kwame Dawes in order to deepen Caribbean publishing’s global footprint. The book gets its NYC release on November 17, 2020 and will be officially launched in the Caribbean a few days later.

Jamaican Novel Reaps International Praise

A Million Aunties is an elegantly-written and emotionally engrossing work of fiction,” said Booker Prize winning author Bernardine Evaristo (Girl, Woman, Other).

“Under her deceptively revealing title, Alecia McKenzie recreates Jamaica’s enduring traditions in fresh and illuminating ways that make this one of the most avant garde fictions I have read in a long time,” says fellow Jamaican writer Curdella Forbes (A Tall History of Sugar).

“The promise of Blue Banyan Books as a dynamic and urgent literary publishing intervention in the Caribbean is exciting to me, and I believe that a partnership with friends like Akashic Books is exactly the kind of arrangement that can make this reality,” said Kwame Dawes.

Akashic Books based in New York secured the North America and Australia rights to the novel.

“I have long admired the groundbreaking work of Blue Banyan Books and its visionary founder Tanya Batson-Savage,” said Johnny Temple, head of Akashic. “When Kwame Dawes approached Akashic about collaborating with Tanya on a series of books on her Blouse & Skirt imprint, we didn’t hesitate. It’s an honor to be working so closely with one of the most forward-thinking literary publishing houses in a region exploding with world-class talent,” Temple said.

Akashic has spearheaded the book’s path to critical praise.

“This bighearted novel of love, loss and family is handled with grace and praise,” said the Publisher’s Weekly starred review.

Booklist was equally effusive with its response to the novel which it also gave a starred review. “Racial identity, nonfamilial relationships, and the restorative nature of art are all explored as McKenzie considers the possibility of regeneration of the human spirit even as we grapple with the tragedies of lost loves and changing worlds.”

Dawes remarked that McKenzie’s novel provided a great start to what is intended to be a series of publications.

“Launching this partnership with Alecia McKenzie’s work is a godsend, and it promises for a great future. Tanya Batson Savage is a fierce and committed book-lover and entrepreneur, and I can think of no better person to be at the helm of such a project,” said Dawes.

McKenzie reveals she was honoured and pleased to receive Dawes’ request.

“At the time, I was trying to rewrite and reconstruct A Million Aunties because the first draft had disappeared with burglars several months previously – gone for good with my laptop. The rewriting was a challenging process, but Kwame’s email provided added motivation to continue. I cannot thank him enough for all he does for fellow writers. My huge appreciation goes equally to publishers Blue Banyan and Akashic Books for their untiring support of Caribbean stories,” McKenzie said.

She noted that the collaborative support surrounding the project augurs well for the possibilities for books published from the Caribbean, and explains why she readily agreed when Dawes asked if she had a novella that could be included in the project.

“This initiative is an example of what can be achieved when we work together,” said McKenzie, “putting our energies into backing a vibrant Caribbean publishing sector. I accepted Kwame’s invitation right away for these reasons, to ‘cut a long story short’. But then the novella turned into a novel.”

McKenzie is also the author of Sweetheart (winner of a Commonwealth Book Prize and the Prix Carbet des lycéens), the novella Doctors Orders and the collections Stories From Yard and Satellite City (winner of a Commonwealth Writers Best First Book Prize).

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