Novelist and journalist Abubakar Adam Ibrahim has left Parresia Publishers, his Nigerian publishers since 2011, to sign with Cassava Republic Press. He made the announcement on his Facebook wall. Ibrahim’s literary career took off in 2013 after the publication of his collection of stories, The Whispering Trees, and the shortlisting of its title story for the Caine Prize. And then it really took off when he won the $100,000 NLNG Prize for Literature in 2016 for his novel Season of Crimson Blossoms (2015).
Authors and books on Parresia’s still strong roster include: Helon Habila’s Oil in Water, Emmanuel Iduma’s Farad, Victor Ehikhamenor’s Excuse Me!, Chika Unigwe’s Night Dancer, Richard Ali’s City of Memories, Molara Wood’s Indigo, and Onyeka Nwelue’s The Beginning of Everything Colourful.
Here is his Facebook post in full:
I am happy to announce that Cassava Republic Press has acquired the rights to publish my books, Season of Crimson Blossoms and The Whispering Trees in Nigeria. Copies of the CRP edition of SCB, with the UK edition cover, will be in bookstores any moment from now. What this means is that more bookshops across the country will have copies available, and if you want a different cover for the book, here is a chance to grab it. As always, I will be happy to sign for you. You can also order online on the link below. https://bit.ly/2CPsbhF.
What this also means is that my relationship with Parresia Publishers has come to an end and they no longer represent me or my books in Nigeria. Between 2011, when I first signed with them and now, a lot has happened. We have journeyed through many terrains together and now the time has come to part ways. What happened? Well, that is a long story. I do not have the energy to go into that now. Maybe someday I will write about it in my biography, if I ever write such a thing. Or I may just rant about it somewhere, I don’t know.
Anyway, not to bore you more than I have already, please enjoy your weekend and buy a book.
The switch has been met with both goodwill and speculation, the latter due to Ibrahim’s abrupt phrasing: “a lot has happened,” “the time has come to part ways,” “I do not have the energy to go into that now,” “Or I may just rant about it somewhere,” and then that teasing of a biography and putting it in there.
Why, some observers ask, would Parresia Publishers let go of an author with quite a following who has won the NLNG Prize and is selling books? Parresia, they say, should not have let him go no matter what. But then a writer and a publisher can end their professional relationship and it would be just that—an ended professional relationship and nothing more.
So what does this announcement mean for the wider literary publishing scene in Nigeria? First, until now, Parresia had the distinction of having two NLNG Prize winners on its list: Ibrahim and Chika Unigwe who won in 2012 for On Black Sisters’ Street (2009). But they are still going strong with their four imprints: the main arm Parresia Books, the author-oriented Origami Books, the genre fiction-focused Cordite which is edited by Helon Habila, and the children’s literature arm Omode Meta.
Second, it is the second major switch of 2018 by a notable name. Earlier in the year, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie left Kachifo to sign with Narrative Landscape Press. Being the country’s top-selling living literary author, it signified an important shift. Her popularity—and workshops with Farafina Trust—meant Farafina Books, Kachifo’s literary fiction imprint, had the best-known brand in the business. Her departure affects that—even though Kachifo’s list is still star-studded with Chinelo Okparanta, Lesley Nneka Arimah, Nnedi Okorafor, A. Igoni Barrett, among others. Narrative Landscape Press founder Eghosa Imasuen, the author of Fine Boys (2012), is a longtime close friend of Adichie’s and is regarded as the reason she signed with the company.
Third, Abubakar’s addition puts Cassava Republic Press in a position of unprecedented significance. Awarded the Independent Publishers Group’s and London Book Fair’s 2018 Excellence Award, they have since published She Called Me Woman: Nigeria’s Queer Women Speak, the first anthology of LGBTQ+ women in Nigeria, and will be releasing Emmanuel Iduma’s potentially game-changing mix of travelogue and photography A Stranger’s Pose, as well as Leye Adenle’s crime novel When Trouble Sleeps—all books that thematically or stylistically push at the boundaries of Nigerian literature. Among their other Nigerian books are: Yemisi Aribisala’s Longthroat Memoirs: Soups, Sex and Nigerian Taste Buds, winner of the prestigious John Avery 2016 award at the Andre Simon Food and Drink Book Awards; Sarah Ladipo Manyika’s Like A Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun, shortlisted for the 2016 Goldsmiths Prize; Elnathan John’s Born on a Tuesday, shortlisted for the inaugural Republic of Consciousness Prize in 2017. Then add Teju Cole, Nnedi Okorafor also, Chigozie Obioma, Helon Habila also, Lola Shoneyin, Olumide Popoola and Toni Kan—some of whom have strong local followings—and their reach in the domestic market becomes obvious.
We wish Abubakar Ibrahim, Cassava Republic, and Parresia more success with their future publications.