Year in Review: highlights of 2017

Year in Review: highlights of 2017


As 2017 draws to a close and we prepare to welcome the holiday season and a bright new year, our founder Valerie Brandes looks back on the past year with her 7 top highlights of 2017.

I have been blessed to be a mother twice over and I have been privileged to observe my children grow from their fledgling states into self-assured, confident, gorgeous, fully developed entities. This is an incredible process, non-linear, full of challenges; it can be traumatic but also filled with fantastic highs and indisputable joys. In so many ways this is Jacaranda. Proudly black women owned and operated since 2012, because (as my brilliant new graduate daughter has schooled me), “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house” -Audre Lorde.

At Jacaranda we are committed to doing the hard work and we are thankful for it. So in this past year of life-crushing hurricanes, catastrophic floods, earthquakes, and Biblical fires, of blue moons and total solar eclipses, we did the work. It was not an easy year. Growth is never easy, even less so growing up. And we are still in our toddler years, for all the unstable footing, wildly uncontrollable impulses and immature communication levels that entails.


Here are 7 moments, high, low and unsteady, from 2017 at Jacaranda.

1. We started the year on a high note with the acquisition of Rest in Power:  by Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, Trayvon Martin’s parents. It is an honour to have this book on our list and it remains the book I am proudest of acquiring. Out of this tragedy Black Lives Matters was formed and founders Opal Tometi, Patrisse Marie Cullors and Alicia Garza were honoured with the Sydney Peace Prize for 2017.

2. This year was the summer of breakout new voices from the Caribbean, India and Mexico (by way of Austria) that sparkled as brightly as the blue seas surrounding them. Paula Lennon, Rasheda Ashanti Malcolm, Indu Balachandran and Claudia Chibici-Revneau delivered startling stories of love and trauma.

3. Hollywood calling! A number of our books have found film and television deals, most notably fan favourite The Book of Harlan by Bernice McFadden, soon to be a movie with Mark Tonderai’s Shona Films. And following his powerful documentary on Kalief Browder, Jay Z has acquired the film rights for Rest in Power. Release dates for both projects to be confirmed but we are proud beyond and happy to be supporting the works here in the UK.


4. Prizes, prizes, prizes. It has been wonderful to see our titles receive much-deserved recognition on the award lists throughout the year. Rising star Irenosen Okojie’s short story collection Speak Gigantular was shortlisted for the inaugural Jhalak Prize, the Edge Hill Short Story prize, the Saboteur Awards, and the Shirley Jackson Award. In addition, The Book of Harlan saw Bernice McFadden win the NAACP Award and the American Book Award. And most recently, debut novelist Anietie Isong has been longlisted for the 9 Mobile Prize (formerly known as the Etisalat Prize) with his satirical, outstanding novel Radio Sunrise.

5. Bradford, Brunel & Brooklyn. This year took me all over the UK and for the first time to the Brooklyn Book Festival in New York. At the Bradford Literary Festival, a wonderful event that goes from strength to strength each year, I met fellow indie press founders Kevin Duffy of Bluemoose Books and Alessandro Gallenzi of Alma Books. We shared a discussion on independent publishing. It is important for small presses to connect and share insights and challenges. It helps to know we aren’t alone.

At Brunel I shared the panel on Decolonizing the Canon with Benjamin Zephaniah, Rachel Long and and two thirds of the brilliant Mostly Lit team, Derek Owosu and Alex Reads. A timely subject and some strong opinions were exchanged from the panel and the audience and spirited debate ensued. I told them about Jacaranda’s new Global Classics list (coming soon) which is a direct answer to the question of opening up the canon.

While in New York I was able to submerge myself in the joy that is the Brooklyn Book Festival. Set over three days in the centre of the city, town hall steps become bleacher seating and we were in the position to rub shoulders with some of our favourite writers in the world. A definite must-do event on the literary calendar.

6. Return to home (office). After two years at London Bridge, Jacaranda moved back to the home office, a brightly lit space at the top of the house. We continued to work accompanied by the shushing of the green leaves of the large London plane tree in the neighbour’s garden, and little else. No rumble of traffic, no anxiety over the journey home (Will I get a seat? The right train? Home in time for Tipping Point?). It feels good to be here.

7. Powerlist 2018. What an absolute privilege and complete surprise to find myself on this list this year. This year has been about taking stock, literally and figuratively. Being chosen for the Powerlist came at a time when it felt incredible to be receiving the honour. Any new venture takes years to come to any kind of fruition and in that time it takes strength of mind to persevere. Honours like this are a vote of confidence and it allowed us to take a moment and properly reflect on our many accomplishments since founding. It’s a good feeling.

From Valerie Brandes and the Jacaranda team (including our lovely office dog Bailey) we wish you a merry Christmas, happy holidays and a wonderful new year.


Written by Jacaranda Books

1 Comment
  1. What a wonderful well-written read! Really positive message! I think you are awesome! This really has been a year of many marked achievements for you and the Jacaranda team. Thank you for bringing us so many wonderful reads over this year. I have been able to introduce some of your books to my students (who have been thoroughly engaged!) Now, Jacaranda books are on our school librarian’s index list! Your resilience is inspiring. We need and appreciate the additional quality that Jacaranda books bring. Looking forward to 2018 and more quality reads from Jacaranda. One wish? That you publish a few more books for teen and young adult readers!

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