It is rumored that US publisher, Random House paid at least a million dollars each to secure the US rights to two novels – The Girls by Emma Cline and The Longings of Jende Jonga by Cameroon-born Imbolo Mbue.
This all happened in Frankfurt a few days ago. Publishers came to Frankfurt ahead of the book fair, which ran from October 8 – 12, to shop for new writers and promising manuscripts.
If you’ve never heard of Mbue, it’s probably because she’s never published anything. At least, not yet. Her first ever published story will be out soon in the Threepenny Review.
The Cameroonian writer, who moved to the US in 1998, has written an immigrant novel that clearly has publishers very excited.
“Mbue’s The Longings of Jende Jonga…opens in New York City in 2007 and focuses on the West African immigrant of its title, who lands a job as a chauffeur for a high level executive at Lehman Brothers. Jende’s family becomes close to his employer’s – Jende’s wife is quickly hired by the exec’s wife – only to have both families thrown into disarray when the 2008 financial collapse hits.”
The way I see it, if publishers are willing to pay this much for a debut novel, the story must be off-the-charts amazing.
Golomb – a front runner in the bid for the novel – not only compares Mbue to Adichie but also notes that her novel is built around “some of the most delightful and refreshing characters seen in recent fiction.”
I’m guessing it won’t take much for Mbue to be admitted into the new elite African writers club where she’ll be in good company with the likes of Chimamanda Adichie (Half of a Yellow Sun), NoViolet Bulawayo (We Need New Names), Teju Cole (Open City), Dinaw Mengestu (How to Read the Air), Taiye Selasi (Ghana Must Go), Lauren Beukes (Broken Monsters), and others.
Congratulations to Mbue! We can’t wait for her novel to be published.
Brittle Paper is an African literary blog featuring book reviews, news, interviews, original work and in-depth coverage of the African literary scene. It is curated by Ainehi Edoro and was recently named a ‘go-to book blog’ by Publisher’s Weekly.