We are delighted to announce that Sara Saleh has signed with Affirm Press for her debut novel to be published in 2023! The acquisition follows Sara’s participation in the inaugural Affirm Press Mentorship for Sweatshop Writers.

Sara Saleh is an Arab-Australian human rights activist, community organiser, campaigner for refugee rights and racial justice, and an award-winning poet and writer who made history this year as the first writer to win both the Peter Porter Poetry Prize and the Judith Wright Poetry Prize. Her work has been published in English and Arabic in various national and international outlets and anthologies, and she is co-editor of the 2019 anthology Arab, Australian, Other: Stories on Race and Identity.

As part of the mentorship, Sara has worked with Affirm Press senior editor Ruby Ashby-Orr to develop her manuscript over the past two years. The book, titled Songs for the Dead and the Living, is an intergenerational novel following a Palestinian family that ends up in Western Sydney.

The mentorship was conceived in 2018 by Affirm Press and the Western Sydney literacy movement Sweatshop to enable two Western Sydney writers from culturally diverse backgrounds to develop their debut novels with up to two years of editorial support and feedback and advice on building a writing profile. Affirm Press receives the first publishing option for the chosen manuscripts.

Sara said, ‘For so long others have told our stories for us, but we aren’t silent and we never have been; we do not need “permission to narrate”. I am grateful and proud to be able to bring this thing of love and joy to life, with the faith and support of Affirm Press and Sweatshop.

‘My hope is for a novel that honours my communities and our heritage of storytelling, and invites readers to (re)discover the places and parts of ourselves we hold on to, but have never truly known.’

Martin Hughes, Affirm Press Publishing Director, said, ‘Sara is a powerhouse; she is immensely talented and inspiring, and I’m thrilled that Affirm Press will be her publishing partner on what is shaping up to be a superb and seminal novel. Massive respect to Sweatshop.’

Dr Michael Mohammed Ahmad, Sweatshop Director, said, ‘As an activist, Sara’s advocacy has empowered an entire generation of passionate young minds. As a poet, Sara’s words have captured the imaginations of readers from our own backyards in Western Sydney to communities all over the world. Now as a debut novelist, Sara is destined to become one of this country’s most inspiring and courageous storytellers — shining an urgent new light on the Arab and Muslim experience in Australia.’

Dr Ahmad also spoke about the incredible success of Sweatshop’s collaboration with Affirm Press. ‘Sweatshop is very proud to have witnessed and supported Sara’s incredible journey, and we are thankful to the amazing team at Affirm Press for investing in writers from the Palestinian diaspora.’

Along with Sara, the second recipient of the inaugural Affirm Press Mentorship for Sweatshop Writers was Shirley Le, a Vietnamese-Australian writer from Yagoona. Shirley also signed with us off the back of her mentorship and her as-yet untitled novel will be published in 2023.

Daniel Nour and Tyree Barnette are the recipients of the second round of the Affirm Press Mentorship for Sweatshop Writers and are currently developing their manuscripts.