Former childrenâ€™s laureate Malorie Blackman and The Humans author Matt Haig have vowed not to return to the US while a travel ban signed by president Donald Trump remains in place. The news came as Manchester-based Comma Press announced that during 2018 it would only translate books by authors from the seven countries named in the executive order.
Blackman led authorsâ€™ furious response to the travel ban with a tweet on Saturday night. â€œThank you to all those who have invited me to various US lit fests/events, but I wonâ€™t be visiting the US any time soon,â€ she wrote.
Fellow author Philip Pullman, chair of the Society of Authors, expressed solidarity with the Noughts and Crosses author. â€œIâ€™m fully in sympathy with Malorieâ€™s decision, and I might well decide the same way myself if I had a journey forthcoming,â€ he said.
Haig, who also wrote the bestseller Reasons to Stay Alive, said he had cancelled a proposed family holiday to the US. Though he described it as a â€œsmall gestureâ€, he added: â€œIt just seems like a lack of solidarity at this present moment to go on holiday there with the ban in place.â€ Urging fellow writers to â€œdo what they canâ€, however small, he added: â€œI think writers, by their nature, can be very good at writing and tweeting about politics, but it doesnâ€™t often translate into action. Now I think everybody feels a need to act.â€
At Comma, CEO and publisher Ra Page said it had decided to translate only writers from the countries affected by the ban â€“ Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Sudan â€“ at an emergency editorial meeting on Monday. â€œIf the only narrative America wants to export right now is the narrative of hate, then we need to look elsewhere. We need to consciously turn our backs on the circus that America is descending into,â€ he said. â€œWe need to fight this. And make no mistake it will be a fight.â€
The not-for-profit press, which specialises in short-form writing, has a number of writers directly affected by the ban, including all 20 contributors to two prose collections. Hassan Blasim, the Iraqi-born writer and broadcaster, is now unable to travel to the US, despite huge success there with his 2014 novel The Iraqi Christ.
Blasim was a firsthand witness to the brutality of Saddam Hussein and the cruelty of border patrols at the entrance to Europe, Page said. He added: â€œNow he finds himself starting all over again; with a new monstrous demagogue, and a new set of inhumane border policies.â€ Other authors affected include Atef Abu Saif, Nayrouz Qarmout and Talal Abu Shawish.
Specialist Arabic press Saqi Books, which published Sara Khanâ€™s The Battle for British Islam and a number of other affected authors, announced it will publish a satirical collection called Donâ€™t Panic, Iâ€™m Islamic, this year, with contributions from writers, comedians and cartoonists from around the world. Publisher Lynn Gaspard condemned Trumpâ€™s order as â€œinhumane, dangerous and recklessâ€.
Many Middle Eastern authors have expressed confusion over whether they can travel to the US, while US-based authors feared deportation if they left the country. â€œAnoudâ€, an Iraqi woman now living in New York with family in Mosul, said: â€I havenâ€™t got my green card yet and it is very confusing about what will happen, because we are being given conflicting evidence.â€
After contributing a heavily critical piece about Islamic State to the Iraq + 100 anthology, she could face danger if returns to her home country. â€œUnless [the authorities] give a very clear official statement that only people from x, y and z will be affected or that they will accept exiting visas but not grant new ones, I wonâ€™t travel,â€ she said.
Somali-born author Nadifa Mohamed also expressed concern about the ban. â€œI still donâ€™t know if British citizens like me, who were born in the banned countries, are allowed into the US,â€ she said. Citing an incident at Washington DCâ€™s Dulles airport in which a Somali woman and her children were held for 20 hours without food or water, she added: â€œInstances like that make me very worried, as does the fate of refugees from Dadaab who have been waiting years for resettlement to the US and have planned their whole futures around it.â€
Authors urged one another to fight the ban using every means at their disposal. Washington-based Aminatta Forna, issued a rallying cry to writers around the world to speak out. â€œAt the moment, I think the more outside voices of outrage Americans hear the better,â€ she said. â€œThose of us who can give voice must do so, for the benefit of those who canâ€™t.â€