I just helped fund a Kickstarter campaign for a new book, Shatila Stories, a collaborative piece of fiction to be created by nine refugee writers from the Shatila refugee camp in Lebanon and published by Peirene Press next year.
Now, although I think crowdfunding of literature is a great idea, unfortunately I can’t support every project that comes into my inbox. So why did I support this one, and why am I recommending it to you too? A few reasons…
Firstly, I know it’ll be a good book. I’ve been a firm fan of Peirene Press since I reviewed their very first book seven years ago now, and I’ve hardly ever been disappointed by subsequent books. Their standard fare is contemporary European literature in translation, and I’m excited to see what they do with this new project.
Secondly, it’s an important chance to hear unheard stories. The Shatila refugee camp was built in 1949 to house 3,000 Palestinian refugees, but in recent years, refugees from the Syrian civil war have swelled the numbers to ten times that amount. And of course, to many of us, the very name Shatila brings to mind the horrific massacre of civilians there by the Israeli-backed Phalange militia in the 1980s.
What must it be like to live in such a place, so overcrowded and with such a terrible history and uncertain future? What kind of stories emerge? It will be refreshing to hear from the inhabitants, not as brief quotes in Western news reports but as a fully fledged piece of fiction.
Thirdly, the idea of “collaborative fiction” itself is an interesting one. The nine writers have produced stories about life as a refugee in Shatila, and according to the Kickstarter page, “the next step in creating Shatila Stories is to interweave these stories to form a single, coherent narrative.” I’ll be interested to see what that looks like.
Finally, it’s a good cause. Any profits from the book will be donated to Basmeh & Zeitooneh, the local NGO that helped Peirene to find the writers and get the project going.
You can pledge any amount, and as with most Kickstarter projects, there’s a range of rewards on offer, from a copy of the book itself for £15 to discounted Peirene subscriptions for higher amounts, and a trip to the Shatila camp itself for any of you with very deep pockets. Here’s that link again: Shatila Stories on Kickstarter.