A year ago, President Donald Trump implemented Executive Order 13769, which temporarily banned individuals from seven Muslim-majority nations from entering the United States and stopped refugee admission for 120 days. Now, a nonprofit Dallas book publisher is preparing to release an anthology of fiction celebrating those countries.
Banthology: Stories from Unwanted Nations — which Deep Vellum Books will release in March in collaboration with Comma Press of Manchester, England — is a collection of commissioned works by authors from Yemen, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia and Sudan.
“The moment is very sensitive, and because the original bans the president has put in place have changed and morphed, the original hateful intent is all still there,” says Will Evans, the director and publisher of Deep Vellum Books. “We are trying to bring voices to people that were affected by this ban.”
Banthology fits with Deep Vellum Books' mission to bring the world together through literature and conversation. Its stories include allegory, satire and literary realism.
“There is a shared humanity that we share with these folks, and literature is a way to bring us in contact, and if we are able to engage with their story, then that level of connection is able to build,” Evans says.
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The authors whose work appears in Banthology had previously worked with Comma Press, but this project is unique.
“They were commissioned to be translated, which is very untraditional,” Evans says. “There is censorship and then there is indirect censorship, which means it is not necessarily illegal to write about these things, but people probably don’t if they want to be published.”
While the stories are representative of personal experiences, they are considered fiction.
“The level of expression that you can use in fiction is free,” Evans says. “It is an artistic medium in which you can use certain narrative techniques to tell a story, and that storytelling is a unifying factor that we all have.”