Virago to Release Chibundu Onuzo’s Sankofa in the UK

In the Nigerian writer’s third novel, a mixed-race British woman goes in search of her father, and finds that he is now dictator in a fictional West African country.
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Chibundu Onuzo's Sankofa.

Chibundu Onuzo's Sankofa.

Virago is thrilled to announce the acquisition of Sankofa, the third novel by the award-winning author Chibundu Onuzo. Sarah Savitt, Publisher at Virago, acquired UK and Commonwealth rights from Georgina Capel at Georgina Capel Associates.

Jonathan Lee at Catapult has acquired US rights and Anwuli Ojogwu at Narrative Landscape Press has acquired Nigerian rights.

Sankofa is the moving, funny and surprising story of Anna, a mixed-race British woman who goes in search of the West African father she never knew. In middle age, after separating from her husband and losing her mother, Anna finds her father’s student diaries, chronicling his involvement in radical politics in 1970s London. She discovers that he eventually became the president—some would say the dictator—of the West African country of Bamana. And he is still alive.

Anna decides to track him down and her journey will lead her to a new understanding of both her past and her potential future, as well as an exploration of race, identity and what we pass on to our children.

Chibundu Onuzo by Hachette Australia.
Chibundu Onuzo by Hachette Australia.

Chibundu Onuzo was born in Lagos, Nigeria. Her life so far spans two military dictatorships, one internet revolution, two boarding schools, five grandmothers, and a first book deal signed at nineteen.

Chibundu’s first novel, The Spider King’s Daughter, was published by Faber in 2012 and was the winner of a Betty Trask Award, shortlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize and the Commonwealth Book Prize, and longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize and Etisalat Literature Prize.

Her second novel, Welcome to Lagos, was published by Faber in 2017 and shortlisted for the RSL Encore Award. In 2018, Chibundu was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, as part of its 40 Under 40 initiative.

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This year, Dolapo is Fine, a short film which Chibundu co-wrote and co-produced, is one of five finalists for the 2020 American Black Film Festival’s Annual HBO Short Film Competition. She contributes regularly to the Guardian, has done a talk for Tedx, and her autobiographical show 1991, featuring narrative, music, song, and dance, premiered in a sell-out show at Southbank Centre’s London Literature Festival in 2018. Find her on Twitter and Instagram: @chibunduonuzo.

Chibundu Onuzo says: “I spent 4 years at King’s College London, researching the West African men (and it was mostly men) who came to Britain for University from 1925 to the 1970s. Many of them joined a group called the West African Students’ Union. Some were radical, some were political and a notable number returned home to join independence struggles on the African continent. I wondered what would happen if one of these men left a child behind. How old would she be? How would her life have been shaped by the presence of a white mother and the absence of her black father? And thus the novel Sankofa was born.” 

Sarah Savitt says: “What I find irresistible about Chibundu’s writing is the way she explores conflicts stemming from clashes of class, family and identity through nail-biting plots, always with an incredible sense of place. She writes wonderfully about characters who cross into different worlds, changing themselves and those they encounter irrevocably. Sankofa showcases all of this as well as feeling like an exciting step up in ambition. Chibundu is also an accomplished musician, public speaker and commentator, and we are thrilled that she will be bringing all of this talent to Virago.”

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Pre-order Sankofa.

For publicity enquiries, please contact Kimberley.Nyamhondera@littlebrown.co.uk.

Virago Press
Virago was founded in 1973 as "the first mass-market publisher for 52 per cent of the population – women. An exciting new imprint for both sexes in a changing world." The cultural, political and economic landscape has changed dramatically but Virago has remained true to its original aims: to put women centre stage; to explore the untold stories of their lives and histories; to break the silence around many women’s experiences; to publish breathtaking new fiction alongside a rich list of rediscovered classics; and above all to champion women’s talent. Sometimes we publish to entertain, sometimes we publish to give readers the sheer pleasure of beautiful writing, sometimes we publish to change the world.

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