Nakkiah Lui to curate an imprint for Allen & Unwin
[by Isabelle O'Brien]
Nakkiah Lui. Image: Johnny Diaz Nicolaidis
Allen & Unwin are thrilled to announce a new imprint, JOAN, curated by writer, actor and director Nakkiah Lui.
Named for her grandmother, the JOAN imprint will commission books across all genres.
Nakkiah will work with both freelance creatives and the inhouse team at Allen & Unwin to bring these projects to fruition. Nakkiah says: “I want JOAN to help create space for the voices that get pushed to the fringes, because when our most vulnerable follow their dreams, they create limitless dreams for the rest of us.
“JOAN is for the people, the spirits, who continue to love in a world that excludes them. JOAN is finding joy in resistance. JOAN is laughing in the face of oppression and despair. JOAN is loving and continuing to love hard despite hate, and letting your love destroy the world. JOAN is sovereignty just by existing. JOAN isn’t about trying to find utopia but instead creating it through love and sharing.
“JOAN is for all the people who came before us, people who created hope and changed the future for us. The past gives us all the dreams of tomorrow.”
A&U CEO Robert Gorman says: “Nakkiah’s new role at Allen & Unwin is hugely exciting for us and for the industry as a whole. The best publishing still depends on the individual judgement, experience and instinct of the person who finds the authors, who nurtures their writing, and who acquires their books. To have Nakkiah in this position opens up a whole new realm of possibilities for Australian publishing and for writers who deserve to be given a mainstream platform yet until now have not had the opportunity. It’s our hope and belief that Nakkiah and JOAN will be that opportunity.”
A&U Publisher Kelly Fagan, who, alongside Nakkiah, was one of the early drivers of this project, says: “The value of Nakkiah joining A&U is manifold: not only does she bring her network, her reputation, her imagination and her artistic lens, but the creation of her imprint, JOAN, is a chance for A&U to explore new ways of publishing—new ways of doing publishing, new ways of thinking through the business of publishing, new ways of interrogating what publishing is, in 2020 Australia and beyond. This is an exciting time.”
In addition to this, you can expect to hear from Nakkiah via the biannual JOAN newsletter—a missive about what Nakkiah is reading, watching, hearing and writing but also about the projects she’s working on and the kinds of books she is looking for. Sign up at www.joanpress.com Submissions to
My grandmother, Joan, always used to say, “What can you do if you can’t laugh?” The last night she was alive, I held her hand and she smiled at me from the hospital bed and told me, “Smile, Ki, smile because what can you do if you can’t laugh?”
"That was when I started writing. I thought I was trying to understand the world but really, I think I was trying to destroy it. Trying to break it to find hope. I started writing to try and find the laughter from the broken bits. Joan was funny, kind, vivacious, intelligent, bold, brave, curious, joyful, warm, angry, empathetic, unapologetic and compassionate. I think about what she would be doing if she were alive today. Who would she be and what she’d be capable of. Joan . . . well, Joan was radical.
"I used to think if Joan were alive today, she’d change the world. I was wrong. Because Joan did change the world. She changed it for me. For my family. For the community around us. In a world that told people like my nana that they weren’t important, in a world that tried to silence the voices of people like my nana, Joan told her story with love and laughter, she created a whole new world full of possibility by living the story she wanted to tell: one where her family could reach for the stars.
"One where if the world tried to silence her children, her children would scream and laugh right back at it. It is a miracle that I am here, that I get to create JOAN with Allen & Unwin, and that is only because my ancestors created me a future. I never thought I would laugh or love after her, but here I am, laughing and loving bigger than ever. I want her laughter and rebellion to continue and that’s what I want JOAN to do: to continue a legacy of radical, inclusive rebellion. I want JOAN to help create space for the voices that get pushed to the fringes, because when our most vulnerable follow their dreams, they create limitless dreams for the rest of us. Voices that challenge; exposing, critical voices.
"Voices that get formed in our community. Things that we don’t usually hear. It is about putting different voices out there and changing your audience. If you can read it, you can say it. If you can say it, you can do it. We don’t have to continue to negotiate for space, voice and freedom. We can just say it. We are enough. JOAN is for the people, the spirits, who continue to love in a world that excludes them. JOAN is finding joy in resistance. JOAN is laughing in the face of oppression and despair. JOAN is loving and continuing to love hard despite hate, and letting your love destroy the world. JOAN is sovereignty just by existing. JOAN isn’t about trying to find utopia but instead creating it through love and sharing. JOAN is for all the people who came before us, people who created hope and changed the future for us. The past gives us all the dreams of tomorrow.
"The world is broken and the one thing we can count on is heartbreak and loss, but if we keep smiling, if we keep laughing, our hearts will keep growing, and that is what creates hope—that’s how we survive. We have to tell our stories because they are our legacy. Our stories are our future. Joan taught me that. And if the world ever changes, you can be sure as hell it’s because people like Joan pulled the fucking trigger.
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