FRANKFURT, 12 October 2002 - Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison and renowned Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe announced today that they will spearhead a major book series for UNICEF focused on issues affecting children's lives.
"I expect this to be nothing less than a series of great books on the greatest concerns of humanity," said Mr. Achebe, speaking at the Frankfurt Book Fair alongside UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy.
The series, titled Our Shared Future, would be the first of its kind, focusing on the forces that are shaping children's lives. Ms. Morrison and Mr. Achebe have already invited some of the world's most eminent authors to write books for the series, which hopes to roll out its first volumes in 2003. Ms. Morrison and Mr. Achebe will each contribute a volume to the series, as well.
"People care about children," Ms. Morrison said. "These non-fiction books will enable people to inform themselves about the issues that impact children the world over. When people are concerned about an issue they can, and do, effect change."
"Change begins with knowledge of the facts," Ms. Morrison added. "Writers have always played a vital role in exposing truth and documenting facts as researchers, evaluators, thinkers and opinion makers."
UNICEF hopes to see at least two new volumes in the series published each year. Contributing authors will write about subjects that are close to their hearts and within their sphere of knowledge. The books will illuminate the issues and inform people about what action they can take to help overcome challenges such as illiteracy, HIV/AIDS, armed conflict, and chronic hunger and poverty.
"These issues are at the very root of the human condition - and people everywhere want to understand them. The book series is a response to this need," said Mr Achebe, whose award of the 2002 Peace Prize of the German Book Trade was announced earlier in the day. "Until now most books on these issues have been academic - written for specialists and not for general readers. The books in Our Shared Future will be very different. Even on the most serious and complex political topic, when has a writer like Toni Morrison ever been dry or academic or boring? I trust there will be dramatic arguments, revelations, pathos, and even occasional humour, in what the authors write."
"There is no substitute for an informed global citizenry," said UNICEF's Bellamy. "It is individuals who can and do change the world. There is no better way to change the world than with children, and I am extraordinarily grateful to Ms. Morrison and Mr. Achebe for their commitment to children and their willingness to devote their valuable time to this exciting project."
Bellamy said that the leadership of the two renowned authors would greatly expand UNICEF's ability to reach concerned citizens worldwide. She noted that the purpose of Our Shared Future is to draw readers who, attracted by the literary and moral power of these great authors, will ultimately become well-informed advocates for children. "In the current climate of war, poverty and insecurity, people all over the world are more receptive to such literature," Bellamy noted.
The instalments in the Our Shared Future series will be non-fiction works of 150 pages or so, each written in a unique literary style. Authors may choose to adopt any non-fiction genre, whether memoir, reportage, essay or other format. The series will be independently published by a major trade publisher, with extensive foreign language editions. The first books in the series are expected in 2003.
Mr. Achebe and Ms. Bellamy launched the series at the Frankfurt Book Fair today. Ms. Bellamy also delivered the keynote address at the Fair's new initiative Futura Mundi - Bridges for a World Divided. The Futura Mundi forum brings together a diverse group of prominent thinkers to focus the international literary and publishing community on issues that shape the future of humanity. Ms. Bellamy is on the Advisory Council of the Futura Mundi, and will bring a strong child rights dimension to the annual gathering of international publishers and writers.
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For further information please contact:
Karuna Nundy, UNICEF New York, firstname.lastname@example.org, +1-212-303-7941
UNICEF is an international non-profit organization created by the United Nations in 1946 to assist children and women recover in the wake of World War II. Its mission was later broadened to address the urgent needs of children throughout the developing world. Today UNICEF is present in more than 160 countries, helping children improve their chances of survival and grow to adulthood in health peace and dignity. UNICEF generates its entire income from the voluntary donations of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.