LAYING THE IMPETUS FOR LITERARY VOICES
The co-founder & creative force behind Sri Lanka’s leading English Publishing House, Perera-Hussein, Ameena Hussein has consistently worked towards promoting local writers since 2003. Maintaining a steady, but difficult, upward journey of representing Sri Lankan writers locally and internationally, Ameena, accalimed author herself, has excelled in carving a platform for local novelists to explore their narrative with local and international audiences. As a publisher, she deconstructs the economic issues of privilege, dissecting them into elements of expectation and persistence through the mires of arduous work, an experience of which many succumb.
“Reading and writing about conflict is a good way of solving it, Ameena states. Literature has to reflect life. Perera-Hussein is one of the oldest, freestanding and highly respected publishing houses of English language in the country, having a thoughtprovoking impact across the literary sphere since its establishment in December 2003. The publisher, married to co-founder Sam Perera, states that there is hope in having a viable foundation rooted enough in the literary culture and realities of Sri Lanka, promoting and publishing local authors across a gamut of genres, before branching out and collaborating with international writers. This vision took center stage in 1995 as Ameena’s work at the International Centre for Ethnic Studies, Colombo exposed her to vast amounts of unheard voices affected by injustices of gender-based violence. Professionally trained as a sociologist, her first publication was ‘Fifteen’ (1999), a collection of short stories, exploring social dynamics from a woman’s perspective, which was shortlisted for the Gratiaen Prize. Enthusiasm gained traction as increasing amounts of manuscripts over a wide range of subjects have been sent over to the publishing house; stating humorously despite the seriousness of the nature of publication, working with romance is an interest. “Love is one of the most wonderful emotions to propagate. In a country with four different ethnicities, I can imagine something incredible as a good love story!”. The confident momentum eventually attracted novelists and writers such as Nayomi Munaweera, Shankari Chandran, Channa Wickramasinghe, Manuka Wijesinghe, Christine Wilson, Yazmin Gooneratne, Randy Boyagoda, and Chanthani Lokuge. Ameena extends appreciation of the internationally established Sri Lankan authors fighting to share the rights of publication through bureaucratic-layered mires of international publishing policies.
There is cultural elitism across the differences in literate society, Ameena states. So many are in number who misunderstand the educative opportunities available whenever an accessible yet seemingly complex piece of literature or journalism is published. On one hand, there is content that is all too simple a matter to consume. On the other, however, there are those who do not have many opportunities to read good English literature. There is a failure in the provision of more opportunities and encouragement in education.
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