Indie Spotlight: Neem Tree Press
by Ella Davies, Lily Webber and Amy Tighe
The history of Neem Tree Press is rooted in values inspired by the neem tree, described by the United Nations as the “tree for the 21st century.” The neem tree is robust and drought resistant. It flourishes in poor conditions and boasts several medicinal properties. The press was inspired by the ability of the neem tree to provide shade and oxygen to those resting under it, keeping other plants healthy. They now hope to continue following this idea, blossoming under challenging market conditions and providing inspiration for readers. This concept has translated into the production of books which encourage new perspectives and international growth.
Although Neem Tree Press has been around for a while, Archna Sharma committed to launching the company in 2019 with the intention of sharing her personal love of books and filling an under-published space in the publishing world. She was eager to publish a varied range of translations as a way of encouraging readers to understand other cultures and histories. This involves introducing children to underexposed non-Western art and literature. Sharma is also fascinated by books which question accepted norms.
The independent publishing press has recently been the recipient of the English PEN grant, a prestigious literary award for upcoming translations. They have also previously featured in an impressive line-up of Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, BBC Radio and the Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City. Sharma hopes to publish many more prize-winning and internationally renowned books in the future.
Neem Tree Press has a varied backlist, including non-fiction, fiction and children’s and YA; here are some of the many notable titles within the Neem Tree back catalogue:
For anyone trying to read more translated fiction, we would recommend they read The Book of Perilous Dishes. Written by Romanian author Doina Ruști, translated by James Christian Brown, this is a dark and magical historical novel about a fourteen year old and her Uncle’s recipe book. Set in 1798, part murder mystery, part treasure hunt and part Midnight Chicken, this book is steeped in witchcraft, cookery and European history.
Belly Woman Birth, Blood & Ebola: The Untold Story is the profoundly important true story of Dr Benjamin Black recounting his time in Sierra Leone during the Ebola crisis. This eye-opening account of a momentous event shines a light on the effects of catastrophe on the most vulnerable within society – exactly the kind of inspiring publishing which exemplifies Neem Tree Press.
Cows Can’t Jump by Philip Browne is a Winner of the Spotlight First Novel Prize. Published in 2020, this is a wacky but poignant coming of age story about an eighteen-year-old grave digger in search of a girl from Switzerland who has a passion for Gary Numan. Set amidst the EU, referendum this is a classic Bildungsroman, written with sharp political wit.
Recently published, the perfect Christmas gift for any eco-conscious over-elevens, War of the Wind is the story of fourteen-year-old Max and his adventure to foil the plan of evil scientist Dr Ashwood. Set on a remote Scottish island, this “eco-thriller” combines wind farms, coming of age struggles, disability representation and government plots to create a truly unique and stirring YA novel.
Neem Tree keep it varied – their non-fiction output includes Her Allies: A Practical Toolkit to Help Men Lead Through Advocacy, brought to us by leadership trainer and career coach Hira Ali. An easily digestible toolkit that offers men answers to the question “What can I do to help in the struggle for gender equality?” Much like other books of its ilk, the first step, that of selecting and choosing to read such a handy collection, is the hardest; although with Christmas fast approaching, I can think of no better stocking filler for any of your male friends who say they want to smash the patriarchy but don't know where to start. Covering such worthy topics as the negative power of silence when opposing rape culture and how to progress from challenging yourself, to respectfully challenging others and then finally trying to bring about systemic change.
Instagram-famous, globally educated stylist and fashion journalist Hafsa Lodi brings us Modesty: A Fashion Paradox, and she does not hold back. Over nearly 300 pages, she tears through the politics surrounding the burkini ban, the potentially empowering decisions behind covering up, the shifting definitions of modesty – especially when the fashion is splashed across social media, with bright colours but no skin on show – and the impact that the rise in popularity of modest fashion has had on the world of high fashion, and how this can be seen in our high street stores, while also exploring the controversies that lie at the heart of the movement.
Head Above Water: Reflections on Illness, by Dr. Shahd Alshammari who was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis at the age of eighteen, digs deep when exploring the conversations around illness and society's stigmatisation of disabled bodies. Through careful speculation and beautiful prose, she speaks from a position of being “othered.” Lectures given by Alshammari, an Assistant Professor of English Literature in Kuwait, are widely attended by university and graduate students who are still trying to be heard and to see their life experiences have wider representation.