Combining established and new publishing operations, Astra Publishing House has been formed as a subsidiary of Thinkingdom Media Group. With headquarters in Beijing, China, Thinkingdom Media Group specializes in literary fiction, nonfiction and picture books, embraces diversity and has a global vision with associated publishers in Japan, France and Germany. Founded by Chen Mingjun in 2002, Thinkingdom Media Group is the only non-state-owned publishing company to go public in China and has published more than 4,000 titles in that country. The new Astra Publishing House consists of:
Astra House, a new adult trade publisher of American and international literary fiction and poetry, and "mission-driven" nonfiction. Ben Schrank is publisher of Astra House as well as COO of Astra Publishing House; Alessandra Bastagli is editorial director of Astra House.
mineditionUS, the picture book publisher whose new editorial director is Maria Russo, former New York Times children's book editor.
Boyds Mills & Kane, the publisher of children's books that will continue to be led by publisher Juliana Lauletta.
Astra Quarterly, a new literary magazine that aims to publish "the best new writers from around the world" and will make its debut next year.
Schrank, who is former president and publisher of Holt and former president and publisher of Razorbill, commented: "The time is right for a new publishing house that's deeply committed to progressive values and that champions authors from all corners of the world. Astra Publishing House's foremost aim is to build bridges between readers and writers in all nations, and I'm so excited to be part of a venture that speaks to an increasing necessity for a shared global consciousness."
Leying Jiang, president of Astra Publishing House, said: "We have been building toward this moment for a long time and are so thrilled to have these brilliant editorial and publishing talents joining the leadership team. With a clear mission of publishing books that bridge the world and connect people and cultures, we look forward to an exciting new journey for this growing global publishing program here in the U.S."
Astra House, which will be distributed by Penguin Random House Publisher Services, will publish 20-25 titles a year, about half in translation, by authors who, Alessandra Bastagli said, "experience their subject deeply and personally, and who have a strong point of view; writers who represent multifaceted expressions of intellectual thought and personal experience, and who can introduce readers to new perspectives about their everyday lives as well as the lives of others." Bastagli was most recently an executive editor at Dey Street Books and earlier was editorial director at Nation Books, digital features editor at Al Jazeera America, senior editor at Free Press and executive editor at Palgrave Macmillan.
Astra House's first titles include Art in the Age of Cancel Culture by Farah Nayeri, about "the art world's uneasy reckoning with ethics and morals"; Winter Pasture by Li Juan, her first book published in English, chronicling her experiences traveling with a family of Kazakh herders; and The Biuty Queens by Iván Monalisa Ojeda, a collection of stories that offers insight into New York City's Latin American trans community.
At minedition, Maria Russo will work with Michael Neugebauer, the founder of minedition, to expand readership and the imprint's commitment to bringing world-class illustration to books for every child. Russo, who is co-author of How to Raise a Reader, commented: "To leave a job as fulfilling as the New York Times children's books editor could only be for an opportunity that brings together my passions: literature, art, children, and cross-cultural understanding.... I'm looking forward to helping create a vibrant list of picture and board books that further the minedition philosophy: emotionally resonant, artistically sophisticated picture and boardbooks that build bridges between nations and cultures. I'm especially happy to be following this dream at such a tumultuous time, when raising globally aware, open-minded and open-hearted children has never been more important."
Neugebauer added: "This new relationship is another marriage of booklovers, as Maria Russo and I share the same philosophy in bookmaking, author and artist nurturing, and publishing for children in the U.S. and around the globe. We at minedition are truly looking forward with tremendous enthusiasm to how Maria's vision and this collaboration will benefit our audience, readers from ages 1-99."
Boyds Mills & Kane will continue its publishing program under publisher Julianna Lauletta with Calkins Creek, the historical imprint; Wordsong, dedicated to poetry; Kane Press; and Boyds Mills Press. Lauletta was named publisher last year and earlier was publisher and editorial director of Kane Press.
Astra Quarterly, the literary magazine, will be available as a print edition and online and headed by Yan Yan, an editor and translator in New York, with editorial staff in Europe and China.