By Elizabeth D.T Taderera
She was born in Zimbabwe and studied English literature in the UK. Staunton began her career in publishing in London where she was employed by John Calder. After the independence of 1980 she returned and worked as an editor for the Department of Culture in the ministry of education and culture and then on the Curriculum Development Unit in the same ministry. Irene is the co- founder and publisher of weaver press in Harare having previously co-founded Baobab books.
In 1987 Staunton and Hugh Lewin co-founded Baobab Press which rapidly acquired a reputation as an exciting literary publisher. During her 11 years at the company she published a range of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, children’s books, art books and textbooks. Her publishing house has published prize winning work by authors such as Chenjerai Hove (NOMA Award for publishing in Africa) and Shimmer Chinodya (winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ prize African region) as well as the post humors work of Dambudzo Marechera and all of Yvonne Vera’s fiction. Staunton also compiled the first Zimbabwean oral history with narratives of women in the liberation struggle (mothers of the revolution). Staunton claims to have been taught by her parents to respect people from all walks of life and she is a woman that has values rooted in self-respect and human dignity.
In 1999 she left Baobab and began setting up Weaver press with Murray McCartney, also working part-time for the Heinemann African Writers Series until 2003. The Company’s fiction program has been developed with support from Dutch NGO Hivos. Irene for many years has concerned herself with research through oral histories, sometimes in projects with other organizations focusing on otherwise unheard African voices, particularly of Zimbabwean women and children. She has worked with Save the Children Zimbabwe on various publications including Children in our Midst: voices of Farmworkers’ children (2000). Based on interviews with (including drawings by) hundreds of children moving from farm school to farm school in rural Zimbabwe. They would speak on a range of issues that affect them.
Staunton collaborated with Chiedza Musengezi of Zimbabwean Women Writers, and compiled a Tragedy of lives: women in prison in Zimbabwe based on interviews with former female prisoners and women of resilience: the voices of women Ex-combatants (2000). Staunton’s own short story called Pauline’s Ghost was shortlisted for the 2009 PEN/ Studzinski Literary Award, Judged by J.M. Coetzee. Irene has edited a number of well received collections of Zimbabwean writing and also has written articles on Publishing in Zimbabwe. From 2003 she worked closely with Poetry International as their Zimbabwean editor for 12 years and handed over the role to Togara Muzanenhamo.
Irene is married to Murray McCartney whom she met while she was deputy director of the African Centre in London. McCartney moved to Harare with her in 1983 and is a director of Weaver Press.
- Mothers of the Revolution: War Experiences of Thirty Zimbabwean women, Harare: Baobab Books, 1990; London, UK: James Currey 1991
- Children in Our Midst: Voices of Farmworkers’ Children (ed.Irene McCartney), Harare: Weaver Press, with Save the Children 2000. ISBN978-0797429328
- (with Chiedza Musengezi) A Tragedy of Lives: Women in Prison in Zimbabwe, Harare: Weaver Press
- Writing Still: New stories from Zimbabwe, Harare: Weaver Press
- Laughing Now. New stories from Zimbabwe, Harare: Weaver Press
- Our Broken Dreams- Child Migration in Southern Africa(ed. Chris McIvor and Chris BjÖrnestad), Weaver Press,2008 ISBN9781779220707
- Women Writing in Zimbabwe, Harare: Weaver Press,2008.ISBN 978-1-77922-073-8
- Writing Free, Harare: Weaver Press 2011. ISBN978-1-77922-157-5.
- Writing lives, Harare: Weaver Press, 2014. ISBN 978-1-77922-270-1
- Writing Mystery and Mayhem, Harare: Weaver Press 2015. ISBN 978-1-77922-278-7