Interview: Zen Cho

This interview was first published on the now deleted local blog on 2nd January, 2015

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Zen Cho is the author of Spirits Abroad, published by Fixi NOVO, and editor of the imprint’s upcoming Cyberpunk anthology. She is also the self-published author ofThe Perilous Life of Jade Yeo.

local’s Q&A with Cho was carried out via email and was in danger of going on indefinitely as her answers raised even more questions and also gave me plenty of food for thought …Read More »

Interview: Shi-Li Kow

shih-li2This interview was first published on 11th July, 2014 on the now deleted ‘local’ blog.

Shih-Li Kow is a Malaysian writer published by Silverfish Books. In  2009 her short story anthologyRipples and Other Stories was shortlisted for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award.

Previously, Kow’s stories had appeared in News from Home, a collection with two other Silverfish writers Rumaizah Abu Bakar and Chua Kok Yee.

This year, Silverfish published Kow’s first novel, The Sum of Our Follies. In the following Q&A, Kow talks to local about growing up in a small town, what needs to happen for Malaysian fiction to be more widely read, getting edited, and whyFollies isn’t ‘really a novel’.Read More »

Interview: Isa Kamari

First published on 14th January, 2014 in The Star

isa-kamariIN mid-2013, Silverfish Books published three books by Singaporean author Isa Kamari. These novels, A Song of the WindRawa and 1819, were originally written and published in Malay (Memeluk Gerhana, Rawa and Duka Tuan Bertakhta), and the Silverfish editions were translated by editor and publisher Raman Krishnan (Song, co-translated with Sukmawati Sirat).

All three books are set in Singapore: 1819, which focuses on the relationship between Sir Stadford Raffles and the Muslim saint Habib Nuh, depicts the island at a time usually described (in much less lively and colourful detail) in text books; while readers under 50 would find it hard to picture the Singapore (of the 1950s, 60s and 70s) portrayed in Song and Rawa.Read More »

Interview: Bernice Chauly, on ‘Growing Up with Ghosts’

A shorter version of this interview was first published on 22nd November, 2011 in The Star

bcWHAT stands out for me when I think of Bernice Chauly’s book Growing Up with Ghosts – A Memoir, is the story of her father’s death. It is where the book begins and Chauly’s dreamlike and poetic description of how her three-year-old self deals with the sudden loss of a beloved parent is, for me, the most heartbreaking and compelling thing in this book.

Later, when introduced to the young Bernard – the curious, adventurous trainee teacher, the passionate young lover, the idealistic newly wed – it is my initial vision of him as a loving, devoted father that fixes my attention and makes me want to learn more about him.

His death affected Chauly powerfully, but it was just one of many losses her extended family had to endure. Deep in the heart of the book is the family curse that Chauly seeks to understand. Its almost gothic details, including a pilgrimage to India to visit an ancient snake temple, imbue the book with a sense of mystery and deep, devastating horror.

In our interview (conducted via email), Chauly said the real reason for writing the book was to find ‘the root of the curse’, and understand why all the men in her family died. ‘I grew up haunted by grief, and my grief became a ghost, I had to confront it and finally let it go, she said.

She went on to say that she used ‘ghosts’ as a metaphor ‘for many things – for untold histories, for the voices who lived through difficult times, who were never  heard; for things that scare you, and things that come back to haunt you, for the dead whom I mourned, for the dead that my ancestors mourned, the dead who became ghosts, who were forgotten, who never told their stories and who were never heard, and who never got a chance to exorcise their grief.’

Writing the book, Chauly says, was ‘cathartic in every way’, an exorcism of sorts that allowed her to make peace with the ‘ghosts’ and with herself. The author uses the voices of her grandparents and her parents to tell a story of struggle and of hardship, of hope and of love. Chauly’s own narrative binds the different voices together and represents the link between the past and the present.Read More »

Interview: Deborah Ahenkorah

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First published on 11th October, 2011 in StarMag

AFRICAN children have something in common with Malaysian children. They have limited choice when it comes to books that reflect their lives. Although the continent has produced many great novelists who have achieved international recognition through their powerful accounts of life in the various African nations they hail from, there are no African children’s authors of similar stature.

Twenty-four-year-old Deborah Ahenkorah, co-founder and executive director of the Golden Baobab Prize, grew up in Ghana reading Nancy Drew, the Famous Five and The Babysitters Club. She says, “I didn’t really realise the absence of African stories in my reading diet until I went to college in the United States on scholarship and I realized that I couldn’t answer any questions on Africa because I didn’t know Africa. I wanted to talk about America and Europe all the time, I knew those places … through my books.”

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