Four local authors to put on your reading list
Check out these local authors and more on Epigram and BooksActually’s online stores.
While I wouldn’t call myself a die-hard bookworm, I still find it regrettable that the only local authors I am familiar with are Russell Lee and Jim Aitchison (aka the author behind the Mr Midnight series).
Much like with the rest of local arts, we have a slew of homegrown authors who have made their mark on the international stage with their distinct Singaporean stories. Yet Singaporeans – myself included – would be hard-pressed to name just a handful of our local authors.
The conclusion of the Singapore Literature Prize earlier this year has perked my attention about the local scene and I have been poking around to find out more.
There are still a bunch of unread books on my shelf but here are a few local authors that are on the top of my reading list.
Topping my list is Ng Yi-Sheng, the winner for Singapore Literature Prize 2020’s Fiction in English Award for his latest work, Lion City. No stranger to accolades, his genre-spanning catalogue of works have seen critical acclaim in Singapore and beyond.
He has been a strong voice for the local LGBT community as well, most notably with his non-fiction work SQ21: Singapore Queers in the 21st Century, an anthology of short stories based on interviews with members of the community.
Lion City contains a set of five surreal short stories. Ranging from a love story between a prince and a crocodile to a secret terminal for gods in Changi Airport, these stories will look to question readers’ perception of the city state.
As a fan of the short story format, Lion City will be an exciting introduction for me to Yi-Sheng’s work.
You can grab Lion City and a selection of Yi-Sheng’s books via both Epigram and BooksActually.
Balli Kaur Jaswal
Balli Kaur Jaswal is perhaps one of Singapore’s most internationally renowned authors. The four novels she has penned so far have been smash hits across the globe, with film director Ridley Scott’s production company even acquiring the film rights for her book Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows.
A running theme across her works is with how they tackle the uncomfortable realities with living in Singapore. Issues such as race, religion and mental health are brought up in a thought-provoking light while remaining exceptionally entertaining, if the raving reviews are any indication.
I will be looking to pick up her 2016 book Sugarbread, a coming-of-age story seen through the eyes of a young girl and her first experiences navigating the racial and patriarchal landscape in Singapore.
You can grab all four of her novels at BooksActually.
A former bartender, casino croupier, and a prison officer, Sebastian Sim’s journey as a writer is an inspiring reminder of how dreams are worth fighting for. He has had his setbacks too: He faced rejection from overseas publishers in his early days while the three Mandarin martial arts novels he penned in the early 2000s sold poorly.
Still, he remained undeterred, getting his first English novel published at the ripe age of 50 before making his mark with his second novel, The Riot Act, which won the Epigram Books Fiction Prize in 2017.
Set amidst the aftermath of the 2013 Little India Riot, The Riot Act prods at the cold cynicism and pragmatism apparent with many Singaporeans. Handling these heavy themes with a comedic flare, the novel shapes up to be a great way to spend an easy-going Sunday afternoon.
Both of his English novels are now available for purchase at Epigram.
Rounding out the list is educator and award-winning author Nuraliah Norasid. Her research for her doctoral thesis resulted in the novel The Gatekeeper, which won the Epigram Books Fiction Prize in 2016.
She weaves a unique blend of Greek mythology and local cultural familiarities in the novel that challenges readers to view Singapore with a different perspective about the country’s blinding economic progress.
The care Nuraliah puts into The Gatekeeper is astounding, with the novel featuring extensive appendices on the history of fictional country Manticura and its language. It is with these world-building elements that may see the award-winning story translate into a television series or film.
As an avid reader of the fantasy genre and of Greek mythology, I can’t wait to dive into the imaginative world that Nuraliah lays out with The Gatekeeper and find out how the novel looks to creatively parallel itself with the issues in Singapore today.
The Gatekeeper is available for purchase on Epigram.