Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Malaysian Lit in English

News from HomeNews from Home

by Chua Kok Yee, Shih-Li Kow and Rumaizah Abu Bakar has been a long
time coming.

Ever since Silverfish Books started publishing activities in 2001, we have been continually asked about the next big thing, namely the next big Malaysian writer. We gave a lot of people hope. While the Silverfish New Writing series was a tremendous success (and it still is very popular) it did not bring to the surface the multitudes of Malaysian writers hiding in the woodwork, waiting for an opportunity to be discovered and be published. The Silverfish New Writing series remains a snapshot of Malaysians writing in English, though we have begun to question its relevance in unearthing new authors.

The Silverfish Writing Programme is an entirely different initiative, the purpose of which was to give writers an opportunity to not just to get published but, also, guiding and training them. The Programme started in June 2006 and we now present to you the first three writers in print. Chua Kok Yee attended the first one, Shih-Li Kow the third, and Rumaizah Abu Bakar the fourth. We are as excited as the writers themselves with this project.

Ten stories were selected from each writer for this book. (Yes, they all have many more that they have completed and many more they are still working on.) Ten stories, we felt, would be a nice number to introduce each of them to Malaysian readers, each with their own distinct Malaysian voice, and each with a slightly different story to tell and way of telling it. These are all writers to look forward to, writers who are genuinely Malaysian and modern. At the time of writing this, they are all working on their own 'solo' efforts which they hope to complete next year.

Chua Kok Yee, who is from Ipoh, manages a cosmetic company in his day job, having graduated from the University of Malaya in 1995. He says he doesn't have a life anymore considering how he says he spends all his spare time now reading and writing. Gothic tales of horror, tender love stories or tongue-in-cheek retelling of fairy tales, Chua Kok Yee does it all. Is he our own Murakami?

Shih-Li Kow holds a degree in Chemical Engineering and currently works for a property developer to pay her bills. But her passion is writing and is a distinctive stylist who is clever and yet charming. Her work defies categorization. I thought Peach Blossom Luck was a gem until I read Don't Depend on Me, and then A Job to Love, and Pak Hassan's Story, and ... All of them different, all of them little jewels. She makes her point not with a smash-down-your-head sledgehammer style but with deft nicks of a rapier.

NFHeventRumaizah Abu Bakar describes herself as a Public Relations professional with a degree in Accountancy. Rumaizah is a writer who is all heart, who so obviously loves the people she writes about, whether it is Shanti the hotel room-cleaner, or Chef Chen the highly principled hotel cook, or Aunt Aini who lost in love but never fell out of it, and a host of others. She joined the Silverfish Writing Programme later than the other two but has made remarkable progress, especially over the past few months.

If there is one thing the three writers have in common, it is their dogged determination to succeed and their work ethic. Whenever they failed they tried and tried again, refusing to be discouraged and taking every harsh criticism as a challenge.

This volume is the first in, what we hope will be, a series unearthing new generations of writers who can hold their own against the rest of the world, and still remain distinctly Malaysian.

News from Home is the first book to carry the 'Malaysian Literature in English' sticker, a new initiative to promote Malaysian literature within the country and overseas. We have, in the past, already published several books in this category including Lloyd Fernando, Salleh ben Joned and Huzir Sulaiman. We believe Malaysian literature has what it takes to earn international recognition with its uniqueness.

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