A fairy tale begins with a first novel

PETALING JAYA: Winning a prize with your first book is an achievement, and Malaysian author Karina Robles Bahrin (picture) did just that when it scooped the 2022 Epigram Books Fiction Award.

Her debut novel The Accidental Malay received the highest score from the judges and beat out three other finalists from Singapore, winning her 25,000 Singapore dollars (RM77,777.50) in prize money.

Karina said she was very excited when she found out she was the winner of the prize.

“It’s not only a huge honor, but considering this is my first novel, I certainly didn’t expect it to go this far,” she said. the sun.

Her book focuses on the main character, Jasmine Leong, a driven workaholic aiming to become the next CEO of a bak kua company belonging to the Leong clan.

However, the purpose of her life comes into conflict when she discovers that she is actually unwell.

Set in Malaysia, Karina’s novel examines the human cost of a country’s racial policies and paints a portrait of a woman unwilling to accept the reality that fate has laid upon her.

“In Malaysia, race and religion are intertwined in our national dialogue and policies. There is almost no separation between these things and the state, especially if you are Malay,” she said.

“All Malays must be Muslims, and you are Malay as long as one of your parents is one.”

When asked what inspired her to write, she said she was an avid reader when she was young and has been writing for as long as she can remember.

“Writing fiction though, and especially a full-length novel, is actually a childhood ambition. But you know, life gets in the way, and it took me a long time before I finally accomplished it,” she said.

Shirley Chew, a professor at Nanyang Technological University, who was on the jury, is said to have described Karina’s novel as “an intelligent, well-crafted and meaningful work”.

“The narrative movement and the structure of the novel are built with a strong sense of drama. This is skillfully aided by lively prose, with flashes of wit,” she said.

Every journey comes with certain setbacks, setbacks and obstacles. However, for Karina, she was blessed with parents who always supported her and her siblings in whatever they wanted to do.

“The thing is, writing is actually a very lonely thing. So in reality, even though people have tried to stop you from doing it, they really can’t.

She added that as far as writing goes, this award was her proudest achievement to date.

“I now look forward to the rest of the publishing process and the eventual launch of the book later this year,” she said.

Besides writing a novel, Karina also finds time to run a hotel, restaurant, farm and community storytelling initiative in Langkawi.

“Suatukala is a volunteer-based community initiative that I started with friends about five years ago.

“Our goal is to promote storytelling in all its forms to young people and children in Langkawi,” she said.

“Over the years, we have organized various workshops for children and even some small festivals.

“Last year we staged an all-female musical theater production based on the legend of Mahsuri.

“The show featured talent from Kuala Lumpur and Langkawi,” she added.

Irene B. Bowles