Malaysian writer of ‘The Accidental Malay’ wins 2022 Southeast Asian Book Prize | Life

Malaysian Karina Robles Bahrin has become the winner of the Epigram Books Fiction Prize 2022. — Photo courtesy of Facebook/Epigram Books

KUALA LUMPUR, January 23 – Malaysian Karina Robles Bahrin has become the winner of the 2022 Epigram Books Fiction Prize, beating three other finalists from Singapore for the prize money of RM77,777.50 (SG$25,000).

In its seventh iteration, the 52-year-old’s manuscript – titled accidental discomfort – beat Nisha Mehraj, 36; Ng Ziqin, 19; and Tan Lip Hong, 57, for first place.

Speaking after his virtual tournament victory was announced ceremony Streamed live on Facebook and YouTube, Karina said the win was unexpected as it was her first attempt at writing a novel.

“I would first like to congratulate all the other shortlisted finalists. I think their books look fantastic and I can’t wait to read them. And to Epigram, a big thank you to them for continuing to push and still having this award available for Southeast Asian writers despite the challenges of the current times.

“Last but not least, thank you to the judges for selecting my story,” said Karina, who also runs a hotel, restaurant, farm and community storytelling initiative on the island of Langkawi.

Karina is the second Malaysian to win the regional award after Joshua Kam in 2020, with her novel How the Man in Green saved Pahang, and maybe the world.

accidental discomfort tells the story of Jasmine Leong, a workaholic determined to become the next CEO of a bak kua company belonging to the wealthy Leong clan. But one day, she discovers that she is actually Malay.

The judging panel was made up of big names in the publishing industry, including Amir Muhammad, publisher of Buku Fixi in Malaysia; T. Sasitharan, co-founder and director of the Intercultural Theater Institute in Singapore; Margaret Thomas, president of the Women’s Association for Action and Research; Shirley Chew, professor at Nanyang Technological University; and Edmund Wee, publisher of Epigram Books.

The four shortlisted novels will be published in the second half of this year.

The prize, which is a cash advance on future royalties, was launched in 2015 for writers from Singapore and opened to writers from other ASEAN countries in 2018.

The Epigram Books Fiction Prize was established in 2015 as part of an initiative to promote contemporary Singaporean creative writing and reward excellence in Singaporean literature.

Since 2020, the prize has been open to writers from Southeast Asia.