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Trailblazers What Matters To Me: Balli Kaur Jaswal

What Matters To Me: Balli Kaur Jaswal

What Matters To Me: Balli Kaur Jaswal
By Chong Seow Wei
By Chong Seow Wei
December 03, 2019
The Singaporean novelist is giving a voice to the marginalised

In the What Matters To Me series, a Generation T honouree describes what they do, why they do it, and why it matters.

Balli Kaur Jaswal won the Sydney Morning Herald’s Best Young Australian Novelist Award in 2014 for her debut novel Inheritance, but it was with her third, Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows, that she really hit the big time: it earned her a six figure deal with HarperCollins and is being made into a film by Ridley Scott’s production company and Film4. Often told from the perspective of the underdog, her books deal with challenging topics including dysfunctional families, mental health and racial prejudice. Here, she describes her work in her own words.

See also: What Matters To Me: Andy Chan

At the start of my career, my work was more autobiographical. Sugarbread (2016), for example, was quite reflective of my experiences growing up in Singapore. My newer books tend to be about seemingly lighter topics that actually have darker implications. I also like to explore the tension between two polarities—traditional versus modern, in particular.

My characters are often marginalised by society, and by writing about them I can put them in the spotlight and remind people that their stories matter too

Balli Kaur Jaswal

Through my work, I hope to give visibility to people who feel invisible. My characters are often marginalised by society, and by writing about them I can put them in the spotlight and remind people that their stories matter too.

I tend to read books by authors of colour or those who have experience being a minority in their society. And because of the perspective I prefer to write from, novels about immigrants or people who are displaced or alienated, and novels that grapple with identity in some way appeal to me the most.


See honourees from the Arts category of the Gen.T List 2019.

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Trailblazers What Matters To Me Singapore Novelist

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