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M’sian Author Karina Robles Bahrin Wins Epigram Books Fiction Prize 2022

M’sian Author Karina Robles Bahrin Wins Epigram Books Fiction Prize 2022

Her novel The Accidental Malay was hailed as a significant piece of work.

Adeline Leong

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Malaysian author Karina Robles Bahrin, 53, has emerged as the winner of the Epigram Books Fiction Prize 2022.

She bested three other finalists from Singapore and won RM77,777.50 (SG$25,000) in prize money.

Her winning submission is titled The Accidental Malay, and it’s set in Malaysia. It tells the story of Jasmine Leong, a workaholic who intends to be the next chief executive of a bak kua company owned by the wealthy Leong family.

However, Jasmine’s dreams hit a snag when she finds out that she’s actually Malay.

In her acceptance speech at the virtual ceremony, Karina said the win was unexpected because it was her first attempt at writing a novel.

I’d like to firstly congratulate all the other shortlisted finalists. I think their books sound fantastic and I’m really looking forward to reading them. And to Epigram, a big thank you to them for continuing to push on and still have this award available to South-east Asian writers despite challenges of the current times. 

Karina Robles Bahrin said during the virtual ceremony.

As reported by The Star, Nanyang Technological University professor Shirley Chew, who was on the judging panel, hailed her novel as “an intelligent, well-crafted and significant work.”

According to Malay Mail, Karina – who resides in Langkawi, Kedah – also runs a hotel, restaurant, farm and community storytelling initiative on the island.

She’s also the second Malaysian to win the regional award. The first was Joshua Kam in 2020 with his novel How The Man In Green Saved Pahang, And Possibly The World.

The other Singaporean finalists – student Ng Ziqin, 20; private tutor Nisha Mehraj, 37; and general practitioner Tan Lip Hong, 58 – will each get RM16,000 (S$5,000).

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

Congratulations and well done, Karina!


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