The Malaysian literary scene is one that has been steadily taking root for the past several decades, the number of potential new authors and poets increasing in the years since. Household names like Hanna Alkaf, Tash Aw, Tan Twan Eng, Kee Thuan Chye, and Zen Cho have boomed locally as well as obtained international acclaim and praise for their literature.
However, we take some time to shed light on writers from the lesser-known side: their insightful, quality works are waiting to be leafed through by avid readers from all walks of life. Here are five up-and-rising Malaysian authors to binge and bookworm your way through their works today!
Shivani Sivagurunathan hails from a prevalent line of English-teaching lecturers and authors at the University of Nottingham Malaysia (UNM).
You may also recognize the names Chuah Guat Eng, Malachi Edwin Vethamani, Bernice Chauly, and Sheena Baharudin from this line: all Malaysian authors whom – Sivagurunathan included – are recognized by both students and readers for their educational and literary prowess!
Her recent novel, Yalpanam, is set on Coal Island, where the spiritual and supernatural burst to life in a colorful atmosphere deeply rooted within Malaysian history. You can read more about it on Penguin Random House SEA’s website.
William Tham’s background in journalism as Ricepaper magazine’s meticulous Senior Editor has, no doubt, helped launch his career as one of Malaysia’s rising authors!
Specializing in the fiction and non-fiction literary genres, much of his work has been published in reputable Malaysian magazines, such as Penang Monthly and Looseleaf magazine.
His second novel, The Last Days, tracks the gripping journeys of three different people – a communist revolutionary, an assassin, and a publication officer – within the 1981 Malayan Emergency era. You can purchase it at Clarity Publishing’s website (also one of our local Malaysian publishing companies) for only RM39.
Multifaceted as a Malaysian author, translator, editor, and critic with an avid passion for video and role-playing games, Zedeck Siew thrives on exploring the unknown and mundane!
His zine, A Thousand Thousand Islands (you can view it here!), is concrete evidence of this as he ventures across the beautiful realm of fiction whilst tying it back to Southeast Asian roots – all from the comfort of his home in Port Dickson, Melaka.
His first and recently published book, Creatures of New Kingdoms, follows a similar theme as he draws upon his intimate personal experiences to incorporate them with unique Malaysian folklore and culture. Both his zine and book can be viewed and purchased at the official website.
Yee Heng Yeh
One of UNM’s alumni from the English undergraduate program, Yee Heng Yeh – working as a Mandarin-to-English translator during the day – is also a frequent guest at UNM’s campus for his poetry talks and workshops to bright, wide-eyed English students like him.
A poet in his spare time, his work has been featured in podcasts, anthologies, and competitions, such as The KITA! Podcast, adda, Malaysian Millennial Voices, Diam² Ubi Berisi, and more!
His recent poem, Lost and Found, takes into perspective the unclaimed, COVID-19 deceased at Penang Hospital seven months ago, voicing a powerful message about the consequences of anonymity and forgetfulness. You can read it at Strange Horizons, a speculative fiction magazine.
Chloe Ling – the Sarawakian-born author, poet, performer, and teacher – has played a crucial hand in various fields in the literary world: visual arts and spoken word poetry are her forte.
Alongside, her passionate activism in aiding organizations and hosting events is prominent! Not only does her work blossom within the realm of arts and culture but also amongst grassroots community building, such as the Global Shapers Community – an extensive youth-community network.
Her first collection of self-published poems, Cartography, ventures into a wide range of topics (love, loss, pain, healing, and more), navigating the winding process of personal growth as well as life’s highs and lows. You can purchase it at local bookstores now: Popular and Gerakbudaya.
As Malaysian authors’ literary talents continue to turn heads both locally and internationally, their treasure trove of books, poems, and other publications awaits discovery by adventurous readers! Come check them out now and happy reading!