Authors and Writers you should know about
“They asked me questions as well. ‘You say you’re Indian but why do you have fair skin? Why don’t you take Tamil as your Mother Tongue language like the other Indian girls?’ I had heard these questions a dozen times. The questions about my last name were not new either.”– said 10-year old Pin in Sugarbread.
Pin’s words give us an insight into the shocking world of racism and colourist faced by South Asian immigrants.
Balli Kaur Jaswal’s Sugarbread delves into Sikh diaspora residing in Singapore in early 90s from the perspective of a ten-year old girl. Born in Singapore, Balli Kaur is an internationally acclaimed writer with bestsellers like Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows under her wing. Jaswal spent nearly six years in Melbourne which influenced several of her characters. She earned her postgraduate degree from University of Melbourne and went on to teach at John Monash Science school. Currently a lecturer at Yale- NUS College in Singapore, she is preparing for the release of her upcoming novel.
Books like Sugarbread that explore the lives of South Asian women are aplenty, but not many reach the front shelves of popular bookstores. Even fewer come to adorn the shelves of our homes, and only one or two leave an impact on us, if at all. This calls for the need to disperse diverse literature by South Asian women like Balli Kaur that captures our collective culture and historical identity. Jaswal’s non-fiction has appeared in the New York Times, Coamopolitan.com, Harper’s Bazaar India, among other publications.
An east meets west memoir about arranged marriage
Another such author is Sushi Das who wrote Deranged Marriage, an east-meets-west memoir about arranged marriage. A British-Australian writer of Indian origin, Sushi Das is an award-winning journalist. Her current role as the chief of staff at RMIT ABC Fact Check involves checking the veracity of claims made by public figures on issues central to the national debate. She has worked for The Age in various roles for more than two decades. Her work has been recognised with two Melbourne Press Club Quill Awards, including Best Columnist.
Amplifying underrepresented voices
Passionate about amplifying under-represented voices, Alicia Vrajlal, a South Asian Sydney-based journalist founded Draw Your Box, a blog that throws light upon diversity-related content. Alicia Vrajlal is the newly appointed Culture Editor at Refinery29 Australia, which is owned by Vice Media and focuses on content for young women. “I realised it’s taken me seven years to acknowledge the steps I took in the past to try and make myself look ‘less Indian’ in order to get a job in Australian media…I had already given myself the ‘Leeshie V’ moniker, because no one could pronounce Vrajlal, though Stefanovic is apparently not too hard,” she wrote in her blog.
She is one of the many immigrant women who went through an identity crisis, but she went on to embrace her Indian roots and advocate for cultural diversity. Her articles talk about Hollywood diversity, mental health struggles, and racial identity of people from diverse communities and ethnic backgrounds. Alicia is the former Editor at Huffpost Australia. Prior to Huffpost, Alicia worked at Yahoo and Daily mail, and made her start in the industry in 2011 by launching her own Australian entertainment blog titled I am Starstruck.
We will write our own stories
To hear from these amazing women, join our final upcoming event ‘We will write our own stories – South Asian Women authors’ as part of the Australian Indian Digital Festival on the 22nd of July at 7:00 pm AEST. During this event we’ll unpack their experiences as authors and writers in Australia. How have they navigated the industry as women of colour? Do they feel as though their voice is valued? What advice would them give to emerging writers? Join us to hear the answers to these questions and more!
The panel will be moderated by Daizy Maan, co-founder of Australian South Asian Centre. In addition to these brilliant writers, Michelle Wade, Commissioner of South Asia, Global Victoria, will open up the panel with welcoming remarks and closing remarks will be made by Vicki Treadell, British High Commissioner to Australia. The event recording will not be published online, so make sure you register in person. It is time we take charge to narrate and/or write our stories.
The Australian Indian Digital Creative Festival is organised by the Australian South Asian Centre, a powerful membership space for women to form meaningful connections and thrive. It is funded thanks to the generosity of the Australia India Youth Dialogue which brings outstanding young leaders in Australia and India together to create enduring relationships and to collaborate on initiatives that create sustainable outcomes for both countries.
Shout out to our Community Partners The Indian Feminist, Young Sikh Professionals Network, Asian Woman Festival, SPARK Deakin, Bold Punjab, SolveSquad and Amplify Bookstore. As well as our Media Partners South Asian Today, Internash and The Lipstick Politico.
Limited tickets available.
Written by Swagatalakshmi Roychowdhury