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Meet the 2020 Epigram Books Fiction Prize finalists

After receiving loads of submissions from writers across ASEAN (we have to say we were impressed with the scope and diversity of the stories), and after coming up with the 10-person longlist, we're finally on the last lap of the competition.

So here it is: the 2020 Epigram Books Fiction Prize shortlist. The four finalists who will be competing for the Prize are:

Erni Salleh, 31, Singapore. Born in Singapore, Erni's parents hailed from Java and Bawean Island. She completed her Masters in Southeast Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore, the same place where her interest in colonial maps, art, religion and ancient kingdoms of the region first began. Erni considers herself an antiques aficionado and collects "bits of the past" from all over the world. She currently manages the National Library Board's Mobile Library Services.

Joshua Kam, 23, Malaysia. Joshua spent his earliest childhood in Montana, USA, while his parents studied economics and rhetoric in the Rockies. Returning to Malaysia, he lived in Kuala Lumpur for 15 years, making excursions to his Peranakan mother's home in Selangor and the coastal country of his father's family in Pahang. Currently, he is pursuing a Masters in Southeast Asian studies at the University of Michigan.

Kathrina Mohd Daud, 35, Brunei. A passionate advocate for and scholar of Bruneian literature and creative productions, Kathrina holds a PhD in Writing from the University of Manchester. She is the co-founder of the feminist book club @readlikeafeminist, an art critic for The Scoop, and previously published an illustrated short story with Heartwrite Co. She is currently working as an Assistant Professor in the English Studies programme at Universiti Brunei Darussalam.

Sunisa Manning, 34, Thailand. Sunisa was raised in Bangkok by a Thai mother and American father. She later went to Brown University, and now lives in California. Her work has appeared in several platforms, including Prairie Schooner and The Rumpus. She has been honoured with residencies at Hedgebrook and Hambridge, and was awarded the Steinbeck Fellowship at San Jose State, as well as the Emerging Writers Fellowship at the San Francisco Writers Grotto.


The winner of the Prize will be decided by our panel of five judges, who are:

Minh Bui Jones is the founding editor of Mekong Review, a literary quarterly that publishes fiction, non-fiction and poetry from Southeast Asia. He was also the founding editor of The Diplomat. He has worked in the media for three decades, including stints as a television producer at Australian broadcaster SBS-TV, a reporter at the Sydney Morning Herald and a news editor at Asia Times Online

Professor Rajeev S. Patke is the Director of the Division of Humanities at Yale-NUS College. He has a BA and MA in English Literature from University of Pune, India, and an MPhil from Oxford in Modern English and American Literature, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. Professor Patke's Oxford DPhil dissertation on the long poems of Wallace Stevens was published by Cambridge University Press in 1985.

Tan Pin Pin has carved a career in making documentary films that question the idea of Singapore, whether it's finding out how long it takes to get across the island, to speaking with her political exiles. Her films include Singapore GaGa (2005), voted by The Straits Times as the Best Film in 2006; Invisible City (2007), To Singapore, with Love (2013), and In Time to Come (2017). She also contributed to Eric Khoo's film anthology, 7 Letters (2015). 

Balli Kaur Jaswal made an international name for herself with her bestselling novel, Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows (2017), which was picked up by Hollywood celeb Reese Witherspoon's Book Club ("a mystery, a romance, a family drama ... and yes it's spicy!"). One of her earlier novels, Sugarbread, was shortlisted for the 2016 Epigram Books Fiction Prize and the 2018 Singapore Literature Prize. Her latest novel, The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters, became a bestseller earlier this year.

Edmund Wee is the publisher at Epigram Books, which is best known for producing bestselling books such as the Eisner Award-winning graphic novel The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, Singapore Literature Prize winners State of Emergency and Ministry of Moral Panic, and children's series such as Sherlock Sam and The Diary of Amos Lee. In 2015, Edmund launched the Epigram Books Fiction Prize in search of the next big Singaporean novel. The Prize later expanded to include writers from ASEAN. 


The 2020 Epigram Books Fiction Prize will be presented at the award ceremony and gala dinner on 16 January, 2020 at the Conrad Centennial Singapore. You can support these authors—and get a seat at the award ceremony—by pre-ordering their books with these bundles here.

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