Successful Malaysian Muslim Author Narrates Bold, Local Stories In US Publishing Industry


Siti Aishah Ahmad •  Oct 15, 2021

The publishing industry has always been a tough industry to break into. Writing your manuscript is the first step of a long, stressful journey; from submitting works to literary agents to waiting for replies or enduring the detailed process of editing and such. Despite that, there are Malaysians nowadays who have become well-known authors internationally such as Zen Cho, Tash Aw, Tan Twan Eng and Yangsze Choo.

They seamlessly write beautiful stories about Malaysia's histories, traditions and local beliefs. But, another popular figure who's in the list of famous Malaysian authors is Malay Muslim writer, Hanna Alkaf. Having published books under big publishing companies like Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins, Alkaf's stories are unforgettable and deserve all the praise.

Alkaf's Stories Give Representation To Muslim Girls & Tackle Important Issues

Credit: Lim Eng Lee / hannaalkaf.com

It's safe to say that there's a gap in representation of Asian girls in best-selling novels, particularly South East Asian girls. But as time moves forward, there is an increasing number of successful novels which include Hanna Alkaf's. Based in Kuala Lumpur, Alkaf is a Malaysian author who is prominently rising in the US publishing industry.

In an interview with Kirkus Reviews, she talks about growing up reading in English without characters that look like her or have names like her. Thus, as an author, she has her mind set on writing stories for her Malaysian audience, to make them feel represented in a creative industry that rarely highlights their society or culture.

What makes Alkaf's novels so interesting and unique is that her stories center around Malaysian society with Malay Muslim girls as her main characters. In The Weight Of Our Sky, it foregrounds issues of mental health, racism and trauma during the historic race riots in 1969, a time of chaos that Malaysians should know and remember. She tells Singapore Book Council that it's important to always remind the younger generation of the consequences of racism so that society could move forward in meaningful ways.

Many Awards & Honorary Titles For Her Books

Alkaf has flourishingly made her Malaysian audience feel represented through international recognition and her debut Young Adult novel, The Weight Of Our Sky even won the 2019 Freeman Awards for Young Adult/High School Literature!

Her second book and Middle Grade debut, The Ghost & The Girl tells the story about a Malay Muslim girl who grew up with a ghost, the pelesit as a companion but as she grows older, her notion of friendship, grief and family is put to a dark test. With Alkaf's authentic Malaysian voice and engaging storytelling skills, this Malaysian folk tale is a finalist for the American literary award, Kirkus Prize 2020. Other than that, the book has received numerous honorary titles of best books to read including the Bank Street Best Children's Books of The Year 2021, A Junior Guild Library selection, Kirkus Reviews Best MG of 2020 and more!

Alkaf has also been dominating the publishing industry as she wrote an emotional short story for the anthropology, Once Upon An Eid, edited by two famous writers: New York best-selling author Aisha Saaed and Morris finalist, S.K. Ali! It's a joyous collection of short stories that put unique perspectives on Muslims celebrating Eid, aiming to give representations for different Muslims all around the world. On top of that, she has new books coming out in 2022 including Queen of The Tiles published by Salaam Reads, an imprint of Simon & Schuster and The Grimoire of Grave Fates.

Check out her website to know more about Alkaf's books! She's also an avid social media user on Twitter & Instagram.

Hanna Alkaf's journey as a South East Asian and Muslim author who is successful in the publishing industry is an inspiration to all, that anything is possible with hard work and passion. The publishing world is a challenging and competitive one to be in and to have a role model like her is a gift to aspiring Asian Muslim authors.

Read more inspiring stories by Muslims all around the world to rekindle your motivation: