Novelist Balli Kaur Jaswal was born in Singapore, has family roots in Punjab and grew up living in countries such as Japan, Russia, Australia and the US. Her unique diasporic experiences have made its way into her novels, which are often themed around immigration, and the modern and traditional roles of women.
Sugarbread is a coming-of-age tale of a Sikh-Punjabi girl in Singapore that explores issues of identity and culture. It was a finalist for Singapore’s 2015 Epigram Books Fiction Prize. “I hope that readers will be entertained firstly and then walk away with a greater need to recognise society’s marginalised individuals — its girls and women in particular,” says Jaswal.
While she was living abroad, she often had to explain how she’s Singaporean and not from India. “All of that explaining leads to more in-depth conversations and questions sometimes, which have allowed me to learn more about my identity,” says the author, who is now working on Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows, a dark comedic novel that will be published by HarperCollins.
Beyond the Punjabi culture and migration, Jaswal is also interested to explore writing about war the endangerment of animals, as well as aid workers and activists.