Karina Robles Bahrin



The author stirs up conversations about race and religion in her novel, ‘The Accidental Malay’

Johnnie Walker Blue Label

In January 2022, Karina Robles Bahrin became the second Malaysian to win the Epigram Books Fiction Prize for her novel titled The Accidental Malay. The award came with cash and a publishing contract with Epigram Books, the Singapore-based independent publishing company who initiated the competition to promote creative writing and celebrate talents in the region.

Before her breakthrough novel, Bahrin worked in corporate communications for about 20 years before moving to Langkawi with her sister to run a hotel, La Pari-Pari and a restaurant serving fusion food, fatCUPID. She had been toying around with the idea of writing a novel for 10 years, but never got around to actually doing it until the lockdown.

The Accidental Malay follows Jasmine Leong, the heiress of a bakkwa company who discovers she is Malay. It has garnered great reviews from her peers, including Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir, for its bold portrayal of how conversations on race, religion and social class unfold in Malaysia.

Bahrin also runs Suatukula, a community initiative she co-founded to expose young children to the arts, and help them develop creative thinking skills and broaden their perspectives.

“I myself am multiracial. There is always a measure of consideration when answering questions about my background. I wanted to explore what happens when you try to impose a certain cultural parameter on a person who hasn’t grown up with that at all.” 


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