Writer of Color: Balli Kaur Jaswal

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Photo from The Economist

Quick Facts on POC Writer Balli Kaur Jaswal

  • Singaporean writer
  • Well-traveled
  • Writes novels, historical fiction, romance

Biography of POC Writer Balli Kaur Jaswal

Balli Kaur Jaswal is a Singaporean novelist living in Australia.

As a child, her father’s work in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs kept her moving around. She spent time in Singapore, Australia, Japan and Istanbul. Her family has roots in Punjab, India. Her experiences living abroad invariably translate into her stories. She explores a variety of complex topics—like diversity, immigration, mental health and racism—in humorous and poignant constructs.

Jaswal graduated from an international school based in Manila, Philippines. Then, she received her bachelors at Hollins University in English Literature. In 2007, she attended the University of East Anglia after winning a fellowship award.

Jaswal taught English at a high school in Australia and Istanbul before changing her status to “full-time writer.” To date, Balli Kaur Jaswal is only 33 years old and the author of three books. 

Before You Read POC Writer Balli Kaur Jaswal

Punjab, India

Geographically, Punjab is tucked away in the Northern part of India. It is land shared by India and Pakistan. Technically, Punjab is a culture and history, not necessarily a type of national identification. Because Punjab shares land between India and Pakistan, the people here have a unique and blended cultural history. This differs from Indians solely from India’s territory.

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Punjab has its root to the Indus Valley Civilization. The reigning religions include Islam, Sikhism and Hinduism. Ethnically, Punjabi people are Indo-Aryan and Indo-Scythian. In terms of language, Indian Punjab is written in Gurmukhi script, whereas Pakistan will use a script closer to Urdu.

Indian

  • Identify as Indian
  • Speak mostly Hindu
  • Practice Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism, Christianity

Indian Punjab

  • Identify as Punjabi
  • Speak mostly Punjabi, regional dialect
  • Generally practice Sikh

Pakistani Punjab

  • Identify as Punjabi
  • Speak mostly Punjabi, regional dialect
  • Mostly Sunni Muslim

Singapore

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Most famous for its unusual laws, this Southeast Asian country consists of one main island and an additional 62 islets and is home to over 5 million people. About three-quarters of the Singaporean population is Chinese and over 30 percent practice Buddhism. Singaporeans are almost all bilingual, speaking English (primary language) and Mandarin, Malay and/or Tamil (a language native to the Tamil people of India.)

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Singapore is rich in resources and located in a prime spot for international trade, making its business from imports/exports, travel and finance. It is considered on of the Four Asian Tigers, a group of Asian countries that experienced rapid growth from supreme industrialization. The other Asian Tigers include Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea. 

Quotes from POC Writer Balli Kaur Jaswal

 “I suppose any writing that panders to stereotypes or exoticism really riles me up. I try to avoid doing that, but I do wonder if some generalisations are inevitable in small doses if you’re writing for an audience outside your own cultural group.”

 “If you get a group of women in a room, there’s a power to talk about things that have been silenced.

 “I believe that you can be burned out from writing a particular novel or short story, but personally, I’ve never been so blocked that I just couldn’t write anything. When I start to feel burned out, I take a break from the project and work on something else. If it feels like a quick passing phase, I take a walk, run some errands, clean the house – essentially, I do things that make me feel like I’m in control and productive again. It usually helps.”

Read her interviews with:

Straight Times

The Economist

Works by POC Writer Balli Kaur Jaswal

2013 Inheritance

2015 Sugarbread

2017 Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows

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