The 22nd annual Singapore Writers Festival (SWF) returns this November with the theme “A Language of Our Own”. This edition seeks to examine the role of languages in the formation of identities and communities at a time when the world is becoming increasingly globalised, yet fractured. The exciting line-up of literary events will feature a host of influential writers from both Singapore and overseas.
Roxane Gay (US)
Born in Omaha, Nebraska to a family of Haitian descent, Roxane Gay is the author of The New York Times best-selling essay collection Bad Feminist (2014). She has also been named as a writer for Marvel Comics’ World of Wakanda, making her the first Black woman, alongside Yona Harvey, to be lead writers for Marvel. Much of her work lies in the fiction and creative non-fiction genres, and deals with the analysis and deconstruction of feminist and cultural issues. As a headliner, Gay’s work speaks strongly to the festival’s focus on redressing the ways in which we use language and its effects on diversity and inclusion.
Roxane Gay will be speaking at the Festival Gala about Language and The Body alongside Singaporean playwright Joel Tan and Canadian novelist Kagiso Leseho Molope. She will also be presenting a lecture on Identity and Pop Culture, and participating in the “In A Tiny Room” series.
Marlon James (Jamaica)
Marlon James is the author of four novels: John Crow’s Devil, The Book of Night Women, A Brief History of Seven Killings, winner of the 2015 Man Booker Prize, and Black Leopard, Red Wolf (which has been referred to as the African Game of Thrones). Now living in Minneapolis, James teaches literature at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. Often his novels display the struggle to find an identity.
He will be delivering the Festival Prologue, as well as participating in the “In a Tiny Room” series where festival-goers will have the opportunity to interact with renowned authors in the casual, intimate setting (50 pax only) of The Old Man – a Hemingway inspired bar at Keong Saik.
Min Jin Lee (Korea – US)
Min Jin Lee is the author of Free Food for Millionaires and Pachinko, a National Book Award finalist. She is the recipient of fiction fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard. She is working on American Hagwon, the final instalment of The Koreans trilogy, and will be a Writer-in-Residence at Amherst College from 2019-2022.
She will be speaking at “An Hour With: Min Jin Lee” on her novel, Pachinko, about the intricacies of being a perceived outsider and the power of fiction in bridging cultures.
Pico Iyer (UK)
Pico Iyer, born in Oxford, England, has been writing books since 1986. He is an essayist and novelist, best known for his travel writing. Having grown up a part of – and apart from – English, American and Indian cultures, he became one of the first writers to make the international airport itself as his subject, along with associated topics of jet lag, displacement and cross-culturalism. He also publishes regularly in Harper’s, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times, and other publications.
He will be speaking at “Beyond Borders, Beyond Words” and “Untold Stories of Places”, and participating in the “SWF Book Club”, a conversation inviting festival writers to talk about the books that changed their thought about language.
SWF Youth Fringe
This year, SWF will be extending its reach to youths aged 13 – 18 with a new festival focus. The SWF Youth Fringe is in line with the Council’s efforts to nurture early engagement with the literary arts. Organised in partnership with the Singapore Book Council, several events at the SWF Youth Fringe will be curated by a panel of Youth Curators from a number of schools including Temasek Junior College and Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts. The programme includes the discussion of topics and genres youth are interested in such as Young Adult (YA) fiction, K-drama, zine-making, memes and text-speak as a language. It will be headlined by Nicola Yoon (Jamaica – US), a New York Times-bestselling author whose YA novels, The Sun is Also a Star and Everything, Everything have been adapted into movies.
Image of Min Jin Lee by Elena Seibert courtesy of Singapore Writers’ Festival