Local author Hanna Alkaf's debut novel, The Weight of Our Sky, has been named a winner of the US-based Freeman Book Awards
On its website, the Freeman Book Awards states that it "recognises quality books for children and young adults that contribute meaningfully to an understanding of East and Southeast Asia". There are two categories in the awards: Children's and Young Adult.
Hanna's debut young adult novel was named one of the winners in the 'Young Adult/High School Literature' category.
The Weight of Our Sky follows a 16-year-old girl with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) as she navigates the 13 May 1969 racial riots - and her own inner demons - with the help of a Chinese boy so that she can reunite with her mother
Published last year under Simon & Schuster Books' Salaam Reads imprint, the historical fiction novel has received numerous starred reviews from various American publishing trade publications, including Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews.
The title of the book is based on the Bahasa Malaysia proverb "di mana bumi dipijak, di situ langit dijunjung", but translated in English. There is also a BM version published by Fixi.
Speaking to SAYS, Hanna said winning the award was exciting as authors published in the US but based outside of it are not eligible for many major awards
"I'm very excited about receiving the Freeman Award, whose past winners include books and authors I love, including Want by Cindy Pon and The Astonishing Colour of After by Emily XR Pan!" she shared.
"Truth be told, since it's such a very Malaysian story, I didn't think it would get the response that it has. I'm so grateful that it found its readers," Hanna continued in her message to SAYS.
"It's also exciting because as an author published in the US but based outside of it, I'm not eligible for a lot of major [young adult] awards. And winning something is always nice. Authors want to pretend they don't need this kind of validation, but truthfully, it certainly doesn't hurt."
Moving forward, the inaugural DK Dutt Memorial Award winner has multiple publications lined up this year - one of which is a middle grade novel based on Malaysian folklore
The Girl and the Ghost, which is about a young girl and her pelesit (a type of familiar spirit in Malay folklore), will be publshed by HarperCollins on 4 August.
Hanna is also contributing a story to Once Upon an Eid, a joyous short story collection by and about Muslims that will be edited by The New York Times bestselling author Aisha Saeed and Morris finalist SK Ali, out on 5 May.
You can also read the ongoing The Weight of Our Sky LINE Webtoon comic that's adapted from the book entirely by a Malaysian team, with art by Nisrina AN and colouring by Nurel and Ariff Abd Rahman.