This post was originally written for Pen and Fable
Nia, a girl, living in the slums of Jakarta, Indonesia, desperately wants to continue her education and become a writer. But her family can’t afford the school fees. Instead, she looks after her 5-year-old brother, Rudi, and helps her alcoholic father sell banana fritters at the market.
But Nia is a writer. She can escape her sad existence by telling stories, taking Rudi with her.
One day, Nia miraculously escapes from a minibus accident, completely unharmed. Her survival is attributed to a miracle. Because of her miraculous survival, Nia’s luck shifts from good to bad and back again, all in tumultuous wrangling of her own conscience. Drawing inspiration from Javanese folklore, Nia’s story is one not to be missed.
Toronto-based, Australian-Indonesian-Canadian author Michelle Kadarusman sets her novel in the impoverished villages of Jakarta.
Kadarusman gives readers a teen with very few options who, despite her circumstances, is working hard for a better life.
Girl of the Southern Sea is a fast-paced, emotionally charged novel that tells harrowing tales inspired by the realities of girls in Indonesian slums. It is sharply political but overall heartwarming and breaking in equal measure. Readers will fall away from this book appreciating the value of access to education, health care, and, most importantly, justice.