The 29th edition of the Hong Kong Book Fair, organised by the HKTDC, will be held 18-24 July at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. Among the highlights will be the returning English Reading and Creative Writing Seminar Series, which this year represents a collaboration between the HKTDC and an international online bookstore – Book Depository – for the first time.
Young writers M.A. Bennett from the United Kingdom as well as Sharlene Teo and Balli Kaur Jaswal from Singapore will share with the audience how their life experiences led them to writing careers. Hong Kong based reporter Mark O’Neill and Denise Y. Ho, an Assistant Professor of history at Yale University, will also introduce their new books about Chinese history.
Balli Kaur Jaswal – The Female Perspective
Balli Kaur Jaswal, a popular young Singaporean writer of Indian descent, has been exposed to various cultures while growing up, having lived in Japan, Russia, and the Philippines. Her short stories and non-fiction works have been published in many international journals, including the UK’s Sunday Express and The New York Times. She was awarded the 2014 Sydney Morning Herald Best Young Australian Novelist Award for her debut novel ‘Inheritance’. Set around the time of Singapore’s independence from Malaysia, the novel portrays the changes in society and a family’s decline through the story of a female tribe leader’s death.
The author released her third and latest novel, Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows, last year. Through a touching story about the life of a widow, the book reveals the plight of immigrant communities in the United States and Europe. Her vivid depiction of the protagonist makes for an engaging read and helps bring out the problems in the contemporary lives of women. The novel swiftly received high ratings. Its translation rights have been sold in more than 10 countries including France, Greece, and China, and the book will soon be adapted into a film. At the Book Fair, she will discuss how Indian women inspire characters for novels.
M.A. Bennett – Campus Thriller Literature
Born in Manchester in the United Kingdom and raised in the Yorkshire Dales, M.A. Bennett is a young, up-and-coming fiction writer. She is a history graduate of Oxford University and the University of Venice, where she specialised in the study of Shakespeare’s plays as a historical source. She has been an illustrator, actress and film critic, and has designed concert tour visuals for rock bands including the U2 and the Rolling Stones. At the Book Fair, Ms Bennett will share untold stories about the development of the British social class system.
M. A. Bennett hit fame with her first novel, S.T.A.G.S, published last year, about life on school campus. The book was inspired by wealthy Yorkshire families’ shooting parties that she had seen as a child. The story is set in a boarding school where the female lead and her friends were invited to a weekend party involving hunting, shooting and fishing. However, horrifying events occur one after another. The book reflects contemporary youths’ obsession with technology, especially mobile phones, social media and the Internet. The book was nominated for the YA Book Award in 2018. Its film rights have been acquired by 20th Century Fox, with the screenplay being written by renowned screenwriter Peter Craig, author of the screenplay for Hunger Games.
Sharlene Teo – Inspired by Smog
Singaporean writer Sharlene Teo published her first novel Ponti this year, which received immediate attention from readers and praise from best-selling British novelist Ian McEwan. She is currently studying for a PhD in Creative Writing. The book received the inaugural Deborah Rogers Writer’s Award, which encourages new writers to complete their first piece of work, after beating 855 competitors.
The book was inspired by the smog that enshrouded Singapore and created a gloomy mood in 2003. A keen observer of life, Sharlene created a story spanning 50 years, from 2003, about the lives of three women – a mother, her daughter and her friend. The novel portrays mother-daughter relationships, friendships, struggles in life, as well as feelings of intimacy and guilt. The storyline jumps between characters and eras, blending in myths and a sense of humour. At the Book Fair, the author will share with the audience how she created the story.
Mark O’Neill – Jews in China Spotlighted
Mark O’Neill, who has lived in Hong Kong for nearly 40 years, will take part in the Book Fair once again and host a seminar. Born in London in the UK, Mr O’Neill is a writer, journalist and university lecturer. Having been a correspondent for the South China Morning Post in Shanghai and Beijing for years, he is fluent in both Cantonese and Mandarin. He has in-depth knowledge of Chinese culture and has always been interested in current affairs in Hong Kong and the Greater China.
As a researcher of Chinese history, Mr O’Neill has written many books about Chinese history and personalities, such as one about the legendary life of Sir Hurd, the chief of the Customs Taxation Department in the Qing Dynasty, which was launched at last year’s Book Fair. This year, he will bring his latest work, Israel and China: from the Tang Dynasty to Silicon Wadi, featuring stories of the Jews in China in the past 40 years, including dairy farmers, computer experts, professors, diplomats, traders as well as the first and only non-ethnic Chinse woman to have established a hospital chain in China.
The stories reveal the important development of both peoples. This book also features the social, economic and diplomatic links between the Jews and the Chinese over thousands of years. Mr O’Neill not only made a special trip to Beijing, Shanghai, and Israel to conduct research and numerous interviews, including with Jewish rabbis, businessmen, entrepreneurs, professors and reporters. At the Book Fair, the writer will share the experience of writing the book.
Denise Y. Ho – Reconstruction of Chinese History
American-born Denise Y. Ho has a family of Hong Kong origins. A PhD graduate in history from Harvard University, she is an assistant professor at Yale University, having formerly taught in the Centre for China Studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Her research focuses on contemporary Chinese society and cultural history.
Earlier this year, Ms Ho launched her debut book, Curating Revolution: Politics on Display of Mao’s China, focusing on the Mao Zedong era (1949-1976). It explores the connections between exhibitions and political movements, showing that exhibitions help revolutions materialise. Through case studies from Shanghai, the book analyses how the Chinese Communist revolution reformed the country’s political culture. At the Book Fair, the writer will share with the audience how she went through archival materials, oral history and other historical data for the book.
Visit the ‘English World’ for English Books –
A great variety of English books from over 30 publishers and booksellers will be available in the ‘English World’ exhibition area of this year’s Book Fair.H