The Jakarta Post
After the birth of her own daughter, award-winning author Okky Madasri was inspired to write books for children to discover more about Indonesia, beyond the capital city of Jakarta and other popular regions. (JP/Donny Fernando)
Indonesian author Okky Madasari has launched a children's series with two new novels, titled Mata di Tanah Melus(Mata in the Melus Land) and Mata dan Rahasia Pulau Gapi(Mata and the Secrets of Gapi Island), marking her start in a different literary genre.
The series tells the story of a 12-year-old girl named Matara, or Mata for short, as she goes on adventures around Indonesia. After the birth of her own daughter, the award-winning author was inspired to write books for children to discover more about Indonesia, beyond the capital city of Jakarta and other popular regions. Mata's journey begins in the eastern region of the archipelago, delving into its distinctive local cultures and uncovering its roots.
"Along with her friends, Mata explores history through stories that pique children's imaginations," Okky said during a recent book reading in Jakarta to mark the launch.
In Mata in the Melus Land, Okky takes readers to East Nusa Tenggara and introduces the Melus tribe, the existence of which has become a mystery. Meanwhile, in Mata and the Secrets of Gapi Island, readers are transported to the-now named Ternate in North Maluku, in the northeast of Indonesia.
The Maluku Islands was a historical hub, of once thriving kingdoms and place of scientific discovery. Okky tells the story through Mata, as the little girl traced the footsteps of evolution theorist Alfred Russel Wallace when writing a letter to Charles Darwin from one of the corners of the island, as well as Mata's efforts to save the heirlooms of Gapi Island.
Known for her social criticisms and historical commentaries, the 34-year-old author did not shy away from heavy topics in her children's books, the stories in which were enriched with research straight from the field.
"I still convey social criticism through my children's novels, but definitely through a different approach. I'm sure, at this crucial age, children need quality reading material. Hopefully young readers can through reading these indirectly learn history, anthropology, ecology, to even geography by following Mata's journey," Okky said.
With several books under her belt, Okky in 2012 received the prestigious Khatulistiwa Literary Award for her third novel Maryam, which has been translated into English under the title of The Outcast. The novel tells the story of how Ahmadis are violently driven out of their own homes and homeland without any protection from the government.
Okky received the award at 28 years old, making her the youngest ever to win the recognition.
Delving into children's book, however, posed a different challenge for the seasoned writer.
"I had to see from the perspective of young children, and that was hard. But then, writing is always about trying to see from a different perspective," Okky said.
Mata's series is slated to comprise four books. (kes)
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