Written for Muzlimbuzz.sg | February 5th 2013 | Link
Nirrosette is the pen name for Munirah Jaafar, an up-and-coming 20 years old Malay novelist with two published books (already!) under her name – Ikhlas, A.K. (2011) and Nah, Untuk Awak! (2012). She is the youngest writer to be signed on by Jemari Seni, a Malaysian publishing company, and was selected as an ambassador for the Bulan Bahasa 2012 campaign in Singapore.
After graduating from Madrasah al-Maarif in 2009, the aspiring Malay teacher went on to continue her studies at the Innova Junior College and is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree at the Nanyang Technological University / Nanyang Institute of Education (NTU/NIE).
We caught up with her prior to the launch of her third book sometime this year, Tunggu Aira di Kota Bandung.
Muzlimbuzz: For how long have you been reading and writing?
Nirrosette: I started reading when I was two, but my love affair with books began far earlier with my mother reading to me bedtime stories from the Peter and Jane series. The high marks I got for my composition papers in school prompted encouragement from my parents to send my stories to Berita Harian, and my first published short story was when I was 10. I then began to send in short stories regularly to BH for around four to five years until my short stories were no longer short! BH then proceeded to publish them in the I3 Magazine.
Growing up, I felt that I had more things to say; I wanted to explain more, to express more and my plots have grown to become more elaborate. This made me turn to writing on blogs, and later, novels.
For me, I think that the love of writing is not something that can be forced on someone. Allah SWT has blessed me with this passion and gift, and I too am blessed to have parents who further nurtured this gift in me.
What is your intention when writing?
I have two reasons. Firstly and most importantly, I wanted to inculcate some Islamic values in my readers. Writing novels such as Ikhlas, A.K. and Nah, Untuk Awak! allowed me to do da’wah in my own way through inserting Islamic knowledge and values in their contents. I am not a certified religious teacher, but I do not want to let all the knowledge I have gained during my years in Madrasah go to waste.
Secondly, I wanted people to start reading Malay novels because apparently the whole bunch of friends I have are not keen on reading Malay novels on the grounds that they are backward. Hence I set out to write a mainly Malay book with bits of English in them, and surprisingly, this style sat well with readers from both Singapore and Malaysia.
Where do you get your inspiration for your characters and stories?
In a nutshell, from my own experiences, the people I met and the books I read throughout the years.
Ikhlas, A.K. was derived in bits and pieces from my time in the secular studies. Coming from an all-girls Madrasah background, my experience in IJC was a mind opener for me as it allowed me to interact with people who were of a different wavelength than I was accustomed to. Being exposed to people of different races, backgrounds and religions made me understand the way others think and my interaction with them made them understand Islam more.
Some of my readers commented that some of the characters in Ikhlas, A.K. were too far-fetched, but in truth, there are quite a number of Malay-Muslims in our community who make up the female protagonist, Kaseh – who don’t know the basic rules of solat, who can’t really differentiate between halal and haraam, for example.
My second book Nah, Untuk Awak! was written in part as a way for me to deal with my father’s passing in 2010. My father used to be the one who would cut out my articles in newspapers and laminate them, and I missed him and his tremendous support greatly. I guess the book was more personal to me, more of an introspection rather than an observation.
The upcoming book, Tunggu Aira di Kota Bandung, is an attempt to write a more emotion-provoking narrative, involving a mix of personal experiences and observations based on my trip to Bandung and Anyer for a workshop on poetry. You can thus expect a story filled with poetry as well! Additionally, my writings are also greatly influenced by the writing styles of the authors Syud and Hlovate.
What can we expect from Munirah and from Nirrosette in the years to come?
Twenty years down the road I aspire to have my own publishing company or a book café in Singapore. Nirrosette will publish more books insyaAllah and Munirah will still be Munirah, striving hard in school to graduate and be a teacher insyaAllah.
Bila mana semua bicara Tentang kita Perlu apa dinafi? Perlu apa dibohongi? Biar saja Akur saja Karena aku tahu kamu tahu Aku rasa apa yang kamu rasa.” Excerpt from Tunggu Aira di Kota Bandung