Fire Heart by Joyce Chng
Published by Scholastic on May 28th, 2022
Wehia t’Doniyat, the eldest daughter of a knifesmith’s holding that specialises in ornamental daggers, wishes with all her heart to make a longsword like the one created by her great-grandmother. She journeys to the City of Swords to be apprenticed under her kinswoman, Hadana t’Tolani, the head of a powerful swordsmith holding. Among strangers and missing her family, Wehia must learn to curb her impatient and reckless nature to endure the hardships that come with being a swordmaker’s apprentice. But despite making a true friend at the holding and being accepted by Hadana, Wehia’s impulsiveness threatens to destroy her dreams of Fire Heart, the sword that sings to her.
Today is a special day because I’m spotlighting a book that’s not available in the West and I want to talk about why this is wrong. Joyce Chng is an author I connected with last year and I was excited to get to know more authors from South East Asia. I’m not reading nearly enough SEA books so connecting with one is a great opportunity to expand my reading. My interest in SEA authors comes from my Indonesian father. I want to know more about his culture and see more characters like myself. I know every SEA country is different and the cultures even vary from island to island, or even across the same island (Jakarta is definitely a whole different experience from Yogyakarta). But there are still things I recognise from Filipino and Malaysian cultures.
Most of the books I’ve read are from SEA authors who don’t live there anymore. It’s rare to see a book from an author living there. Following Chng’s journey with Fire Heart revealed a lot of things to me. She (and other authors from the same publisher) were denied ebooks and the foreign rights are still up for grabs. As of writing this, the paperback version of Fire Heart is only available in Singapore (Chng’s country of residence) and Malaysia. Having an ebook edition would allow this book to go global, or at least have more opportunities to sell, even if it was only available in SEA. Let’s not forget a paperback book is still considered a luxury in some parts of the world while ebooks are more accessible.
I haven’t spoken with the publisher, nor have I seen any correspondence about why they made the decision to only publish the paperback and only in these two markets. But it frustrates me, as a reader, that I can’t buy this book and support a friend. Also because Scholastic is by no means a small publisher. They have branches in the West. It almost feels like they want to keep their markets small, and in a world as global as our current one, it’s unnecessary.
This is a call to all publishers, to make ebooks available for bigger markets, and also at reasonable prices. The book market today is international, global, with English readers nearly everywhere. There are opportunities here you can take advantage of. Please do it, so more authors get a chance to be discovered.
If you want to support this sentiment, share your opinion using #GiveUsFire on social media. You can also join the launch event on May 28th. See the link below.
2PM Singapore time or 8AM CET
If you’re in Singapore or Malaysia, you can buy Fire Heart at one of these shops below.
Closetful of Books