Bernice Chauly

Bernice Chauly

Contributor and Guest Editor
(Photo credit: Daniel Adams) 

Bernice Chauly is a Malaysian novelist, poet and educator. Born in George Town, Penang, to Chinese-Punjabi teachers, she read Education and English Literature in Canada as a government scholar. She is the author of seven books, which include poetry and prose; going there and coming back (1997), The Book of Sins (2008), Lost in KL (2008), the acclaimed memoir Growing Up With Ghosts (2011) which won the Readers’ Choice Awards 2012 and Onkalo (2013, “Direct, honest and powerful”—JM Coetzee). Her debut novel Once We Were There (2017), set against the Malaysian Reformasi of 1998 has been hailed as a “groundbreaking page-turner on the taboos of race, religion, sex, drugs, and Malaysian politics”—South China Morning Post, and “a stirring, necessary read.”—The Star, MalaysiaOnce We Were There won the inaugural Penang Book Prize 2017 and the Readers’ Choice Awards 2018 in fiction. Her fourth collection of poems Incantations/Incarcerations was published in 2019.

For 20 years Bernice worked as a multidisciplinary artist and is recognised as one of the most significant voices of her generation. She has had residencies with the Nederlands Letterenfonds in Amsterdam, Sitka Island Institute in Alaska, Taipei Artist Village in Taiwan, Writers South Australia, and has participated in festivals in all over the world. She directed seven editions of the George Town Literary Festival (2011-2018), which won The Literary Festival Award at the London Book Fair’s International Excellence Awards 2018. She is an Honorary Fellow in Writing from the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program (IWP 2014) and is founder and director of the KL Writers Workshop. She currently lectures in creative writing at the University of Nottingham Malaysia and is a founding member of PEN Malaysia. Website:


  • Issue #48 (March 2020) Writing Malaysia: Guest Editor [forthcoming]
  • Issue #34 (December 2016): Sometimes [Read]
  • Issue #34 (December 2016): But we would have to write letters [Read]