Syahidah Ismail - Author of Saltwater Spirits

Photo credit: K. Ho

Syahidah Ismail* is the author of Saltwater Spirits, the groundbreaking novel released in 2019.

Saltwater Spirits is a work of historical fiction that broke ground as the first novel published in North America by a Singaporean author of Indigenous Malay descent in the diaspora. The story is also the first to examine questions of belonging, displacement, and resilience within the Indigenous Malay community in a historical setting. Syahidah is one of the youngest among her contemporaries, releasing her first work at age 30.

Saltwater Spirits launched in June 2019 as an independent, self-published work to local and international attention. It is now available in public libraries in Vancouver and Singapore and has been featured in US university classrooms.

Syahidah currently resides as an immigrant-settler on the unceded territories of the Coast Salish Peoples, including the territories of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations of Turtle Island. This land is also known as Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

*Syahidah Ismail is a Malay name and follows the structure of (personal name) + (patronymic).

The author is to be referred to as Syahidah — not Ismail, which is their father’s name.

Pronunciation guide: Sha-HEE-da EES-mah-eel