Lena Manta: Greek

Amazon author profile picture
Amazon author profile

The author: Lena Manta was born in Istanbul, Turkey, to Greek parents. She moved to Greece at a very young age and now lives with her husband and two children on the outskirts of Athens. Although she studied to be a nursery school teacher, Lena instead directed her own puppet theater before writing articles for local newspapers and working as a director for a local radio station.

Manta was proclaimed Author of the Year in both 2009 and 2011 by Greek Life & Style magazine. Bestselling The House by the River, which has sold almost 250,000 copies, is the first of her books to be translated into English. 

Oyinkan Braithwaite: Nigerian

Oyinkan Briathwaite book jacket cover
Book jacket cover

The author: A native of Lagos, Oyinkan Braithwaite spent her childhood split between both Nigeria and the UK. She is a graduate of Creative Writing and Law from Kingston University. Following her degree, she worked as an assistant editor at Kachifo and has been freelancing as a writer and editor since. She has had short stories published in anthologies and has also self-published work. In 2014, she was shortlisted as a top ten spoken word artist in the Eko Poetry Slam.

My Sister, The Serial Killer is her debut novel and it has already been considered for movie adaptation.

Milan Kundera: Czech-French

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The author: Born in 1929 in Brno, Czechoslovakia (present day Czech Republic), Milan Kundera has lived in exile in France since 1975. Despite the Czech focus of much of his work, Kundera wants his works to be studied as French literature. Starting with The Unbearable Lightness of Being, his long-time Communist politics were no longer the focus of his novels.

Prior to the Velvet Revolution of 1989 the socialist government in Czechoslovakia banned his books. He lives virtually incognito with his wife Věra Hrabánková and rarely speaks to the media. A perpetual contender for the Nobel Prize in Literature, he is believed to have been nominated on several occasions.

Masaji Ishikawa: Japanese-Korean

Masaji Amazon book jacket photo
Amazon book jacket photo

The author: Born in 1947 in Kawasaki, Japan, Masaji moved with his parents and three sisters to North Korea in 1960 at the age of thirteen. After two marriages, three children and a variety of jobs after high school, Masaji defected. He escaped back to Japan in 1996 with the help of consul workers from the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Due to pressure from the Chinese government, and fear of reprisal against his family remaining in North Korea, Masaji has kept a low profile before and after the book’s release.

Balli Kaur Jaswal: Singaporean

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The author: Though born in Singapore, Balli Kuar Jaswal has roots in the Punjab region. Her first novel was published in 2014 and she has won multiple awards for Australian literature. She has lived in Australia, Japan, Russia, the Philippines, Turkey, the US and the UK, where she was a writer in residence at UEA.

Jaswal was inspired to write Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows from her time in the book’s main setting of Southall. Her formative years traveling around inspired the main character’s fish-out-of-water experience, as well. All of her novels celebrate the Sikh community through her desire for equal cultural representation in literature.

Jussi Adler-Olsen: Danish

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The author: Danish novelist Carl Valdemar Jussi Henry Adler-Olsen is Denmark’s number one crime writer and creator of the Department Q series. Son of the successful sexologist and psychiatrist Henry Olsen, he spent his childhood with his family in doctors’ official residences at several mental hospitals across Denmark.

After a brief career as a manager, Adler-Olsen moved to writing full time in 1995. Beginning in 2011, his most famous work has been the Department Q series led by Detective Carl Morck. Adler-Olsen’s novels have been sold in more than 40 languages. Outside Denmark he has enjoyed particular success in Norway, Germany and the Netherlands being a frequent visitor on the top of the bestseller lists e.g. on The New York Times Paperback bestseller list.

Adler-Olsen was born, and continues to live, in Denmark’s capital of Copenhagen with his family. The Department Q series is projected to end with ten novels.

Annejet van der Zijl: Dutch

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The author: Dutch author Annejet van der Zijl is one of the most acclaimed, popular, and widest read authors of literary nonfiction in The Netherlands. After studying at Amsterdam and London universities, Annejet was a crime and arts journalist at the outset of her career before turning her attention to a longer form of narrative nonfiction.

Her first book, Jagtlust, was published in 1998. It was followed by the widely praised biography of the popular Dutch children’s writer Annie M.G. Schmidt, Anna (2002), which sold over 100.000 copies. Annejet’s fourth book, Bernhard – A hidden history (2010), gave a hitherto unknown and detailed portrait of husband of former Dutch queen Juliana. For this work she obtained a doctorate in History at the University of Amsterdam. In 2014 she published Gerard Heineken, a biography of the titular founder of the Heineken beer company. Like its predecessors, this book was nominated for several historical and literary awards. Annejet herself received several prizes for her oeuvre. among which the prestigious Golden Quill and the Amsterdam Art Prize 2017.

Annejet lives with her husband and her dog and divides her time between an apartment in the center of Amsterdam and a cottage on the Dutch coast.

Trevor Noah: South African

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The author: Born in South Africa at the end of the apartheid era, Trevor Noah is the most successful comedian in Africa and is the host of the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning The Daily Show on Comedy Central. This year The Daily Show has been nominated for three Emmys, including Outstanding Variety Talk Series. Noah joined The Daily Show with Jon Stewart in 2014 as a contributor.

Under apartheid legislation, Trevor’s black mother and white father were not allowed a relationship, let alone a child. Trevor’s true parentage is not listed on his birth certificate and he was raised by his mother and other female relatives. He worked as an actor, DJ, radio host and stand-up comedian in South Africa before moving to the US and television in 2011.

Ayşe Kulin: Turkish

Ayşe Kulin picture on Goodreads page.

The author: A native of Istanbul, Ayşe Kulin is known as one of Turkey’s bestselling and most beloved authors. After finishing Arnavutköy American College for Girls, Kulin worked as an editor and a reporter at several newspapers and magazines, honing her craft. For a long time she served as a stage manager, an art director and a scenarist in television programs, advertising films and movies. Kulin′s first book “Güneşe Dön Yüzünü” was published in 1984 and adapted into a film.

Known for her extensive book research, Kulin once spent six months in Eastern Turkey research a novel. Last Train to Istanbul, winner of the European Council Jewish Community Best Novel award, has been translated into 23 languages and is her second publication into English. A mother to four sons, Kulin resides in Istanbul.

Marcela Serrano: Chilean

Marcela Serrano picture from Spanish publisher website

The author: The daughter of writers, Marcela Serrano is an award-winning Chilean novelist in her own right. In 1994, her first novel, Para que no me olvides, won the Literary Prize in Santiago, and her second book, Nosotros que nos queremos tanto, won the Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz Prize for women writers in Spanish. She received the runner-up award in the renowned Premio Planetacompetition in 2001 for her novel Lo que está en mi corazón.

Carlos Fuentes quoted her description of the modern woman as “having the capacity to change skin like a snake, freeing herself from the inevitability and servitude of more obsolete times”.

Kevin Kwan: Singapore-American

Kevin Kwan author photo
Kevin Kwan website bio picture

The author: Kevin Kwan was born and raised in Singapore, where he attended Anglo-Chinese School in the mornings and spent his afternoons either hiding from his Chinese tutor or chasing after neighborhood dogs on his bike. When he was eleven, he moved to the United States, where the next few years were a blur of trying to survive high school, reading too much F. Scott Fitzgerald and Joan Didion, and dreaming of living in New York.

After obtaining his first degree in creative writing from the University of Houston, Kevin moved to Manhattan to pursue a BFA at Parsons School of Design. Eventually, Kevin was inspired to return to his first love—writing. His critically-acclaimed debut novel Crazy Rich Asians became an international bestseller in 2013 and was released as a major motion picture by director Jon M. Chu and Warner Brothers Studios in 2018.

Khaled Hosseini: Afghani

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Khaled Hosseini Twitter profile picture

The author: Khaled Hosseini was born in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 1965. His father was a diplomat in the Afghan Foreign Ministry and his mother taught Farsi and history at a high school in Kabul. The Hosseinis sought and were granted political asylum in the United States, and in September 1980 moved to San Jose, California. Khaled earned a BS in biology before med school.

In March 2001, while practicing medicine, Hosseini began writing his first novel, The Kite Runner, which was published by Riverhead Books in 2003. His books, The Kite RunnerA Thousand Splendid Suns, and And the Mountains Echoed, have been published in over seventy countries and sold more than 40 million copies worldwide.

Weike Wang: Chinese-American

Weike Wang author headshot
Weike Wang headshot from Penguin Random House

The author: Wang was born in Nanjing, China, but she and her family moved away when she was 5 years old. She lived in Australia, Canada, and the United States before high school.

She has taught at Boston University, and is a senior consultant for China Educational Development and Consulting Associates. She holds a BA from Harvard University, an SM and SD from the Harvard Chan School of Public Health, and holds an MFA in Fiction from Boston University.