Okky Puspa Madasari known as Okky Madasari is an Indonesian novelist and academic, currently PhD candidate with the National University of Singapore (NUS).
Okky is well-known for her social criticism with works highlighting social issues, such as injustice and discrimination, and above all, about humanity. In academic field, her main interest is on literature, censorship and freedom of expression, and sociology of knowledge.
Since 2010 Okky has published 10 books, comprising of five novels, one short story collection, three children's novels and one non-fiction book. Her 10th book is titled "Genealogi Sastra Indonesia: Kapitalisme, Islam dan Sastra Perlawanan" (Genealogy of Indonesian Literature: Capitalism, Islam and Critical Literature) which was published online in December 2019, and can be freely downloaded and printed in this website. The book is attempting to track the origins, forces and idealogies that shape today's Indonesian novels.
She also regularly writes for Indonesian and international media on issues in line with her interests and focuses reflected in her fiction and her academic works.
Her first novel Entrok (2010), an epic about life under totalitarian and militarism during the Indonesia's New Order era, has been translated into English and was published in July 2013 under the title of The Years of the Voiceless. Her three subsequent novels, 86 (highlighting tentacles of corruption within the heart of Indonesian society, published in 2011), Maryam (the life of banned minority Islamic sect in Indonesia in 2012) and Pasung Jiwa (about transgender within a society sliding towards fundamentalism in 2013), have also been translated into English under the title of 86, The Outcast and Bound respectively. Pasung Jiwa has also been translated into German under the title of Gebunden in 2015 and in 2019 into Arabic in Egypt. In 2016, she published Kerumunan Terakhir which describes about the influence of social media on Indonesian young Indonesians. It was translated into English and published under a title of The Last Crowd. She then published her first anthology of short stories titled Yang Bertahan dan Binasa Perlahan (Resisting and Fading Away) in 2017.
Watching her daughter growing with not many good Indonesian children books available, Okky committed herself to write children novels, and in 2018 she published Mata di Tanah Melus (Mata in the land of Melus), the first book of Mata series, which describe the adventure of 12-year-old Matara and her mother across Indonesian archipelago on the background of the country’s rich cultural and historical rich. Mata di Tanah Melus itself tells Mata’s experience in entering fantasy world of Melus people in East Nusa Tenggara.
Several months after, she published the second of the series titled Mata dan Rahasia Pulau Gapi which tells how Mata and her friends are trying to save great legacies of North Maluku’s Ternate islands, where great British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace once lived and corresponded with Charles Darwin. In early 2019 the third book of the series, Mata dan Manusia laut (Mata and the Sea People) was published. This third book is about Mata’s journey to Wakatobi in Southeast Sulawesi, where Matara meets with her friends from Bajo community, who has evolved themselves to be able to live long on the sea. The fourth and also the finale of the series called Mata dan Nyala Api Purba (Mata in the Old World) published in 2021.
Okky graduated from Gadjah Mada University’s International Relations Department in 2005 with bachelor's degree in Political Science. She has chosen to become a journalist and writer ever since her graduation. In 2012, she pursued her Master’s degree in sociology with the University of Indonesia, and graduated in July 2014 with a thesis titled “Genealogy of Indonesian Novels: Capitalism, Islam and Critical Literature”. The thesis has been published as book in December 2019, and can be freely downloaded and printed in this website.
Okky receives NUS Research Scholarship, a full scholarship from the National University of Singapore, and the Dean’s Fellowship for PhD program in 2019 with the university’s Malay Studies Department, and currently she is doing her thesis on censorship and knowledge production.
She won an Indonesian major literary prize, the Khatulistiwa Literary Award, in 2012 for her third novel, Maryam. At the age of 28, she is the youngest ever to win this prestigious award. Her novels were shortlisted three years in a row by the same award's judges.
Upon completing the International Writing Program at Iowa she received Honorary Fellow in Writing in 2017. In the same year, Indonesia’s largest news portal Detik.com included Okky as one of “Kartini Masa Kini” (Contemporary Kartini), referring to women who provide significant inspiration to their generation.
In 2018, Okky was invited as a visiting fellow/resident writer to the NUS, where she taught Modern Indonesian literature at the Malay Studies department.
In 2019, Okky was nominated for Southeast Asia’s Women of the Future Awards for her contribution in advancement of the region’s culture.
While doing her residency in Singapore from January to June 2018, Okky delivered speeches about literature and society in front of Singaporean audiences at various venues, including schools, art center, communities.
In 2017, Okky was selected by the US government to represent Indonesia for the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa, US, from August to October 2017, where she engaged in various programs with local community, including speaking about Indonesia’s culture to local and international audience. That year, the legendary program celebrated its half a century anniversary.
Also in 2017, Okky was invited to speak at the Berlin Literature Festival in Germany.
In 2016 the University of Warwick, UK, invited Okky to speak about the role of culture and literature in forging ASEAN prosperity and unity, while later in the year, she was invited to speak about Australia-Indonesia cultural relations in front of Australia-Indonesia Youth Conference.
In 2015, she was invited by the Austrian government to speak at the Islam and Women’s Contemporary Literature in Hittisau, Austria. In October that year, okky was one of Indonesian writers featured at the Frankfurt Book Fair, where Indonesia was the guest of honor.
In 2014, Okky was invited to speak about literature and society at the Douarnenez Film Festival in France.
Southeast Asian Engagement
Okky has been invited to speak at Singapore Writer Festival, Philippine Literary Festival and Kuala Lumpur Book Fair. She co-founded the ASEAN Literary Festival in 2014, and is the program director of the festival.
Okky has become judge for a number of international and local literary competition and events, including Singapore Book Prize, Golden Point Award (an award for manuscript held by Singapore’s National Arts Council) and Khatulistiwa Literary Award.
In her commitment to freedom of expression and fighting against censorship as well protection of minority, Okky has become an expert witness for students of University of Sumatera Utara in a recent censorship case in Sumatera Utara Administrative Court against the university’s rector who dissolved the whole editorial team of a student press, Suara USU, because of the publication of a short story.
Early and Personal Life
Okky was born on October 30, 1984 in Magetan, East Java, Indonesia. She spent his childhood and teenage years in Magetan until graduated from senior high school in 2002 during which she graduated from SMP 1 Magetan and then SMA 1 Magetan.
She has showed her interest in writing since junior high school and then senior high school by becoming the leader of the school’s magazine.
She was born to a father of civil servant and a housewife mother who was active in various social organizations in her hometown.
The story of her family, especially about her grandmother, inspires her to write Entrok.
While in final year at Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta, she was working as a journalist for state-owned TV company and then moved to Jakarta after graduating from university in 2006. In Jakarta she continued working as journalist, with most of her coverage mainly on corruption and the Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), before deciding to become a full-time novelist in 2009 when she was writing Entrok. She got married in 2008, and has a daughter.