“When I started writing books for kids and for teens, I set out wanting to tell unapologetically Malaysian stories,” says Hanna Alkaf, author of The Girl and the Ghost, which Kirkus called “a fascinating, page-turning tale” of a lonely girl who inherits a pelesit—“a cricketlike trickster ghost-familiar.” This remarkable, deeply moving middle-grade debut was named a finalist for the 2020 Kirkus Prize for Young Readers’ Literature.

In this video interview, Hanna Alkaf joins us from her home near Kuala Lumpur to discuss the many forms a haunting may take, the thin membrane between the natural and supernatural worlds, what it means to tell unapologetically Malaysian stories to a global audience, and more.

From our starred review of The Girl and the Ghost: “The author’s middle-grade debut immerses readers in Malaysian culture and food as well as weaving in both Islamic elements and pre-Islamic views of ghosts and death. Though aspects of the novel embrace the disturbing and grotesque (which will delight many readers), its conclusion is grippingly heart-wrenching and speaks to deeper themes of family, trauma, and friendship.… A fascinating, page-turning tale.”