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Selasih

Selasih, one of the many pen-name of Sariamin Ismail, went on record in 1933 as first female Indonesian novelist with the publication of Kalau Tak Untung, translated here as If Fortune Does Not Favor. Born on July 31, 1909 in Talu, West Sumatra, Sariamin attended elementary school there and, at a young age, began writing syair and other forms of poetry. After graduation in 1921, she studied at a school for female teachers in Padang Panjang, and by the age of sixteen had already been published in local newspapers. After graduating from this school in 1925, she worked as a teacher in various regions of Sumatra–in Bengkulu, Bukittinggi, Pandang Panjang, Aceh and Riau.

While teaching, Sariamin continued to write to supplement her incomes, using a number of pseudonyms, but became best known as Selasih, for the name she used in her first novel.

Between 1928 and 1930 Sariamin was the head of the Bukittinggi branch of Jong Islamieten Bond, an Islamic youth group. By the 1930s she had become a vocal journalist in the women-run Soeara Kaoem Iboe Soematra — “The Voice of Sumatran Women”– under the name Seleguri, condemning polygamy and emphasizing the need for a nuclear family. After Indonesia proclaimed its independence in 1945, Sariamin spent two years as a member of the regional representatite body in Riau.

Sariamin continued to teach until 1968 and write well into the 1980s. In addition to Kalau Tak Untung, she published several other novels, as well as a number of collections of poetry. She died at her home in Riau in 1995.

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