Wawancara Indonesia Mengglobal dengan Pengarang Buku ‘Bright Eyes’, Brea Olivia Salim


Minggu lalu, buku Bright Eyes yang ditulis oleh Brea Olivia Salim, diluncurkan di berbagai toko buku di Indonesia. Simak wawancara Indonesia Mengglobal dengan Brea mengenai buku perdananya tersebut!

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

A: I was born and raised in Jakarta, Indonesia. I lived in the city for fifteen years before I moved halfway around the world to enroll at Phillips Exeter Academy (PEA). PEA is a boarding school at Exeter, New Hampshire, which is a small town an hour away from Boston. I graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy in June 2012 and am now currently enrolled at Barnard College, the women’s college of Columbia University in NYC. For the past year, however, I took some time off and came back to Jakarta to spend time with my family.

Aside from spending lots of quality time with my loved ones, I also had the opportunity to write a lot over the past year. I contributed to a bunch of English publications, like the Jakarta Post and the magazine Jakarta Java Kini. I actually started writing way back when I was in fourth grade, when my mother gave me this giant notebook and told me I could fill it with any kind of stories I would like. I was already a fervent reader even then, so writing stories felt natural to me. As I grew up, I just continued to write, through various different mediums. At PEA, I was a journalist for the features section of the Exonian, the school newspaper, for a year before I became an editor. So when my first book, Bright Eyes, hit bookstores last week, it was absolutely a dream comes true.

Q: Can you tell me more about the book? What is it about and who is it for?

A: Bright Eyes is a chronological compilation of my written works during my time at PEA. This collection is essentially about my journey at PEA as the only Indonesian student during my three years at the Academy. Those who have gone to study abroad would definitely be able to relate to my story, and those who are planning to study abroad should definitely read the book too. But ultimately, I think anybody who has gone through a rough patch in life can relate to Bright Eyes. Although my story is set in a very unique setting (not many Indonesians go to New England preparatory schools), you will see that the struggles I went through in the book is a very universal, human experience.

Wawancara Indonesia Mengglobal dengan Pengarang Buku 'Bright Eyes', Brea Olivia Salim
Bright Eyes by Brea Olivia Salim

Q: What are your goals and dreams from writing this book?

A: I find that most Indonesian authors mostly talk about their successful experiences when publishing their stories of going abroad. Indonesians certainly like keeping up this picture-perfect image, when in reality leaving home can be an incredibly hard experience to go through. Unlike these authors, however, I mostly wrote about my struggles in Bright Eyes. Not that there is anything wrong with success stories, but I do hope that this book lets everybody know that it is okay to feel different, to be frustrated when nobody understands your culture, or even to miss home-cooked food. By writing about my real experiences, I hope I can comfort those who think they are the only ones who are feeling this terrible about being away from home – trust me, you’re not!

Q: Are there specific chapters in your book that you particularly like?

A: One of the essays in the book is titled ‘Bright Eyes’, and it is my favorite essay in the book. I originally wrote ‘Bright Eyes when my English teacher assigned me to write about the masks we put on everyday. Writing this essay was certainly challenging, as it forced me to dig deep within myself, but ultimately helped me grow into a better person in the end. I ended up naming the book Bright Eyes’ because that is what I want my readers to feel after finishing the book – finding the light after a journey of darkness.

Q: What’s the most important take-away lesson that the readers can get from your book?

A: To never give up with your studies, no matter how hopeless your circumstances might seem. When you study abroad, you will definitely face challenges that will (believe it or not) make you want to go home. Although the experience I had at PEA was incredibly hard, I grew so much stronger because of it. I hope you, too, will keep going despite any obstacles you may face, and become a better person from the experience!

Q:  How are you able to get your book to being published? Can you tell us a little bit about the journey?

A: Publishing the book has definitely been a long journey for me, as I faced many challenges. First of all, let me the start with the fact that I actually self-published Bright Eyes. The Indonesian publishers that I approached all wanted to translate my manuscript into Indonesian, which is understandable but not what I want for my book. A family friend, who had self-published before, ended up leading us towards this direction. Suddenly, my job description was not just author, but basically every other role in the publishing process. I was lucky enough to find a great editor, book designer and illustrator, but the rest I did myself – I contacted bookstores, brought my book to the printer, alerted the media of my book release, and so forth. It was definitely a lot more work than for most authors, who usually only does the writing part. But I am so, so thankful I ended up on this path, simply because I know so much more about the publishing process now. Plus, it is nice to have creative control over my book, which I know some authors don’t get to have once they hand over their manuscripts to a certain publisher.

Wawancara Indonesia Mengglobal dengan Pengarang Buku 'Bright Eyes', Brea Olivia Salim
Brea Salim during her book launch at Books&Beyond Lippo, Jakarta.

Q:  What’s the next chapter for you, since the book’s published?

A: I’ll actually be going back to school this fall, so feel free to contact me whenever you are in New York City! In the mean time, I would certainly like to keep writing. As I mentioned before, I have been writing for a couple of different publications for the past year at home on a number of different topics, such as food, politics and culture. Over the next few years I hope to narrow it down to a topic I feel really passionate about. A dream of mine would certainly be to write the stories of those who may not be brave enough to speak up. I recently read ‘Half the Sky’, where Pulitzer winning New York Times journalist Nicholas Kristof and his wife Sheryl WuDunn went around the world interviewing women who have been sexual abuse victims. I found that to be very inspiring, and hope that in the future I can follow in their footsteps, doing the same thing in Indonesia.

Q: Where can we find your book?

A: Bright Eyes is now available in Kinokuniya and Books&Beyond. In a few weeks, the book will also be available in Aksara and online bookstores! We are also on social media, please follow us for more updates on this. Our Instagram is @brighteyesbybreasalim and our Facebook is ‘Bright Eyes by Brea Salim’.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

A: Bright Eyes has been a very personal project for me from the very beginning, so if you do get a chance to read it, I would love to hear what you thought about it, whether that be through social media or via email (breaolivia@yahoo.com).


Photos supplied by author.

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Brea Salim spent her first fifteen years in Jakarta, Indonesia, before moving halfway around the world to Exeter, New Hampshire, where she enrolled in Phillips Exeter Academy, a prestigious boarding school made famous by alumni like Mark Zuckerberg, Dan Brown and John Irving. Brea was the only Indonesian student during her three years there and was the seventh Indonesian to graduate from Exeter when she completed her studies in June 2012. Brea then moved again to NYC, where she enrolled in Barnard College, the women's college of Columbia University, intending to pursue an Economics degree. Brea is also the author of ‘Bright Eyes’, a compilation of Brea’s written works during her time at Exeter. Previously, Brea's work has been published in various publications, such as the Jakarta Post, the Jakarta Globe and Jakarta Java Kini. You can read about her gap year adventures at homefortheyear.wordpress.com. If you are interested in reaching her, feel free to email breaolivia@yahoo.com, or if you would like to find out more about her book, check out: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bright-Eyes-by-Brea-Salim/511794815605846 or follow @brighteyesbybreasalim on Instagram!


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