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Centre for Stories

Indonesian Book Club – Cigarette Girl

A book club interested in elevating public perceptions of Indonesia and it's rich tradition of literature.

Sep 20, 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm

Centre for Stories

The Centre for Stories, in collaboration with the Consulate General of the Republic of Indonesia in Perth, is thrilled to announce the continuation of our popular monthly book club. Mark your calendars for the third Wednesday of each month as we gather for insightful discussions and delightful literary journeys.

One of the objectives of this book club is to elevate public perceptions of Indonesia and to develop a deeper understanding of the rich tradition of literature.

This month’s book is Cigarette Girl by Ratih Kumala.

Please note this event will be held at Centre for Stories.

Indonesian snacks and finger foods will be provided.


Savour the familiar scent of clove and tobacco … for this is the aroma of Indonesia’s history. Soeraja is dying. On his deathbed he calls for Jeng Yah, a woman who is not his wife. His three sons, Lebas, Karim and Tegar – heirs to Kretek Djagad Raja, Indonesia’s largest clove cigarette empire – are shocked, and their mother is consumed by jealousy. So begins the brothers’ search into the deepest recesses of Java for Jeng Yah, to fulfil their father’s dying wish and to learn the truth about the family business and its secrets. Cigarette Girl is more than just a love story and the soul-searching journey of three brothers. Set on the island of Java the story follows the evolution of a family’s kretek, or clove cigarette, business from its birth in the Dutch East Indies of the early 1940s, and it takes readers through three generations of Indonesian history, from the Dutch colonial era to the Japanese occupation, the struggle for independence and the bloody coup of 1965 in which half a million Indonesians were hunted down and killed. Rich in detail, with characters who struggle to right the wrongs of past generations, their relationships torn apart by the viciousness of revolution and politics, Cigarette Girl introduces readers to the history of Indonesia through clove cigarettes and unrequited love.

About the author

Ratih Kumala was born in Jakarta, 1980. Her first novel, Tabula Rasa (Grasindo 2004), won the 2003 Jakarta Arts Council Novel Writing Competition. She has also published other works such as Genesis (a novel, Insist Press, 2005), Larutan Senja (GPU 2006) or The Potion of Twilight (a collection of short stories, GPU 2018), Kronik Betawi (a novel, GPU 2009) and others. Gadis Kretek (GPU 2012) is her fifth literary work that was included in the Top 5 Prose Category of the Khatulistiwa Literary Award 2012 and was translated into Cigarette Girl by GPU in 2015. Apart from writing fiction, Ratih also writes screenplays for television and feature films. She currently lives in Jakarta.


Alberta Natasia Adji is a contemporary author living in Perth. She has published her short fiction in New Writing, Meniscusand The Incompleteness Book. Her current creative project is concerned with family history within a Chinese-Indonesian context and the genre of auto/biographical fiction.

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