I haven’t been writing for 3 days as I had been away for a meeting with my advisor. A bit of context: my doctoral programme is in a university 2 hours away from where I am based right now, so I normally spend at least 2 days in the city the university is in and it is usually a once in a month affair. I would normally fuss over the streak, but after days of intense meetings and catching up with friends, I was already too knackered to write.
In the meantime, my friend Hanna (Alkaf) just released her new book called The Weight of Our Sky and it just destroyed me — and this is a compliment. For long, Malaysian readers have been looking for some sort of representations of our kind in the international literary arena and now thanks to Hanna, here we are. The story revolves around Melati, a music-loving teen who suffers from OCD and anxiety, and her pursuit of finding her mother during the racial riots of May 1969.
Despite falling into a young adult genre and labeled for years 12 and above, TWOOS is a lot to digest. I could relate to the topic of loss and grief, of the overwhelming anxiety after losing a loved one and walking on eggshells over the fear of losing another (“ever since we got the call, ever since we buried my father, I dream endlessly of my mother’s death”), facing and breaking out of my own internalised prejudices within a multiracial country, interracial relationships, growing up listening to The Beatles, and some good ol’ Malaysian puns.
Di mana bumi dipijak, di situ langit dijunjung. Have you heard this before? It means where we plant our feet is where we must hold up the sky. We live and die by the rules of the land we live in. But this country belongs to all of us! We must make our own sky, and we must hold it up — together.
If you have never read anything Malaysian before, and would love to, you might want to start with Hanna’s The Weight of Our Sky.