Truly Malaysian Stories
Good Reads To Celebrate Malaysia
Hungry for some good stories that are truly Malaysian? Well, what better time to appreciate these good (and important) reads than on the month we celebrate a new Malaysia! As usual, we have done the work so you can #KeepCalmAndRead.
1. The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds by Selina Siak Chin Yoke
As captivating as the title, this book is based on the increasing challenges of a modernising world, one that is evidently dominated by Western influence. A rebellious young girl, Chye Hoon, juggles between embracing her mixed Malayan-Chinese identity as a Nyonya and her destiny as a cook. As the story progresses and she finally appreciates the richness of her tradition, she is then confronted with the challenges of preserving her heritage. This story will resonate with those with an affinity for the Malaysian culture.
2. KL Noir Series by Amir Muhammad
Well, this one is for those who prefer bite size reads. KL Noir is a collection of short stories and they come in four different volumes. They delve deep into Malaysian capital city’s dark side. These stories are made to spook you and leave you contemplating about what’s real and what’s not. Rest assured, they are fictional. Or are they?
3. Once We Were There by Bernice Chauly
No doubt, this title has seen a fair share of controversy from its gritty and mature theme but if every cloud has a silver lining, this one is worth its weight in gold. Set during the Reformasi movement which started in 1998, journalist Delonix Regia finds love when she meets the poised Omar. It could have just been a grand romance amidst the roiling city but the author took a bold step in breaking every taboo known in books for Malaysians. Issues regarding race, religion, politics and even corruption were brought forth as the daughter of Delonix and Omar was kidnapped, and the two were awoken by the realization that children are taken and trafficked.
4. The Harmony Silk Factory by Tash Aw
Despite its amicable title, this one sure threw us a curveball as the story spirals into a web of deceit and clandestine criminality. Outwardly, Johnny Lim is a proud owner of a successful textile store located in Kinta Valley and a hero to the people for fighting against the Japanese invasion. The little-known fact is that, he is a crook and his factory is merely a front for his illegal businesses. The author had done an impeccable job in unveiling the truth about Johnny through the narratives of his son, Jasper, his best friend and Englishman, Peter, as well as through his wife’s diary entries.
5. Five Star Billionaire by Tash Aw
Now the story in this one isn’t exactly set in Malaysia but boy does it have much to offer. It tells the story of four Malaysians who are trying to make it in Shanghai after being bought by the promises of a new life. Phoebe is a village girl who has arrived in Shanghai on the broken promise of a new job. Gary is a former pop star who had a fallout and is reduced to singing in malls. Justin is a desperate businessman, hoping to regain his family’s lost fortune. And finally there’s Yinghui, a successful businesswoman who is being led to believe that she is only truly successful if she has a man. What makes matters more interesting is that, the thread that connects these characters are being woven by a mysterious figure, Walter Chao.
6. The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng
Although critical acclaim does not sway us in our recommendations, this title sure deserves every good review it received. Set in Penang during the chaos of World War II, it tells the story of Philip Hutton, a mixed English-Chinese teen who is under the tutelage of a Japanese diplomat. The story took a turn however, when the Japanese invade Malaya, forcing Philip to decide if he should remain loyal to his teacher who may or may not be harbouring a disturbing secret.
7. The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng
This is undeniably another quality writing by the author. The story tells of a newly retired Supreme Court Judge Teoh Yun Ling who lost her sister during the Japanese occupation of Malaya and has decided to fulfill a promise made to her late sister: to build a Japanese garden in their Kuala Lumpur home. In her effort, she meets a former gardener of the Japanese Emperor and becomes his apprentice. The story is bound to draw you in with drama and appeal that rivals the very beauty of the recurring representation of the entire piece: a Japanese garden.