Sunday June 10, 2012
Local fiction’s best
By SHARMILLA GANESAN
These are the fiction titles nominated for the only Malaysian literary award that honours local authors.
AUTHOR Jonathan Safran Foer once said: “(The past) is always along the side of us ... on the inside, looking out.” It is perhaps for this reason that we are so drawn to stories from our past; whether personal anecdotes or historical events, these happenings are undeniably a part of who we are today.
This year’s nominees in the fiction category of the Popular-The Star Readers’ Choice Awards are no exception.
Kamsiah M. Bostock’s Malacca: A Romance is set in Malacca during Portuguese rule, while Bitter-Sweet Harvest by Chan Ling Yap explores the racial conflict of 1969. Paul Callan’s The Dulang Washer, meanwhile, unfolds in a Perak tin-mining camp in 1890, while Daphne Lee reaches even further into the past to reimagine local myths and legends Malaysian Tales: Retold & Remixed.
Being the 10 bestselling books in Popular and Harris bookstores last year, these nominees are truly a reflection of what Malaysians are reading. From the award’s inception in 2008, Popular and Star Publications (M) Bhd have aimed to encourage local authors and increase their visibility. As the only local literary award that rewards Malaysian authors, it also aspires to bring the local literary scene to a higher level.
Furthermore, the award hopes to encourage Malaysians to read more by incorporating the “Read to Vote, Vote to Win” component, where readers can determine the winners of the award through voting; simply submit your top three favourite titles from the list of nominees for both the fiction and non-fiction categories.
By voting, you also stand the chance of being one of the 100 readers who will receive a RM50 Popular gift voucher, a one-year-free-membership Popular card, and a book hamper worth RM100. Meanwhile, the top three authors in each category will be rewarded with cash, trophies and certificates of recognition.
To vote, go to popular.com.my or bookfestmalaysia.com. You can also fill in the form in Star2 and either post it in or drop it off at any Popular or Harris store. Forms are also available at all Popular and Harris bookstores around the country. You can send as many forms as you wish.
To vote via SMS; read the instructions at the top of the lists in the form carefully. (Remember the slogan, or you will be disqualified!)
The deadline for all submissions is July 1, 2012.
For those who haven’t read all the nominated books, here’s an introduction to the titles in the fiction category. (Look out for our introduction of the non-fiction nominees next week.) And if we’ve convinced you to pick up a few of them, you can get each of the 20 titles at a 20% discount at Popular and Harris bookstores nationwide from now until Sept 23, 2012.
Hotel Tales: Go behind the glamorous walls of hotels with this motley collection of tales that amuse, inspire, startle and sometimes even horrify, handpicked from true personal recollections of industry insiders. Giving you a peek at everything from what a trashed hotel room looks like to the lengths the staff go to when serving dignitaries, you will never look at a hotel the same way again.
Hanley Chew started his career in a travel agency and then went on to an airline, giving him ample opportunity to travel and amass experiences. His career then led him to working with some of the biggest hotel chains, putting him in the unique position of having a behind-the-scenes view of the industry. With his book, he hopes to dispel the myth that working in the hospitality industry merely involves wining, dining, grooming and smiling.
4...5...6: This intriguingly-titled tome tells the story of Li Lian, a young woman of Chinese descent brought up in the noble ways of the Malay community. The novel captures a time when community spirit transcended boundaries of race and religion, and kindness and selflessness paved the path to people of all races being unified.
Kuan Guat Choo is a retired nurse who served under the government in Penang and Johor. Currently residing in Penang, she finds writing to be both her passion and the answer to her quest for self-actualisation. This is her third nomination for the Reader’s Choice Awards; she was previously nominated for Mouse Clutching Winter Melon in 2009 and Or Rau in 2010.
Malaysian Tales: Retold & Remixed: Local folk tales and legends are given a contemporary twist by some of Malaysia’s best storytellers, where yarns like Si Tanggang and Puteri Gunung Ledang are retold to reflect Malaysian life both past and present. Familiar yet thought-provoking, the book features 16 classic stories reimagined by writers as diverse as Amir Muhammad, Preeta Samarasan and O Thiam Chin.
Daphne Lee is a writer and editor who has published six picture books as well as short stories in magazines and anthologies. Her column on children’s and young adult books appears weekly in The Star, and she runs reading initiatives for a local non-profit organisation. Daphne is also publishing editor for OneRedFlower Press, which specialises in Malaysian picture books.
Bitter-Sweet Harvest: Set during Malaysia’s racial conflict in 1969, this absorbing novel narrates the difficulties and tensions of a marriage between a Malay Muslim and a Chinese Christian. Evocative of the feel, colours and sounds of South-East Asia, the book takes the reader on a fascinating journey through contrasting cultures.
Chan Ling Yap is a Kuala Lumpur-born Malaysian who obtainned her PhD in Economics in England. She lectured at Universiti Malaya before joining the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation in Rome, where she worked for 19 years. Having written several technical books and academic papers, she wrote her first novel, Sweet Offerings, in 2009.
Melody Of Love & Other Stories: This collection of short stories examines human frailty and broken relationships. There is, however, always a glimmer of hope in every tale, as amidst thetragedy, adversity and sorrow, the author points to the omnipresence of the Creator in our lives.
Yeoh Gim Suan was influenced and inspired by her father, who was an English teacher, and began writing in her secondary school days. She wrote poems and short articles, some of which won her prizes. Her other works are Coffee Break Tales and Coffee Break Tales: The Sequel.
The Dulang Washer: Set in the tin-mining camps of Kinta Valley, Perak, in 1890, this story revolves around Aisha, a beautiful dulang washer who slaves away to support two families. Into her life comes Donald Redfern, overseer and the only European in the camp. The human contact and gestures of compassion Aisha offers the lonely, homesick man during their language lessons fan what is to become a dangerous obsession.
Paul Callan was born in Dublin, and fell in love with Malaysia after marrying his Ipoh-born wife. They now divide their time between homes in Kuala Lumpur and London. Having abandoned his hopes of becoming a novelist in his youth, Callan has finally achieved his dream. This is his debut novel.
The Female Cell: The first section of this collection of short stories comprises 12 works of fiction, while the second illustrates the author’s travels in countries like Egypt, Thailand, Turkey and the Philippines. Displaying a delightful sense of observation, humour and irony, the author’s writings on everyday details, like a lone bead on a necklace, an eccentric physics professor on a train, or the humidity of Malaysia, paint elegant portraits of human interactions.
Rumaizah Abu Bakar was born in Alor Setar, and started writing short stories and poems as a teenager. Having worked in public relations for more than 12 years, her prose first appeared in the 2007 volume News From
Home. This is her first book.
DUKE: Inspector Mislan & The DUKExpressway Murders: Picking up where The Yee Sang Murders left off, this whodunit once again features Inspector Mislan Latif and Sergeant Johan Kamarudin investigating what looks like an open-and-shut case: a married man and young female companion are found dead with gunshot wounds in a car locked from the inside, on the DUKExpressway leading out of the city during Ramadan.
Rozlan Mohd Noor was an officer with the Royal Malaysia Police for 11 years before he opted for a career in human resource management, and eventually started his own HR and security consultancy. He continues to be fascinated by crime scene investigations and the introduction of technology to the field.
Malacca: A Romance: This debut novel is set in Malacca after its fall in 1511 to the Portuguese, and conjures up a heady brew as East meets West and try to sort out how best to live and play together. Combining her rich descriptions with extensive knowledge of Malacca history, the author recreates the role of famed Portuguese apothecary Tome Pires, who, while collecting indigenous knowledge on spices, herbs, cures and love potions, listens in on colourful local tales.
Kamsiah M. Bostock is a business maverick turned author who used her years of research into Malacca’s glorious past into a fascinating novella. She divides her time between Kuala Lumpur and Melbourne, where her husband Peter Bostock is based.
The Amok Of Mat Solo: Earthy yet scathing, this is an expansion of the author’s The Ballad Of Mat Solo, a poem first published in 1987. A dark play about a Malay academic who veers into the state of “amok” after becoming increasingly alienated from those close to him, this is a searingly tragic tale of a man’s mental breakdown, told with no-holds-barred honesty.
Salleh Ben Joned, born in Malacca, spent many years in Australia, where he became a student of leading poet James McAuley. His first collection of bilingual poetry, Sajak-Sajak Salleh, was published in 1987, followed by a book of essays, As I Please (1994) and Nothing Is Sacred (2003).
■ The Popular-The Star Readers’ Choice Awards 2012 are a precursor to BookFest@Malaysia 2012, which will be held at Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre from Aug 18-26. Admission is with purchase of the BookFest Catalogue (RM2.50 each), which will be available at all Popular and Harris bookstores closer to the event’s opening date. Entry is free for students aged 18 and below, and senior citizens aged 60 and above. For more information, visit bookfestmalaysia.com
1. Hotel Tales by Hanley Chew
2. 4...5...6 by Kuan Guat Choo
3. Malaysian Tales: Retold & Remixed by Daphne Lee
4. Bitter-Sweet Harvest by Chan Ling Yap
5. Melody Of Love & Other Stories by Yeoh Gim Suan
6. The Dulang Washer by Paul Callan
7. The Female Cell by Rumaizah Abu Bakar
8. DUKE: Inspector Misla & The DUKExpressway Murders by Rozlan Mohd Noor
9. Malacca: A Romance by Kamsiah M. Bostock
10. The Amok Of Mat Solo by Salleh Ben Joned
1. A Doctor In The House by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad
2. Teohlogy by Patrick Teoh
3. Notes To The Prime Minister by Wong Sulong
4. Kopitiam Chit Chat by Peggy Tan Pek Tao
5. Unmistakably Chinese, Genuinely Malaysian by Rita Sim
6. Patriots & Pretenders: The Malayan Peoples’ Independence Struggle by Kua Kia Soong
7. A Map Of Trengganu by Awang Goneng
8. Found In Malaysia (Vol. 2) by The Nut Graph
9. Coming Of Age: A Decade Of Essays 2001-2011 by Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad
10. Growing Up With Ghosts by Bernice Chauly