Sunday January 6, 2013
Time to go local and regional
TOTS TO TEENS By DAPHNE LEE
HAPPY 2013, people!
How many books did you read in 2012 and how many are already on your 2013 reading list?
To my horror, I see that I read only 50 books last year. I read 55 in 2011 and 111 in 2010 so it looks I’m reading less with each passing year. Still, at least only seven of the 50 were re-reads.
However, I’m dismayed to see that I only read five books by Malaysian authors and one, Spider Boys, by the Singaporean Ming Cher. I thought I’d managed more than that. The Malaysian authors were national laureate Abdullah Hussain (a rather clunky Institut Terjemahan & Buku Malaysia translation of his 1971 novel, Interlok), Tan Twan Eng (the 2012 Booker Prize-shortlisted The Garden Of Evening Mists, which I enjoyed much more than his debut, The Gift Of Rain), and venerable authors like Lloyd Fernando (Green Is The Colour, 1993) and K.S. Maniam (The Return, 1981) as well as new writer, Golda Mowe (Iban Dream).
I also read Frank Swettenham’s A Nocturne And Other Malayan Stories And Sketches (1993) – a book I think all Malaysian students should be encouraged to read alongside their history of Malaya textbooks (are they still reading about the history of Malaya?) and Malaysian Fables, Folk Tales And Legends (1901), as transcribed/translated by Walter Skeat, which is the fourth in Silverfish Books’ excellent Malaysian Classics series.
There was a time when almost everything I read was written by dead (or quite nearly dead) white women. The above list was my attempt to read more local writers and also books with local and regional settings.
One of my resolutions for 2013 is to read more local and regional books, especially novels, short stories, chapter books and picture books. I also hope to read translated works (e.g. Scholastic’s Bahasa Melayu version of The Hunger Games, scheduled to be released early this year) and books in BM.
I think one way to encourage more Malaysians to write stories is to ensure that what is already available is given visibility. We need more honest and critical reviews of local and regional work; we need more interviews of local and regional authors; we need bookstores to give more space and prominence to our own writers and books; we need to organise and support local book events.
I’m going to try to do my part – with this column and also with a new online magazine called Local. Hopefully, you’ll see more Malaysian and regional authors and illustrators featured here in the form of interviews and reviews. And stay tuned for more about Local.
Once again, Happy 2013, and may this year be another book- and reading-filled one.
■ Daphne Lee reads to wonder and wander, be amazed and amused, horrified and heartened and inspired and comforted. She wishes more people will try it too. Send e-mails to the above address and check out her blog at daphne.blogs.com/books.