Bernice Chauly writes beautifully. One example:
"I have long memories of rain. Soft tropical showers, majestic, thunderous storms, and itinerant drizzles, which would come and go for hours, days. The Malaysian monsoon is a vehement creature, powerful and glorious, yet tender enough to soothe one into the most delicious of sleeps. This is how I remember the rains. My childhood came with the rains."
On the back cover, a reviewer remarked that "Once We Were There is as Malaysian as Teh Tarik - sweet, dark and a jolt to the senses." My problem with the book was that it portrayed a Malaysia that I could not relate to. This isn't necessarily a bad thing - after all, if people only read fiction based on worlds that they knew and loved, life would get very boring very fast. And, to be fair, I did enjoy reading the story and appreciated the points it made. I just found the characters a tad too pretentious.
Short summary: The book tells a complicated tale of love, human trafficking, substance abuse, family, and transgender rights. It's about the life of a journalist named Delonix Regia in Kuala Lumpur circa 1998. This is the only work of fiction that I've read based around the Reformasi movement so it was an interesting peek into the lives of political activists at the time. The best theme throughout the book: unlike the quintessentially Malaysian way of categorizing everybody, nobody in Del's world really fit neatly into a box. And that made everything so much more fun.
I've decided to give each book I review a jasmine-flower-AKA-bunga-melati-emoji rating. This one gets a:
It's been awhile since my last blog post and about 2.5 months since I've returned home. I am enjoying the heat and warmth and being wrapped in a blanket of humidity - I've never really been a fan of cold weather. The rainy season also brings back childhood memories from long ago, which I welcome.
I have since presented my research project on assessing the impact of language interventions on the refugee population in Malaysia to various organizations and potential donors. I am very hopeful and thankful for all the support and feedback that I have received so far. Onwards and upwards!
I don't have that much time every day outside of my job and family obligations, but I have been trying very hard to read more, which goes along with trying to write more as well. I spent quite a lot of time in college intending to be a Creative Writing major - at one point, my goal was to get an MFA in fiction after graduation. Well, it turns out that all roads lead to PhDs in Economics! Haha. I am sometimes (not always!) wistful of the time when I could just sit down at the college library and write pages and pages of stories. Like any other skill, if you don't keep up with your writing, you lose your ability to do it well. So here's my 10809th attempt to keep on writing.
I have decided to keep track of the books that I've read, write down a very short summary for each one, and choose one passage from the book that resonated the most with me. I hope this serves as an incentive for me to keep on reading, and perhaps somebody out there will find the passages mildly interesting.
"The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" is a story about Henrietta Lacks, an African-American woman who died in the 1950s from cervical cancer while seeking treatment at Johns Hopkins. Her "immortal cells" were the first to be cultivated for the use of medical research but the doctors who took her cells never obtained her or her family's consent to do so. Her cells have since been extensively used in medical research and have aided in the development of many medical breakthroughs, one of the most notable being the development of the polio vaccine. Henrietta's own family was not aware of the importance of her cells and their commercialization until almost 20 years later and never received a single cent of payment from anybody, despite the fact that her cells (HeLa cells) were mass produced and sold to researchers. The book interweaves stories from Henrietta's personal life and those of her descendants with the medical/scientific breakthroughs surrounding the HeLa cells in the past 60+ years.
In the following passage, Lawrence and Sonny are Henrietta's sons and Bobette is Lawrence's wife:
Sitting in Lawrence's living room, Sonny and Bobette yelled back and forth for nearly an hour about Hopkins snatching black people. Eventually, Sonny leaned back in his chair and said, "John Hopkin didn't give us no information about anything. That was the bad part. Not the sad part, but the bad part, cause I don't know if they didn't give us information because they was making money out of it, or if they was just wanting to keep us in the dark about it. I think they made money out of it, cause they were selling their cells all over the world and shipping them for dollars."
"Hopkins say they gave them cells away," Lawrence yelled, "but they made millions! It's not fair! She's the most important person in the world and her family living in poverty. If our mother is so important to science, why can't we get health insurance?"
Retroactive flower rating: (01/03/2018)