A fictionalized memoir depicts an Indonesian child developing consciousness of activism on both local and global scales.
In episodic chapters, the narrator, born in Indonesia to an Indonesian father and a possibly American mother, recounts their upbringing in Indonesia and their growing awareness of activism against a corrupt authoritarian regime. (The narrator, possibly assumed to be the author, is never indicated by gendered pronoun and similarly does not mention any ethnic identity markers of their mother.) Nagara introduces young readers to many political concepts, including corruption, collusion, and nepotism, juxtaposed with dissidence, free speech, and populism. While those in power are mostly represented by the sinister, unnamed “Minister,” readers may infer the time period from the “NO KKN” slogan protesting the New Order of the Suharto period and mentions of the Soweto uprising in South Africa and activist groups such as the Black Panthers and the American Indian Movement in the United States. Nagara introduces broader concepts of diversity using the example of multicultural Indonesia, celebrating unity while not shying away from discrimination against the ethnic Chinese or those falling outside traditional gender roles. The extremely ambitious text sometimes feels disjointed, especially within the framework of a story that is not exactly true, though is still a powerful narrative that encourages long-term awareness, work, sacrifice, and patience in order to effect change for all people.
Inspiring. (Fiction/memoir. 9-13)