A mosaic of stories about state- and self-imposed silence and what it means to find your voice.
The 14 stories in Chin’s debut collection are centered around Malaysia: the people, culture, and country. Interconnected (sometimes loosely, sometimes overtly) by characters, the stories also share themes like patriotism, censorship, personhood, and art as protest. In “When Starbucks Came,” a woman contemplates her unfulfilling relationship in the wake of the coffee chain's opening a store in Taiping. In “A Malaysian Man in Mayor Bloomberg’s Silicon Alley,” a young man living in America returns home to vote and struggles with his dueling identities. When asked by the American woman he’s dating for one thing only true Malaysians would know, he replies: “we either think we are the best country in the world, or the worst country in the world.” These stories exist in the gray area in between. Corruption and state violence exist in the same world as forbidden family stories and “rain-betting.”Isabella Sin, who serves as the throughline for the collection, is first introduced in “Though She Gets Home” when she goes to her first protest and is later arrested for writing “inflammatory…pornographic” poems. An unexpected twist slowly revealed over the course of a few stories leads to the final tale, “So She Gets Home,” which sees Isabella home from the “country’s most notorious prison.” In the wake of her detainment, she is trying to navigate the Venn diagram of her identity: how others define her and how she defines herself. The idea of becoming who she is meant to be leaves the sometimes-devastating book on a hopeful note.
A haunting, surprising, and rebellious collection that contains multitudes.