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Blank Slates

My birthday came and went. Birthdays hit me hard. This year, people were very kind. I have many thank you notes to write, but I haven't yet.

Every year is another reminder of things I haven't done. I know I've said this many times over the years. I apologize if I repeated myself again.

I'm currently working on two projects. The first, which I call my Aisha novel, is a high fantasy based roughly on the historical Aisha, and very much a result of reading Nadia Abott's remarkably concise Aishah the Beloved of Mohamed and Leila Ahmed's Women and Gender in Islam. The second is my biography. That seems like such an exercise in vanity, to write one's own biography. The idea has been around for a while. Occasional acquiantances have suggested it, often half-jokingly. I laughed them off. I've only thought about it seriously, on and off, for around two years. I think the real problem is that when I was younger, I talked far too much about myself. Now, I feel self-conscious when I do. How much more sympathy do I want to milk out of people? That is selfish, and writing about my earliest childhood, privileged, spoiled, in my country's boom time, feels incomprehensibly self-centred.

Part of the reason why I would attempt anything like this at all is because for at least the last handful of years, I have picked up the newspaper on Malaysia, and the more I hear about my country, the less I recognise it. It took many years to be even able to do that -- read about my country, try to reconnect with it. I've been away so long. When I speak to my family, the things they tell me are at once frightening and tragic. None of us can remember this country, even as we walk in it. It's as though, of everything we recongnised, of the neighbourly spirit and willingness people once had to tolerate, even understand each other, only the very faintest overlays remain. Malaysia, in these years, is at a brittle point. And so, because the only thing I can do is write, I have questions to ask myself, and of others, do we remember this country we once lived in? Was it something we all imagined? Is it gone forever?

I feel that I had a very blessed childhood, but I have done a great many things I shouldn't have. My parents certainly deserve a child more in keeping with their wishes. But though they themselves had to make many selfish choices, the core values they raised me with, particularly the bridges they built on firstly, my approach to the spirit, and secondly, the abundance of kindness and tolerance only a mixed-racial family can ever produce, are things I associate with what I remember of the good in Malaysian society. These are things that, I fear that unless I put them to writing, risk being forgotten.

I only hope I do not make a pretentious mess of it.

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
resonant
Oct. 21st, 2011 10:01 am (UTC)
I for one would gladly read your biography.
chollythepinker
Oct. 22nd, 2011 07:23 pm (UTC)
If you fear making a pretentious mess of it, you probably won't. It's usually the ones that don't even consider that they might make a pretentious mess that actually do.
The only thing that would worry me is that Malaysia is apparently at a cusp where they could become an extremist state and if you write the nakedly honest book that I believe you would, you very well could become the target of one or more of the extremists.
scanner_darkly
Oct. 25th, 2011 06:12 pm (UTC)
Echoing others' comments, yeah. I think there's some fears it will dredge up some memories, and some comments/encouragement I won't make in public, but I think it's a good thing in general, at least to start, and take stock of. I think if you found a way to write it and got to the end, you'd find that people found your story worth reading, but you need to get there first.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )