Title: The Weight of Our Sky
Author: Hanna Alkaf
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mental Health
Published: 5 February 2019
Publisher: Salaam Reads
Trigger Warning: Graphic Violence, Death, Racism, OCD and Anxiety Triggers.
A music-loving teen with OCD does everything she can to find her way back to her mother during the historic race riots in 1969 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in this heart-pounding literary debut. Melati Ahmad looks like your typical moviegoing, Beatles-obsessed sixteen-year-old. Unlike most other sixteen-year-olds though, Mel also believes that she harbors a djinn inside her, one who threatens her with horrific images of her mother’s death unless she adheres to an elaborate ritual of counting and tapping to keep him satisfied. But there are things that Melati can’t protect her mother from.
On the evening of May 13th, 1969, racial tensions in her home city of Kuala Lumpur boil over. The Chinese and Malays are at war, and Mel and her mother become separated by a city in flames. With a 24-hour curfew in place and all lines of communication down, it will take the help of a Chinese boy named Vincent and all of the courage and grit in Melati’s arsenal to overcome the violence on the streets, her own prejudices, and her djinn’s surging power to make it back to the one person she can’t risk losing.
“Di mana bumi dipijak, di situ langit dijunjung. Have you heard of this before? It means where we plant our feet is where we must hold up the sky. We live and die by the rules of the land we live in. But this country belongs to all of us! We make our own sky, and we can hold it up—together.”
Oh. My. God.
This book is a very heavy read.😓 I knew it when I look at the blurb; what’s with the djinn and the 13th May incident—which is no alien to Malaysians. Before anything else though, I don’t usually read historical fiction but since this one caught my attention, it became one of my most anticipated read this year.‼️ Which I am really grateful to have the chance to read it.🌸
I was actually contemplating whether to write a blog review or just a mini review on Goodreads, because this book is so special to me but it also gave me a hard time to process all my thoughts about it into a page of review.🤯 But well, here we goes. I don’t know how to do this but I’ll try to talk about it one by one… I guess? 😶 But I warn you, this is going to be SO out of topic. 🙃
Melati who suffered from mental illness; OCD thought that she is possessed by a djinn. Djinn creature is not bizarre to me as a Muslim because we are taught about it in school—or religious school, I supposed. Melati is actually suffering from mental illness. I understand why she’d think a djinn is harboring in her and I understand why Mak Cik Siti is saying like that too. In fact, I can relate that because old people in my village will say that too. So, it’s very familiar to me.😬
They have this superstitious ‘thing’ about them and relate it with everything around them.😐 Trust me. Even when you got a cold from the rain, they’ll say something about bumping into some kind of ‘supernatural thing’.🙄 Old people here is so traditional, you know? So old-fashioned. You tell them about all those psychology things, they tell you you’re absurd and it’s all back to superstitious things.💆🏻♀️ This book is just very, very familiar to me. So, I get this book. I understand.
Next thing is about the riot. This one is what makes my heart flinched so hard it hurts.💔 I believe that all Malaysians know how tragic and brutal this incident was. It was an unforgettable history and a lesson to all of us Malaysians.🇲🇾 Whenever the teacher in my class mentioned about “Peristiwa 13 Mei”, it really gave a pang in my heart.💔😭 Not because I was sensitive about it—which actually is a sensitive issue—but because I’m just really emotional that, that happened to us.😔 It just… really affecting it some ways, you know? And I’m really, really glad that we don’t have to experienced that nowadays. At least, at where I live on this side of country, I’ve never experienced racism among us.
What I really like about this book is, the concept blends in all perfectly in one; the riot, the OCD and the music-loving character which is no other than Melati. 🕊 What I mean is that, the author did a great job of combining these concept in one book without making it feel off. It just… blends with everything. 💫
This is a heavy read, yes and this is also one heck of an emotional read, friends. It was worth it. 💯 It got me think, think, think all day long. My heart was in pain and I feel like something is grasping my chest very tight that I feel suffocate.☄️ And every time the proverb of “Di mana bumi dipijak, di situ langit dijunjung” is mentioned, it gets me goosebumps.😨 And I got teary too, to be honest….😢🙂
That’s the thing about Malay cultural contexts. They’re beautiful but they have a deep meaning behind it.🌹 They could mean advice, they could mean sarcasm and they could also mean praise. The meaning could be hidden and the meaning could be visible. We want to say something bad, we use it. It’s the courtesy of our culture. 🌺
Well, I think that’s it what I can say. It seems like I talk about more nonsense than about the book hahahah. But really, I’m just attaching everything I know since this book feels so close to home. 🇲🇾🌺
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Have you read this book? How do you feel about it? Let me know what you think! 🌺✨