Our News in Pictures


Posted @withregram • @letmereadthis First #DeepDiveLSBC experience with the wonderful @literasea.Bookclub folks (in Nov). We discussed Iban Woman by Golda Mowe capturing the Iban people’s experience in Sarawak Malaysia and Borneo. Steeped in Iban culture and spirituality, we follow Ratai, a woman who defies standard conventions. Adept in the domain of hunting and battle, but weak in the traditional “female-dominated” realm of weaving or rice-planting, Ratai faces her own challenges of coming to terms with her natural inclinations. Why was she made this way? Why couldn’t she be “like other people”; people who fit neatly within a pre-confined box?
On first read, this felt like a conventional narrative of a woman who refused to stick by traditional gender norms. Ratai is loud when femininity is soft, and more comfortable with weapons than she is with weaver’s tools. But this is a false conclusion. We noted an equal weight and importance given to weaving and dyeing versus the skills of war. Both are equally “dangerous and strenuous”, but they are not the same skills. Such a refreshing perspective to a pervasive cultural narrative elsewhere where ‘feminine’ skills are at times perceived as less valuable.
This isn’t a book I will usually pick up and I’m grateful for the opportunity to explore beyond my comfort zone! I appreciated the rich homage and representation of Iban culture in prose; with a deep emphasis on spirituality, gods and community. I loved the nagayap courtship rituals described in the book - so interesting to see how courtship is done in other cultures beyond our own. Also noteworthy was the practice of bejalai; where an Iban departs their longhouse to acquire knowledge, skills and prestige from the wider world. They then bring it back to their longhouse, which enables them to evolve to adapt to modern culture today. But therein lies the struggle of choosing which cultural elements to preserve and which modern elements to adopt. (Cont in comments) #monsoonbooks

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Meet author Sue Paul on Zoom as she talks about researching the extraordinary life of Captain Thomas Bowrey, a 17th/18th-century maritime trader in Southeast Asia and the author of the first English-Malay dictionary, whose papers lay undisturbed for 200 years.

11.30am (UK) / 7.30pm (Malaysia), Monday 1 March 2021

All welcome. Register at https://tinyurl.com/y9knjw5l

#monsoonbooks #biography #meettheauthor #malaysia #penang #authorevent #malaysianhistory

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Posted @withregram • @be_yourshelf Iban Woman tales the story of a heroine, Ratai, who becomes warrior and headhunter that represents her people and to avenge her loved one. It expands my knowledge on the status of women in the aboriginal group of Iban as this book explores in depth the topic of whether Iban maintains a patriarchal or matriarchal structure in their society.

From what I've observed in this story, men have more say in managing household, hunting and war. Good hunter will be highly respected by their people and shouldered the duty to lead the rest.

On the other hand, the reputation of an Iban woman is built on her skills in planting, weaving as well as whether her suitor continues to court her until they marry. With such interesting premises, the clashes between Ratai's personality as a lover of freedom and the traditional societal Iban values add powerful ambience to the overall story. This plot-driven story reminds me of Mulan to some extent.

I enjoyed the meticulous account of Iban cultures and mythology so much here. It's like the expanded fictionalised story of what I've learned from my highschool textbook. Also, Iban Woman teaches me about a new way to think about feminism. We often see from contemporary social media that the leading women must be strong and women with such personality will be regarded as more superior than the soft feminine females. I think the author observes such a scenario in our society nowadays and put forward a meaningful argument in the thought process of Ratai that both types of women should be deemed as equal and none of them should be deemed as inferior than each other: "She had grown up believing that weaving and planting were inferior to hunting. But now, sitting before the goddess, she realised that her role as a woman was to support life, to grow life. Planting, birthing and weaving were in no way inferior to any other role."

The execution of this story is absorbing and insightful. It is a meaningful novel that provides useful knowledge on the Iban culture. 4.5🌟

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Posted @withregram • @be_yourshelf Cocos Keeling Island, the only Muslim island in Australia. To be honest, I didn’t even know the existence of Cocos Keeling Island before reading Nigel Barley’s The Man Who Collected Women.

The Man that collected women here is the infamous Alexander Hare (based on true historical figure). Being an English Merchant adventurer in nineteenth century and with the establishment of his trading houses in India and Indonesia, he took the chance to exploit local women in South East Asia region and collected female slaves as his harem. Due to his controversial lifestyle as a polygamous man and political tension between Dutch and British, he was forced to leave Borneo by the British authority. Hare and his concubines, mostly Malay decent and a number of Chinese, Papuan and Indian heritage settled in a remote island and became the first settlers of Cocos Keeling Island.

Well I appreciate the steep and specific coverage of Hare as the historical figure that briefly gained his fame during 1810s, I feel that the overall characterisation is flat though readable. Overall, 3🌟.

“How had Hare become such an avid collector in the first place? He found himself attracted by different features in many different women yet despaired of finding perfection in any single individual, so that his collection was a sort of jigsaw composite person. Or perhaps it was the equivalent of the rijsttafel, invented by the Dutch, who- when faced with the overwhelming story of traditional Asian food - create a meal that consisted of dozens of little dishes, all different and so removed the need for a definitive choice that would have reduced it to a proper meal of meat and two vege.”

Thank you for the review copy @monsoonbooks ! @wayanmelayu

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Happy Chinese New Year 🧧 新年快乐 Wishing everyone a healthy, wealthy and wise Year of the Ox full of pineapple tarts and peanut cookies. #cny #chinesenewyear #新年快乐 #monsoonbooks ...

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Fiction set in Papua New Guinea, Kiribati (Gilbert Islands), Japan and Australia.

In 1943 on Bougainville Island, New Guinea, a Japanese officer beheads Hugh Rand, an Australian spy — a coast watcher. The spectators include villagers he terrorised as his mind frayed under the stress of pursuit by soldiers and their hounds.

Rand’s influence transcends his death. For decades he plagues characters who strive to cope with him and one another in New Guinea, the Gilbert Islands, Australia and Japan. Who misperceives? Lies? Self-destructs? Suffers? Loves? The layers unfold as the author entices us through cultural, historical and intellectual curtains, deep into minds and relationships disturbed by the Pacific war and Rand’s legacy.

“Tough issues explored with pinpoint accuracy … erudite in its exploration of unusually difficult issues and ideas … [English’s] greatest achievement is to have sat convincingly inside the heads of his principal characters, including the Tolai women, and relayed their most sensitive innermost feeling and thoughts” Robert Forster in PNG Attitude

“English tackles tough questions about war … the question whether those who survived will ever cease to be haunted is left open.” Susan Blumberg-Kason in Asian Review of Books

Available from leading stores in Australia, UK, USA, SE Asia and from Monsoon Books.

#papuanewguinea #bouganville #kiribati

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Zoom with the Author - Rosie Milne
2 February 2021 (Tuesday)
3pm to 4pm (KL time)
(meeting opens at 2.45pm)
Organizer: Spiral Synergy Events, Penang

What happens when an adoring young bride is met on the doorstep of her new home by her husband’s former mistress? Frank, Rose and Nony are about to find out.

It is 1924 and the British rule Malaya. Frank is a colonial administrator in a remote district deep in the jungle. Rose is the innocent young bride he’s just brought out from England. Nony is the native mistress he’d previously abandoned, along with their four children.

Join us as Singapore-based author Rosie Milne talks about her inspiration for "Circumstance: Truth & Lies in the Malayan Jungle" and also her previous novel "Olivia & Sophia" the (fictional) diaries of the wives of Stamford Raffles!

Email info@spiralsynergy.com to register.

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Good to see Periplus bookstore open in Soekarno–Hatta International Airport Terminal 3.
Posted @withregram • @periplus_t3inter Mataram a novel by Tony Reid
Contact our knowledgeable and helpful staffs for fast respond, fast delivery and easy payment without hidden cost.
#newyear #periplus #huntingperiplus #book #importedbook #bibliophile #bookworm #booksniffer #bibliomania #tsundoku #biblioarti #Indonesia #BuyBooksfromHome #Discounts #Allowances #Diskon #FreeOngkir #DoubleDeals #Gopay #Dana #BCA #Octoclicks #stayathome

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‘Tough issues explored with pinpoint accuracy ... erudite in its exploration of unusually difficult issues and ideas,’ writes journalist Robert Forster of ‘Death of a Coast Watcher’ by Anthony English in ‘PNG Attitude’. ‘[English’s] greatest achievement is to have sat convincingly inside the heads of his principal characters, including the Tolai women, and relayed their most sensitive innermost feeling and thoughts ... Later this year I intend to read his book a second time and digest its many messages at a slower pace. “Death of a Coast Watcher” deserves it.’
Read the full review in PNG Attitude. https://www.pngattitude.com
#png #papuanewguinea #monsoonbooks #bouganville #kiribati @anthony_tony_english

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Congratulations to author George Quinn, whose book “Bandit Saints of Java: How Java’s eccentric saints are challenging fundamentalist Islam in modern Indonesia” has just won the nonfiction award at the ACT book awards in Canberra, Australia.

2020 Nonfiction Award Winner George Quinn for Bandit Saints of Java (Monsoon Books)

Java’s pilgrimage culture is a dense, batik-like pattern of contradictions: seriousness collides with laughter; curiosity with bewilderment; piety with scepticism; intense spirituality with, in some places, the joy of shopping.

The pilgrimage culture on the island of Java in Indonesia – the world’s largest Muslim country – is a rebuke to the conservative orthodoxy that has been gaining ground in Indonesia’s religious landscape since the 1980s. In the rhetoric of this orthodoxy the “real” Islam is pure and exclusive. Piety comes from obedience to religious authority and its rules. Local pilgrimage is anything but pure and exclusive or rigidly authoritarian. It is powerfully Islamic but it fuses Islam with local history, the ancient power of place and a pastiche of devotional practices with roots deep in the pre-Islamic past. Quietly but tenaciously – just outside the great echo chamber of public space – it is growing as fast as the higher profile neo-orthodoxy.

Bandit Saints of Java delves deep under the surface of modern Indonesia, exploring personalities and stories in the weird world of local pilgrimage, where Middle Eastern Islam wrestles with the ancient power of Javanese civilisation. It paints an astonishing portrait of Islam as it is practised today – largely invisible to journalists, scholars and tourists – by many of Java’s 130 million people.

#monsoonbooks #indonesia #java #islam #islamindonesia #nonfiction #awardwinning #australia

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Posted @withregram • @gerakbudayabookshop A RIDDLE WRAPPED IN AN ENIGMA: FREE BOOKS

It bears repeating that the past nine months have not been kind to the book trade. But amid the closures, redundancies, heartache, there have also been acts of kindness, of solidarity. So we are able to make a very special offer thanks to the generosity of Leslie Lim of Pansing, one of our enduring supporters, and Phil Tatham, publisher at @monsoonbooks. They have gifted us thirty mystery packages – books wrapped neatly in old copies of Mekong Review. We have no idea what each package contains.

➽ So here's the deal: spend RM100 in the bookshop or through an online order and you get a FREE book package. Can't say fairer than that.

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Good to see @booksactually is up and running in it’s new home and is selling Singapore author Rosie Milne’s two works of fiction set in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia: “Olivia & Sophia” (fictionalised diaries of Raffles’ two wives) and “Circumstance” (historical romance with a twist). Both make great Xmas presents! Posted @withregram • @kenny.leck WWW.BOOKSACTUALLYSHOP.COM ...

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In post-WWII Laos, Vietnamese communists secretly commence to infiltrate the kingdom. They are countered by four dedicated Lao ‘moles’ who try to thwart these aims. Gurkha Colonel Jason Rance is unwittingly dragged into a confrontation between one of the Lao moles and a Thai spy and the mole gives him a ring as a reward for saving his life. During his appointment in Laos as military attaché, Rance becomes a target of the KGB and of the Vietnamese communists, and is sought by the remaining three Lao moles because of the ring in his possession.
Rance’s two Lao language instructors are nieces of the Lao king and London hopes that, by stealth, Rance might, through them, persuade the king delay his coronation no further in an effort to prevent the spread of communism southwards. Can the new military attaché manage to do the seemingly impossible?
Based on historical fact and the author’s personal experience, Operation Stealth is the fourth in a series of books involving Gurkha military units that may be read in any order and includes Operation Black Rose, Operation Janus, Operation Blind Spot and Operation Four Rings. The author, JP Cross, a much revered retired Gurkha colonel, draws on real characters and events he witnessed across various theatres of war.
Available from leading bookstores. #monsoonbooks #militaryfiction #laos #vietnam #vietnamwar

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Makcik Maryam once again investigates murder in a small Kelantan town. Someone has been killed at a top-spinning contest, hit by a gasing, a heavy metal spinning top, that had no business flying as it did according to all laws of physics. Malaysia’s most famous female amateur sleuth suspects not only foul play, but black magic, and is determined to rid Kelantan of the source of evil. Join Makcik Maryam in her fifth adventure assisting the Kota Bharu Police Department, or vice versa, in “Spinning Top”, the latest in the award-winning Kain Songket Mysteries series. Available from leading bookstores. #kelantan #kotabharu #malaysia #malaysianliterature #detectivefiction ...

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Head over to the Singapore Writers Festival bookstore to watch an interview with Professor John D. Greenwood, author of newly released “Hungry Ghosts”, volume 3 in the Singapore Saga, a series of historical fiction that spans the first 100 years of Singapore. #swf2020 #monsoonbooks ...

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Posted @withregram • @booksandlibri #readingtheworld 25. 🇧🇳Brunei Darussalam
K. H. Lim, Written in Black
Jonathan's grandfather is dead and the whole family reunites to celebrate the traditional Chinese funeral rites. The shock and the contrasts with the cousins, aunts and uncles, are the last drops for the young boy's already shaken mind. His mother has gone away and doesn't want to speak to him and his brother was kicked out of home and is now living with a rockband! He has to flee to find him and thus talk to her. And grandpa's coffin seems the only way to do it.

#leggereilmondo 25. 🇧🇳Brunei Darussalam
K. H. Lim, *Scritto in nero*
Il nonno di Jonathan è morto e tutta la famiglia si riunisce per celebrare i tradizionali riti funebri cinesi. Ma lo shock e i contrasti con i cugini, zie e zii, sono le fatidiche gocce che fanno traboccare il vaso per la mente già scossa del bambino. Sua madre se n'è andata e non vuole parlargli, mentre suo fratello è stato cacciato di casa e ora vive con un gruppo rock! Jonathan deve fuggire per trovarlo e così riuscire parlare con la mamma. E la bara del nonno sembra l'unico modo per farlo.


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