Hey everyone! I’m back with a book review post after I’ve been MIA for the past five days. Two days long graduation ceremonies + slight fever really got the best of me. But, I’m so excited to share with you that I’ve got selected to be a part of The Weight of Our Sky’s SEA blog tour. This blog tour is specifically targeted bloggers with SEA backgrounds and here is the complete schedule of the blog tour, in case you want to check out everyone’s post!
The Weight of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf
Published by Salaam Reads on February 5, 2019. Classified as Historical Fiction. Received via NetGalley as an eARC.
Melati Ahmad has imagined her mother’s death countless times. Plagued by gruesome thoughts she believes are put into her head by a djinn, Melati has developed an intricate set of tapping rituals to tame the monster within and keep her mother safe.
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.
First of all, I’m not really a big fan of historical fiction. I’m having a hard time to enjoy and relate them, especially when I’m not familiar with the said historic event. Second of all, the moment I realized about the existence of this book, I was hype. The Weight of Our Sky is an extremely tough book, right from its first sentence. It’s not a light reading that you can enjoy underneath the sunshine with a glass of ice tea in your other hand (But if that’s how you read your book, then go ahead! Don’t mind me here!) However, Hanna Alkaf successfully brings out the ugly part of historical event in a form of beautifully crafted fiction and it was fascinating. The integration of cultural references, mental health representation and religious aspects made this book remarkable and won’t be very easy to forget.
All of the cultural references in this book made my Asian heart burst of happiness. I finally get to read something and relate to everything that mentioned. Even though I’m Indonesian, the similarity of Indonesian and Malaysian culture is very close, and to witness them throughout this story, it was truly an experience. Non-Asian readers might not notice these references since they’re tiny and seems like just a random explanation. Details such as going to market with your best friend after school and buy local snacks and ice-cold drinks because we’re living in a tropical country and it’s burning hot during the day, visiting small shops just for the heck out of it and not buying anything, Melati’s favorite food and drink, the mentioned of woman devil who sucks blood, and many more. All of these are something that I’m very familiar with. I grow up by actually experiencing these references and it made me ecstatic to see them properly written in this book.
“You’re not worried about Pontianaks, are you? And if you’re naughty, I’ll tell her to come and take you, too!”
As for the mental health representation, this book summarizes it all together. Anxiety and OCD is a big part of Melati and Alkaf wonderfully presented it in such a graceful way. The inner conversation between Melati and the so-called Djinn and the description of Melati’s tapping as a way to cope with her anxiety/OCD was greatly written. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book before where I truly get to understand the MC’s mind and sense their emotions and feelings. I also very much appreciated that Alkaf brings out these issues and created a flawed MC, where their flaws are actually a part of them and affect their lives and decision making and not just to enrich the story.
“You can’t trust him, you can’t trust him, he’ll think you’re crazy, he’ll leave you.”
Lastly, as a Muslim, to read a story where my religion was a big part of the story, I feel extremely proud. The mentioned of Djinn, going to Ustaz for seeking medication, Melati’s confused thought about the using of ‘Allahu Akbar’ during the attacks instead during the prays, it all happened then and it all still happening to me. We do believe that Djinn existed, and even some Muslims still believe that when you’re not being faithful and close enough to God, that’s the cause of your anxiety, depression, and stress. Being a Muslim herself, Alkaf delivered all of these intricate perspectives from Muslims and made the best sense out of it in this book.
Overall, The Weight of Our Sky was an incredible historical book. It got the right balance of everything without pushing too much. I love how the plot was at a steady pace yet it was still just as thrilling. The horror will haunt you and the drama will wreck your heart. It’s definitely one of my favorite read for this year!
For my stop, I got the opportunity to also share an aesthetic design (in this case, a lockscreen) along with the review that I have written previously. Here’s the one that I made, inspired by Melati and her fierceness in The Weight of Our Sky! Feel free to use it/share it wherever you want! 🙂
Hanna Alkaf graduated with a degree in journalism from Northwestern University and spent over ten years writing everything from B2B marketing emails to investigative feature articles, from non-profit press releases to corporate brochures. She worked in Chicago as an online copywriter for several years upon graduation before coming home. She’s been a senior writer at Marie Claire Malaysia, the communications manager of education non-profit Teach For Malaysia, and a freelance journalist. Her articles have appeared in the Malaysian iterations of Marie Claire, Shape, and Esquire, as well as a host of other media both print and online.
Hanna now spends her time making it up as she goes along, both as an author of fiction and as a mom. THE WEIGHT OF OUR SKY is her first novel. She lives in Kuala Lumpur with her family.
(Photo credit: Azalia Suhaimi)
The prize: a copy of The Weight of Our Sky & a Kampung House coloring book! The coloring book consists of gorgeous line drawings of wooden kampung houses that would have been common in 1969–more info here!
Preorder or request The Weight of Our Sky from your local library to receive
- an enamel pin designed by Rizal Aziz
- a bookmark
- a signed bookplate illustrated by Hanna Alkaf
- a pop-up card featuring scenes of old-school Malaysia from Loka Made, illustrated by Fei Giap
For more information, check out the full preorder giveaway here.
Preorder your special signed copies of The Weight of Our Sky in either paperback or hardcover from Bookalicious! to receive
- a bookmark (paperback)
- a bookmark and enamel pin (hardcover)
(Please note that preorders through Bookalicious! come with their own giveaway items and are not eligible for the US/INTL giveaway.)