Politics of the Temporary: An Ethnography of Migrant Life in Urban Malaysia by Parthiban Muniandy

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Politics of the Temporary is a collection of ethnographic essays about various the transient migrants of Kuala Lumpur and was divided into three parts: ‘Restaurants, Cafe, Culture and Identity’, ‘Race, Ethnicity and Street Politics’ and ‘Quiet Encroachments and Tortured Smiles”. Within each parts of the books was stories that ranged from simple observation of known streets of Kuala Lumpur, to discussions between people of different background and nationalities and the author’s own narrative on the situation faced by the most visible people in our society who are also the most unrepresented.

The book was written in academical style as it was a dissertation on urban anthropology. Frankly, social studies dissertations is far more pleasant to read than the scientific dissertations that I used to read. The narrative style was refreshing, honest and critical without being judgmental (which are more commonly seen in any articles by general media on issues relating on migrants or everything really…)

It was interesting that the author manage to give me fresh perspectives on the issues and highlighting many more issues relating to the growth of migrant populations from Burma (The author’s own preference use throughout the book. Interesting.) to the issues relating on people taking advantage on migrant’s labor into a form of indentured servitude to the deculturalization of certain areas of the cities to xenophobia and persistent issues regarding immigrants and sex trafficking including among minors . Even more interesting was the authorities’s attitude on these communities themselves, corruptions and exploitation that they suffered in the name of development and capitalism.

I’m still digesting the book and analyzing the content. For most part, I was familiar with the subject matter from my years living in Kuala Lumpur as an undergraduate in which I do a lot of people watching for someone learning to be lab scientist and partly due to my recent endeavour with UnRepresented KL in which I played at being an amateur ethnographer but it does help me a lot with my writing and my views on diversity in literature (which is still a hot topic in my general writing groups). The book does gave me a lot of things to think about especially on people around me and whenever I walk outside.

The content can be distressing but also illuminating. For most part, it was hardly anything new to me but it gave me new perspectives on how these transient migrants see about us. How we Malaysians are known to take things for granted. How for most of us like to see everything through tinted gaze from our windscreen or from the comforts of our home. How we distract ourselves with menial issues that blinded us from the atrocities commited around us. How we’re coddled to ignore their existence as human beings and how we allow the rot to set and fester. How one sided it was the narrative that we’re being feed daily about these people. How we often complain to ourselves about how disadvantage we are as we blind ourselves to the people around us.

Yes, Malaysia is hell to a lot of the people inside this book. Malaysians are demons and monsters to a lot of people inside this book. Does that idea sit well with you? How desensitize can we be? While this review isn’t a self-flagellation session but it was discomforting nonetheless.

The review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Randomness on DNF, DNR and Authors on PMSes

I have been using Goodreads for more than a year now but I have been online way much longer and for years I used to like surf through fanfiction.net, fictionpress.com, blogs, author websites and author’s forum but nothing is like a social site where everyone talk about book like Goodreads.

I’d admit it, a lot of the books that I’ve read will never be read by me had not for Goodreads.

To date, Goodreads have around 9.6 million users earning the deserving title comparable to Facebook. This is quite impressive and heartening to know that I am not alone with my love of books.

Surprising of it all, the most vocal of all demographic was the “Young Adult” which generally dominated the site. This is evident with the popularity of Harry Potter, Twilight and The Hunger Games today and their success in box office.

Goodreads somehow came up with a system of book recommendation which on some days are fruitful whenever you’re browsing for some light reading.

Sounds like heaven.

This does open more doors to self-published and debut authors to potential readers which are a great advantage in these recent times of internet. This might have been a playground for authors and readers alike right? Sorry folks, things are not bright and shiny for anyone let it be for readers, reviewers, soon-to-be writers, published authors, publishers alike.

We are all inner critics and the world isn’t very nice or fair on that matter.

However, since Goodreads is a place where readers provided their reviews on the books instead of depending largely on professional reviewers like the newly cropped out iDreamBooks, in Goodreads there may have been unfavorable comments and high criticism which some authors may take offense to. Problem is, you can rig the review system by just rating it, but honest reviews? Well, thats the hard part.

YA is a breeding ground for debut authors and thus unlike any other genres, many YA are serials and usually it does consist a bunch of imperfection. These days, Goodreads is notoriously being lambasted by various authors, agents and alike are against some tiny digit of its 9.6 million users.

Story spread around about how bad things in Goodreads for an author and some would become offended themselves by googling their names and books and reading their babies being criticized on internet.

This is something what actors (from personal experience, I’m looking at you Casper Van Dien) and some YA authors have in common. I do notice fair share of drama in the forums, twitter and facebook which crop up once in a while, most of it was the same old thing which are forgotten but cropped up again. In the most facepalm inducing way.

Ironically, by definition they’re cyberstalking and cyberbullying these reviewers. Have they ever been bullied before to know that they themselves are being a bully? None of these reviewers are doing any cyberstalking to the said authors except posting their opinion.

Ironically, I’m not from western countries, was “Freedom of Speech” is just a myth?

But doing a personal vendetta against amateur reviewers just because they do critical simplified low-rated reviews is just….

On the bright side, Kat did a really funny but sarcasm filled post dedicated for these stalkers masquerading as GR-author defenders. I didn’t actually decided to blog about these whole thing until today when I saw this on my GR timeline… This made me realized, some authors, fans and some publishers agent were spending too much time dwelling on negative reviews when they should have be a better writer to NOT get bad reviews and eventually win these reviewers out. Its an easy solution… but no.

This is nothing new, it actually took some way back in a not so distant past. To cut the story short, Kat had made a convenient post summarizing last year’s drama in point form (with some extra at the last one) which apparently I had missed (since I’m not a YA fanatic and I don’t dwell too long on a book to discuss on certain things)  unfortunately all these eventually drag on until in the middle of the year aka during the time of this blog post.

I had waited for these things to calm down but apparently its not going to be.

As for this year’s drama, Wendy (whom I had seen her review and status updates being liked so many times that it showed up on my GR timeline frequently until followed and add her on GR, TQVM) made a DNF on Kiera Class’s The Selection earlier this year.

For a DNF, its really an in-depth review on the book. I had seen the book on netgalley before but refrained myself from requesting it (which recently publishers are more alert to publishing reviews dates now). Later there’s this whole Author calling names on reviewers on twitter which had blown out of proportion.

There were many more that entails to this but Wendy had finally blogged about the ordeal which can be heartbreaking if you think about it. For a lone reviewer (unpaid usually) being called names by an author is just nasty. Apparently, it got even worse for her.

It’s something for average people of the internet to “troll for fun” but for an author to start defaming their reader who is also an amateur reviewer who  didn’t get paid to spend their time to read their book ; its something. You’ll notice the level of immaturity of it. But, err… its YA-related, of course, maturity is not a requirement even if these ladies were far older than I am. There’s so much new events that entails particularly when some readers caught wind of it, they immediately put certain books in their Do-Not-Read shelves in GR. In fact, I found this listopia today and found the black listed books set by some of the users including active discussions at the bottom.

This of course bring another set of nastiness by a lot of the internet users who sees these whole things but dear authors, please think in the bright side of things. All these free press is giving your books a heads up in sales and clear all the bad reviewers from your books since they choose not to read your books. 

In fact, why do you feel offended with DNF reviews? They can’t finish your book because your book is suck to them that they don’t want to wish to spend more time reading it. If they gush out whole-length reviews about the books details, for sure you’d know that she understood your book enough to have a strong opinion about it.

It doesn’t mean it will suck to other people that’s not the reviewer right?

I had my share of doing critical reviews (I did change ratings once in a while for some books), especially on local books, romance books and YA stuff. I’m safe to say. I’m obscure enough and not really popular among the 9.6 million users of Goodreads but if I had an opinion on books, I rather be honest about it than cave in when authors and their fans started to threatening people on poor reviews.

Which is the point of this whole post!

Dear authors who Googled and Goodreads search themselves,

Not everyone in the world like Stephenie Meyer and EL James books of notoriously bad YA paranormal romance and badly constructed Erotica. Even if they’re bestsellers and collect too many millions of royalties from its sales, if your readers are not the demographic intended and have experience something bad while reading your book. The last thing you can do was flaming and trolling and encouraging stalking on your readers.

Negative reviews are not trolling. Calling your readers bitches and names are trolling and unprofessional.

Yes, these negative reviewers are your readers! If its not dramatic enough for you, you literally betrayed them.

Publishers who give up ARCs to reviewers had maintained that these reviewers are not obliged to give computerized happy reviews just for you. You are the one who should be doing your best at making a pleasant experience for your readers. By providing a good storyline, plot progression, characterization, dialogues, themes, continuation and etc.

Unless they received ARCs, amateur reviewers are not paid to make you look good, instead they pay you to read your books. Thats the only thing you received from them.

Being a writer is hard. I know its hard. But when you’re published, your books are no longer your own. Like Julie Bertagna said in her Guardian.co.uk post,  “If you can’t stand the heat of the blogosphere – don’t Google yourself.”

And above all,

Oh… I’ve Passed 100th Goal! A_A

Yay~~

But it does worried me that some of the books are graphic novels and most of it was those that I reviewed for publishers via NetGalleys and some of them was smut…. .. but essentially they’re real books, right? Oh shush book l33ts.

Oh well, at least I passed the “20 books per month”  stuff before the end of may (which is today)… yay.

You do know its hard to maintain a reading schedule like this even when I had night classes and stayed on my feet for hours. But nothing de-stress me or make me feel more at ease than reading a books and living a thousand lives in e-ink or real ink. Honestly, ever since I started having real insomnias from colleges and universities, I can’t sleep well without reading a normal fiction book since my mind would keep me awake with my thoughts.

So far, I still haven’t cleared most of my backlogged currently-reading shelf. I’ll try to finish what I’ve started even if the book is excruciatingly boring or longish.

I think I should repost all my reviews into this blog but I’m too lazy to copy paste from my other blogs and goodreads (I did say I read a lot right?).

BTW, I still have 100 books more to read till the end of the year. Let’s hope I continue keeping a good pace as it is.