The Weight of Our Sky

The Weight of Our Sky

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...

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Title:The Weight of Our Sky
Author:Hanna Alkaf
Rating:
Edition Language:English

The Weight of Our Sky Reviews

  • CW (The Quiet Pond) ✨

    .

    My goodness, I needed this. I needed this book, I needed the Malaysian representation, and I am overjoyed that I have read it.

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    is one brilliant, emotional, and heavy-hearted debut, and

    .

    - Follows Melati, a Malay teen with OCD plagued by a djinn and visions of her mother's graphic deaths, who searches for her mother amidst the racial riots between Chinese and Malay people in Malay

    .

    My goodness, I needed this. I needed this book, I needed the Malaysian representation, and I am overjoyed that I have read it.

    -

    is one brilliant, emotional, and heavy-hearted debut, and

    .

    - Follows Melati, a Malay teen with OCD plagued by a djinn and visions of her mother's graphic deaths, who searches for her mother amidst the racial riots between Chinese and Malay people in Malaysia.

    - This book is so unapologetically Malaysian and I loved it. I loved the small nuances and nods to Malaysian identity and culture - aunties being aunties, landmarks, Malaysian English, and PUNS!!!! (WE MALAYSIANS LOVE PUNS!!!!!)

    - But goodness, this book is heavy. It explores trauma, cultural difference, prejudices, and what strength and solidarity looks like in a time when difference could mean life or death.

    I am honoured that I was able to read the eARC of this as part of Hanna's book tour, so my full review will appear on my blog on February 7th, 2019. You don't want to miss my full review of this.

    Trigger/content warning:

    -

    :

    I don't often share thoughts about a book before reading it, but here, I'll make an exception.

    I can't wait to read this book. It's one of my most anticipated reads ever.

    My parents survived the race riots in 1969, and May 13th has left a deep and traumatic emotional scar on my family, their friends, and the older generation of Malaysia. I don't know much about it beyond brief personal recounts and the limited information on the internet - so reading this book, learning a bit about my family's history, learning about what happened, will mean

    to me.

  • Hanna Alkaf

    This seems like a good place to put this, so if you're considering reading my book -- I'M THE AUTHOR! HI! -- I'd like to warn you ahead of time that the contents include: Racism, graphic violence, on-page death, OCD and anxiety triggers. If you're not in the right frame of mind to take that on, please consider setting it aside and waiting until you're better able to take these on.

    Thank you for wanting to read THE WEIGHT OF OUR SKY; it's a very personal book to me in a lot of ways, and it means

    This seems like a good place to put this, so if you're considering reading my book -- I'M THE AUTHOR! HI! -- I'd like to warn you ahead of time that the contents include: Racism, graphic violence, on-page death, OCD and anxiety triggers. If you're not in the right frame of mind to take that on, please consider setting it aside and waiting until you're better able to take these on.

    Thank you for wanting to read THE WEIGHT OF OUR SKY; it's a very personal book to me in a lot of ways, and it means a lot to share that with you <3

  • C.G. Drews

    Absolutely prepare yourself for heartbreak with this one, all wrapped up in a story of riots and mental illness and a girl just trying to stay alive and find her mother. It's probably too early for a full review sooo I'm just going to squish my little recommendation into your life and say: get this one on your TBR. History is honestly so despicably Western focused and I never even

    about the race riots in 1969 in Malaysia. So I learnt!

    Absolutely prepare yourself for heartbreak with this one, all wrapped up in a story of riots and mental illness and a girl just trying to stay alive and find her mother. It's probably too early for a full review sooo I'm just going to squish my little recommendation into your life and say: get this one on your TBR. History is honestly so despicably Western focused and I never even

    about the race riots in 1969 in Malaysia. So I learnt!

    who also has OCD and it's

    that I felt all her agonies. (That's good writing though?!) I do cautiously wonder at the end when it seemed you could out-think your mental illness if you tried harder? Because yikes. However I don't think the story was advocating that. I just think it could've been a little clearer worded. Anyway

    Like I can't even imagine what she went through?! Seeing bodies and murders and just...witnessing it. AND having really severe OCD already...ajfdklsad. She amazed me how she kept going and stopped at nothing to find her mother again.

    Anyway, like I said!! I'll come back for a full review but for now:

    ✧ full POC cast

    ✧ Melati's voice is very vivid and easy to be caught up in

    ✧ SUPER EMOTIONAL WRITING

    ✧ very tough subject matter handled so well

    ✧ like it'll b r e a k you in several parts

    ✧ no romance! which I appreciate and is rare in YA

    ✧ ownvoices Malaysian rep

    ✧ Beatles appreciation

    ✧ it's a good book, Brent

    ✧ watch out for it in 2019 yes yes

  • Emily May

    4 stars. This has to be one of the most original YA books I've read in a long time. It just checked all the boxes for me.

    is set during the 1969 race riots in Kuala Lumpur. After a contentious election, Chi

    4½ stars. This has to be one of the most original YA books I've read in a long time. It just checked all the boxes for me.

    is set during the 1969 race riots in Kuala Lumpur. After a contentious election, Chinese and Malays took to the streets, rioting, burning down houses, and brutally murdering each other.

    Alkaf does not sugarcoat it. This book is dark and gruesome, containing graphic violence, but it is never gratuitous. On the contrary, the author writes with such compassion for her characters, both Chinese and Malay, ultimately urging us to never forget; to never let this become a cold fact in a history book that we do not appreciate in all its horror and intensity.

    While set during the riots, this is also a book about OCD and anxiety. Melati must constantly perform small rituals of tapping and counting to appease the djinn inside her. I found this so different and believable and sad. In 1969 there was even more stigma against mental illness than there is today, and it seemed natural that Melati would believe herself to be possessed by a djinn, given her family's religious beliefs and lack of alternative explanation.

    I think the author does a great job of capturing Melati's obsessive circles of thought. In fact, I felt my own anxiety spiking alongside hers as she fears and doubts everything. It is, of course, all exacerbated by the terrifying circumstances Melati finds herself in-- separated from her mother in the middle of so much violence and destruction.

    Between the violence, chases and battles for survival, and Melati's chaotic mindset, the book rarely stands still. But in the few moments when it does, we are treated to Malaysian folktales and passionate discussions about music. This latter offers Melati a brief respite from the djinn, and us a brief respite from the dark and upsetting events of the novel.

    Gorgeous and evocative descriptions of the setting also offer a balance to the horror:

    I feel compelled to mention that this is in NO WAY a "romance cures mental illness" book, which was my biggest fear after reading the description and being introduced to Vince. This is not that kind of book at all.

    There's so much good in

    . It's a fascinating character portrait of a girl with a mental illness in 1960s Malaysia; it's a reminder of a piece of the past we must not forget; and it's about the small acts of kindness that emerge out of the darkest of times.

    CW: Graphic violence; death; OCD; anxiety; racism.

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  • Chaima ✨ شيماء

    is a labor of great pain, but it's also a labor of tremendous love.

    I went into this book knowing very little about the race riots of 1969 in Kuala Lumpur, but Hanna Alkaf has delivered a very informed, yet intimately personal account of one of the most tragic incidents that are folded into the history of Malaysia.

     The weight of the riots’ reality falls upon Melati, a Mu

    is a labor of great pain, but it's also a labor of tremendous love.

    I went into this book knowing very little about the race riots of 1969 in Kuala Lumpur, but Hanna Alkaf has delivered a very informed, yet intimately personal account of one of the most tragic incidents that are folded into the history of Malaysia.

     The weight of the riots’ reality falls upon Melati, a Muslim Malay teen, when a Chinese execution mob irrupts into the theater where Melati was hanging out with her best friend, Saf. It’s all frantic, sluggish panic when Melati is saved by a Chinese lady and forced to leave Saf behind, and, in the gasping gnaw of her fear and guilt, Melati is running furiously through her options and finding precious few that hold even a glimmer of hope. But even when her mind played these unkind games, Melati's courage unbowed, her determination searing a path through the haze of despair. Death is ambling through the empty streets of Kuala Lumpur, and Melati wants to break and run, in any direction, so long as it led to her mother.

    Dread was a steady drumbeat in my throat while reading this book. It caught at my guts like a cold hand and sat a nauseating quiver in the marrow of my bones, this realization that a person could be driven mad by hate, how a stranger—someone you’ve never met, much less

    —could look at you with odium etched into every line of their face, hatred pounding through them like blood and their hands tangling with it, and wish you

    . The thought is unutterably sad. After I finished, I spent some time researching and got even more out of the story. Not in the sense that I didn’t get stuff before, but that I understood it more after some mining. All that research didn’t squelch the storm that had kicked up in my mind, but it did leave a faint sickness behind.

    To see Alkaf also devote substantial effort and attention to the subject of mental illness and treat it with seriousness, and to see her use Melati’s experience as a fulcrum from which to examine the taboo surrounding mental health, especially within Muslim communities, snagged at my heart the most.

    Melati’s mind has been a realm of horrors since her father’s death drained all color from her life, his loss like a hole torn in the world. Ever since, Melati has settled into the belief that a djinn has stolen into her consciousness, a shadow across any possibility she might have had for happiness, and

    , it had seen in her the softest, weakest part of her heart where she held her mother and delighted in dragging into her mind festering images of her dying again and again. Because it was Melati’s deepest and most wretched fear and the djinn knew it. Now, the monster had set the clock ticking and Melati can only mollify him by counting and tapping in threes.

    is a riveting, bold, and honest story that allows for complexness in the reality of what living with mental illness is like. This kind of honesty is bracing and builds into something heart-wrenchingly resonant. Reading about Melati’s struggles filled my chest with that strange mixture of sorrow and understanding that I could never explain, a feeling that words could neither shape nor own. It made me feel unmoored, like I had nothing of my own, not even unspoken secrets.

    Family pride and honor hangs over everything and mental illness remains something which we would prefer the world to remain ignorant. Like Melati, moving deep among my memories are voices of people telling me my struggles are due to deficiency in faith, or weakness of character, that it was a trial, an act of punishment, that I was readily inviting demonic possession.

    Melati's story put me back into the feeling of my own world exploding into bright fragments of agony. How it kept spilling out of me, grabbing whatever it could, and how I learned to pretend it away.

    It was as if I was viewing my own illness from the end of a long tunnel, set apart from its immediacy, removed from the currents of its need. The gnawing misery did not ease, but stronger than that, more than that, was the mixture of guilt and shame and fear—fear that I’d be shunned, that I’d be labeled “crazy”, or “possessed”. What happens when your faith doesn’t cure that little rip in the middle of you, that black bruise on your soul struggling to heal? Does that mean Allah hates you? That you’re not praying properly? Is this your punishment for being a terrible Muslim? The questions surface from the wreckage, sharp and cold enough to impale.

    There’s a real stigmatization of mental illness in Muslim societies, and in many ways, this owes more to culture than Islam in itself. Books like

    are so important because they open the door wide open for conversation.

     It’s important to address the extremely negative and non-medical perceptions a lot of Muslims have about mental illness.

    . Alkaf allows hope to buoy to the surface and lances through the story with the butter-thin glimmer of gaiety and tenderness. And even though the book feels like an array of heartrending moments, it feels more like an exuberant celebration of the small acts of courage and kindness that make huge differences, and an appreciation of each day as a renewed opportunity.

    With all that being said, I wish this book were longer, or that the story had a slower, more organic build. Instead, the novel’s tight pacing feels rushed, and the plot unfolds in fits and starts. I think a little more breathing room or build-up might have led to a smoother conclusion. A bit more ink in the pen would have also helped drawing out some of the characters, instead of making them special only to the extent they serve a purpose. The novel could have provided a more harmonious and detailed counterpoint to Melati’s journey rather than painting Vincent’s and Frankie’s storylines in very broad strokes, rendering them almost trivial.

    All these quibbles are the reason why I initially gave this book a three-stars rating, but upon reflection, I realized that these snags dissipate in the warm tide of an immensely affecting story, and an important, veracious voice.

    Overall, highly recommended!

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