Daniel Teoh reviews this poignant recollection of Yasmin Ahmad, as remembered by those close to her.
As with many Malaysian ‘books’, this is a compilation.
The difference is that it is not a collection of articles, but interactions between the celebrated director, Yasmin Ahmad and people who had the fortune to cross paths with her. This ranges from a witty reply in a corporate meeting, a consolatory yet inspiring text message, observations of Yasmin’s eccentric and quirky behaviour, to her tolerant and meaningful worldview.
In other words, this book is about Yasmin, as told and remembered by her colleagues, friends and family.
Much has been gained from its pages. Adding to the appeal of reading a famous director’s ‘memoir’ is Yasmin’s identity as a Muslim woman. Several anecdotes display her atypical understanding and interpretation of Islam. It was only after reading them that the reason why she came under much fire became apparent: Sshe was just too different and ‘too tolerant’ for the religious firebrands and fire-breathers in the country.
How dare a Muslim woman, with no stripes or credentials, tell them otherwise about their own religion?
This work further cements her controversial yet unique position and identity in the Malaysian fabric. The short writings, including some of her poems and speeches, are invaluable contributions to what it means to be Malaysian.
She would chide her sister for not making her nasi lemak spicy enough. She would strut –almost like marching, as recalled – in the office while humming the national anthem. She returned her MARA scholarship when she found out about the bumiputera requirement.
She even told Ronnie Liu that the only good BN has done is to oppress the DAP!
A heart-warming read for the steadfast stoic, flicking through the pages may prove difficult for the hopeless romantic, for the memories are vividly touching, almost sure to induce tears.
Yasmin, How You Know is a must-read for the average Malaysian who may be losing hope over current affairs and the political tactics by some to tense racial relations.
Her videos are famous for their poignance. Viewers are generally moved by her video plays and the richness of the messages within. There is no reason this mini-biography of hers should fare differently.
After all, she’s Yasmin Ahmad.
Featured image sourced from Goodreads