- Title: The Asrama Anthology
- Editors: Zan Azlee
- Featuring submissions by: Aiman Najhan, A. Ahmad, Adlyn Shazmy, Ili Nur Amalina Ibrahim, Hannany Md Salehuddin, Nuurrianti Jalli, Amirah Fatinah, Shalini Jay, Farah Hussin, S. H. Azemi, Silver Coyote, Asytar, Zulfikri Ahmad, Tharma Pillai, Yusoff Bulanbiru, Nadine Sahzan, Aqilah Aminuddin, Lyana Khairuddin
- Publisher: Matahari Books (an imprint of Buku Fixi)
- Release Date: July 26th 2018
- Pages: 192
The Asrama Anthology shares 19 true stories of Malaysians who have experienced life in boarding schools, which they believe helped build them into who they are today. There are stories of friendship, heartbreak, family tragedy, conflict, race relations, and yes, there are one or two romantic ones. Chosen and edited by award-winning writer and broadcaster Zan Azlee, whose own true-life hostel accounts are too shocking for this volume.
After my read of Matahari Book’s Letters to Home, I started keeping tabs on their work, particularly interested with how they encourage Malaysians to contribute relatable, personal stories by turning selected pieces into books. In this latest edition, The Asrama Anthology, editor Zan Azlee brings together 19 true stories by 18 authors (Yusoff Bulanbiru shares 2 stories) on their experiences studying in a boarding school environment. Ili Nur Amalina, one of the contributors, is a dear friend of mine too – all the more reason to read this book.
So there I was, feeling excited, afraid and everything in between. As we drove past the gates I felt that my moment was now. My journey began.
– A Tale of Tie, Aiman Najhan
Themes of self growth, discovery, family, and challenges growing up were some of the more common ones, shared in almost every story in this compilation. You will also find stories unique to certain topics, often heard but not talked about enough, including those on bullying, depression, sexual harassment, and even bulimia.
“This is it. I never thought that I would die this young,” whispered Kera to herself.
– Kera in the Closet, Zulfikri Ahmad
Chapters are short, and easy to get into. Ideal for those who need a quick read every now and then, without the usual – “Oh no, what happened in the previous chapters again?!” Overall, I found this book to be, for the most part, an interesting read with a unique standpoint brimming with potential for some very great story-telling. Unfortunately, many stories turned out to be too draggy and boring for my own liking. It could be how they were written, or just for the fact that some of contributors did not really have a strong story to tell. Which is a shame, as I do believe there are many untold tales out there on boarding schools which somehow or another did not make their way into the hands of readers. Also – boarding school horror stories, where you guys at? I was expecting more of these!
Which brings me to this – if you have a story to tell and the opportunity to do so, do take it seriously. Your writing may very well be relatable and touch the lives of many. Experiences in boarding schools, both good and bad, ride on great waves in shaping the lives of many Malaysians. I would still recommend you to give this book a go, there are a few notable pieces here worth discovering.
No matter what situation you are in and how many people are against you, stand up straight and fight for what you believe in. The truth is always the best language to speak.
– What I Can Tell But I Cannot Show, Ili Nur Amalina Ibrahim
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
I would like to thank Buku Fixi and Matahari Books for this review copy in exchange for my honest review!