orbit – an occurrence so natural that most of us are not conscious of the earth’s movement beyond day and night. Similarly, the themes written about in this new collection by Ethos Books may be worth thinking about but not given enough attention. From being differently abled to Terawih (“prayers performed by Muslims at night after the Isha prayer during the holy month of Ramadan”) to societal pains, these three books may be short but are definitely impactful in their own individual ways.
a tiny space by fifi coo & family is a collection of poetry and family conversations. Though non-verbal, fifi found a way to communicate his hopes and love for family and beyond through the resourcefulness of his mother – an alphabet board. Through the words, this book gives insight to a boy navigating a world bent on one way of communication, while the patience and love of his family comes through for him time and time again.
Capturing moments and short snippets of what goes on during Terawih, Ziks shares her experience of night prayers from years ago in Notes After Terawih. There are many characters who star in her pages – from makciks who speak loudly to adorable children hugging their mother during prayer, we see the moments unfold through her eyes.
Khin Chan Myae Maung writes three short stories in Giving Alms. The stories delve into human vulnerability and even the cruelty of society based on narratives of the people in Myanmar. Detailed and vivid with her descriptions, the reader slips easily into the world of this story and live it together with the characters. Touching and heartfelt, this is a memorable book that will make you think deeper about our shared humanity and beyond stereotypes.
Kudos to Ethos Books for publishing these books, despite their length being short of a full-length publication. These stories deserve to be out there, for I think they do share perspectives and experiences that society should pay attention to. Be it to educate, discuss or just facilitate a casual conversation about them, it will go a long way and I think this is an aspect that books do best in.
Popspoken asks the various authors one quick question each to shed more light on their own publication.
a tiny space
Share with us how this collection of poetry came about, and how they were chosen?
Diamond: My brother fifi began writing poetry on his alphabet board about three years ago. It was something that came to him naturally, whether to express his thoughts, or to play with rhymes and words. The poems in a tiny space were selected from the collection of poems fifi had written during this span of time.
This selection of poems is based on running themes through fifi’s poetry. In putting a tiny space together, we continually returned to the metaphor of rooms as our guide in building a collection. Inside or outside, fifi has always spent his time in each room and space in different ways. Venturing out or returning home, fifi’s expanse of poems reflected this spectrum of spaces and experiences.
Notes After Terawih
What is most memorable for you, when embarking on this journey to publish this collection?
Ziks: The most memorable part of this process is this part, the last leg, when I come to fully appreciate that I just made parts of my personal journals public and available in a published text.
It didn’t really hit me as I worked with Ethos towards printing, this question of, “Why the need to put my voice out there?”
I think the authors of the other orbit books have a clear answer to this question. They actually felt the need to speak up and be heard.
For me, my respite has been that, no matter how mainstream, or maybe because of how mainstream it is, this experience is often un-recounted or not documented. With word sketches to offer small glimpses, I hope Notes will be of benefit in the larger scheme of things.
What do you hope to convey about Myanmar to the rest of the world through your book?
Khin: Essentially I would like to show the international community that Myanmar is more than its history. That the people of this nation have lives and stories to tell. I would also like the rest of the world to find familiarity in the book. Myanmar might be a faraway place, but I hope these universal human emotions and feelings will create a sense of empathy and familiarity with the reader.
To purchase the series orbit and to find out more, look it up here.
Reads is a series by Teo Dawn on Popspoken. Learn more about local writers, their inspirations and what they think is worth writing about. After all, one writes about what one cares about. Got a book you want featured? Drop her an email here.