Subashini provides not one but two examples of books that were taken en-route to her from Malaysian online bookshop Acmamall. She writes on her blog :
Some time back I was told that my order of Laini Taylor’s Lips Touch Three Times was detained by the Home Ministry after I had placed the order and paid for it. Acmamall was most accommodating about issuing a refund, but I haven’t stopped foaming at the mouth about being informed that I simply couldn’t purchase any book I wanted as I initially thought I could. ... I’ve been unable to fathom what makes Lips Touch Three Times, a young adult book that’s been critically lauded in most American press, a subversive book, or indeed, one that is a threat to national security or morals. Is it the goblins? Are they afraid that reading this book will prompt a rash of young Malaysians to want to make out with pontianaks? Are they afraid it will encourage a kissing epidemic?I hope Subashini's impassioned plea is heard by those who need to hear it.
I have no idea.
I told myself to calm down, life’s too short to get raging mad at EVERY damn thing (wrinkles, sour facial expression, etc.), and chalked it up to one very small loss as a result of being Malaysian. Other Malaysians were dealing with far worse problems – lack of income, land, home, citizenship; lack of access to rights to see their own babies, rights to a fair trial, rights to drink whatever they damn well please without being whipped. Not being able to read a book is no big deal, really.
Or is it?
I placed my next order for Virginie Despentes’ King Kong Theory with trepidation. I told a friend that it will most likely be ‘detained,’ but I really hoped I was wrong. I REALLY wanted to read it. But sure enough, I get an email today from the Acmamall customer service informing me that the book has indeed been detained by the Home Ministry. And if you head over to Acmamall’s website, you’ll see that the book is now listed as ‘Not for sale in Malaysia.’
I felt anger at that very instant – again, being told what I’m allowed to read and not allowed to read just makes me blindingly angry. Even my parents have never told me what I could and could not read.
... With King Kong Theory, reviewers have said that the author, whether or not you agree with her stand, has presented a brash, bold and thought-provoking perspective on modern-day feminism. ... I mean, these are the subjects I like to think about and read about. Maybe I’m the only sad sod in all of Malaysia who’s upset about the Home Ministry detaining King Kong Theory because… well, what the hell kind of book is it anyway?!? But that shouldn’t be the point. I’m prevented from reading a book for reasons I don’t even know of.
I wonder what made the authorities deem this book unfit for Malaysian eyes – is it the fact that the author was formerly a prostitute, and made a highly-controversial (if not exactly acclaimed) movie on the complex interrelations of sexual desire, abuse, and power? Do the authorities even know this? (I’m of the belief that their brains are puny; small enough to hold only recycled thoughts and prosaic wishes – such as the nature of, “Harap boleh makan nasi lemak petang ni…”) Are they afraid that Malaysian women will, en-masse, decide to prostitute themselves in an attempt at self-empowerment? Are they afraid that Malaysian women will want to migrate to France and prostitute themselves after reading this book (the author is French)? Did they simply look at the title and conclude that King Kong, being the product of American capitalist Hollywood minds, has no place in Malaysia – that a King Kong theory usurps the revered position of our local orangutans?
Again, I have no idea.
Well, I’m not being honest here. I suppose I have an inkling. Books like this one make people think; but more alarmingly, it makes people question the status quo. Police states don’t want its citizens thinking and questioning anything – especially not if it’s a police state pretending to be a multicultural, peaceful, free-thinking democracy.
Meanwhile if you or your friends have any books confiscated in the post do let me know so I can blog it here and get the word out.