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Introducing our Online Shop

Dear friends,

We hope and trust that you are staying safe and keeping well.

The restriction movement order (RMO) imposed by the government has meant that non-essential businesses like ours had to be shut down, and Lit Books has complied with this directive, closing our shop on 18th March 2020. Thankfully, e-commerce can continue as per usual–and indeed we have been fulfilling requests from customers who wrote in to us and we are so grateful for that–but the lack of a proper online shop limited the service we could provide to you.

During this past week, Elaine and I have been frantically putting together the infrastructure and hours of data entry to create a workable online shop. You can find the link on the top right corner of our website and it should take you to a basic storefront: You can add products to your cart, you can edit your cart, and you can checkout your orders. But unfortunately, we cannot take online payment (as we do not have an account with the appropriate payment authority yet) and we still rely on bank transfers for payment.

So here’s how it works:

  1. Add your selection(s) to the cart.
  2. View your cart to finalise your choices.
  3. Click the checkout button.
  4. There is a flat RM8 fee for shipping within West Malaysia and RM12 for East Malaysia. Shipping is free for purchases above RM200 for West Malaysia and RM250 for East Malaysia.
  5. At this point, you will receive instruction to bank in payment to our bank account and to send us a screenshot of the bank transfer record.
  6. While this happens, the item will be placed on ‘hold’ which means no one else can buy the item.
  7. The item will be on ‘hold’ for roughly an hour during which time you should be able to transfer the funds and send us the screenshot.
  8. We will complete the transaction and ship the item(s) out to you on our next shipping run.

Some questions you might have:

  1. Do we have to pay using a bank transfer?
    Yes, unless you don’t mind doing an eWallet transfer to my personal account. I can presently accept Touch N Go, Grab and BigPay. Message us on Facebook or Instagram if you’d like to arrange to do one of these alternative modes of payment. However, do checkout your item first so it will be held for you.
  2. How will you be shipping the books and how long will it take?
    We ship by PosLaju by default. During this past week, customers have reported receiving packages as early as the very next day and three days at the latest (within the Klang Valley). We can also arrange for shipping via Grab Delivery or via another e-hailing service. Again, get in touch with us to arrange for alternative shipping methods but please note that the shipment fees will change accordingly.
  3. I live nearby. Can I pick up the books from your shop?
    No, because we want you to stay at home. We’d hate for anyone to expose themselves to infection during this time and we would rather rely on the professional delivery people–whom we can’t thank enough–to handle this task.
  4. This FAQ didn’t answer all my questions. How can I get in touch with you?
    The best way to reach us at this time is to message us via Facebook or Instagram. Understandably, nobody is at the store at the present time to pick up the phone. Our Facebook page is http://www.facebook.com/mylitbooks and our IG handle is @mylitbooks.

One final note: A big THANK YOU to all our customers who have purchased books from us this past week. These are uncertain times for all business owners and prospects are opaque for a small book retailer such as us. Thank you also in advance to all those of you who are thinking of supporting us during this difficult time. Every little bit helps and is so much appreciated.

A quick verse to end this rambling post (one of my favourites):

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.

— Emily Dickinson

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Lit Recap: Author meet-and-greet with Hanna Alkaf

On Saturday, Feb 17, we celebrated the publication of Malaysian author Hanna Alkaf’s debut young adult (YA) novel, The Weight of Our Sky, with a meet-the-author event that saw more than 70 people in attendance. We were heartened to see the enthusiastic response to Hanna’s novel, which is about a music loving teen with OCD, Melati, who does everything she can to find her way back to her mother during the historic race riots of 1969 in Kuala Lumpur. This is one of those books that on the one hand, is gut-wrenching, but it is also heart-warming. There are heart-breaking depictions of human cruelty, but also of immeasurable kindness. Most of all, it is an empowering tale of hope and courage in the face of terror, both from within and without. Min Hun conducted a Q&A with Hanna, an edited version of which is reproduced below.

Min Hun: Tell us about how you came to write a novel set during the riots of 1969.
Hanna: The Weight of Our Sky was a book that had lived in my head for a long time before I started writing it, mostly for the reasons you mentioned, that we don’t talk about May 13. I remember it from my history textbook but it was really glossed over and sterilised. It always fascinated me what we were not told and what voices we were not hearing, and what was being obscured.

What sort of research did you do to write this book?
I love doing research; it’s so fun to me. But I’m also a journalist by training so I approached it a lot like as if I were writing an investigative feature. I read everything that I could on it: articles written at the time, both from in and out of the country, I read government white papers, any book that I could find. I interviewed survivors and I consulted experts on the things that I needed to get the details right for — although I did end up missing a couple of things.

How did you create your characters?
They are an amalgamation of different people and they are fully Malaysian. It’s very hard to see characters like that in the current YA novels… I write YA and I write for kids because as a kid who read a lot of English books growing up, I don’t think I ever saw anybody who looked like me. I feel like when you’re reading as a kid, a teen or young adult, that’s when what you read is most formative. I think it means a lot to a kid to be able to read a book that they can see themselves in.

There is a theory from researcher Dr Rudin Bishop, who says in kid lit it’s important that children have both mirrors and windows. They should have windows into experiences other than their own and they should also be able to see themselves reflected in the fiction they read. Malaysian kids get a lot of windows but we have very few mirrors. I also enjoy reading YA, and I just really wanted to write Malaysian stories for Malaysian kids.

It was full house with standing room only at the event.

Mental illness is a big part of this book and your first collection of stories, Gila, is also about mental illness. Can you tell us about your interest in the subject and why mental illness is an important part of this novel?
I wrote Gila, a nonfiction book in 2015. I wrote it after I had my daughter, and I was freelancing at that time. I was working on an article about postpartum depression, a very relevant topic to me at that time. I had interviewed 4 or 5 women, and the thing that I noticed was that all these women were educated and lived in urban areas, but not a single one of them — even though they had reached the point of psychosis — had gone to see a psychologist or psychiatrist. They relied on other things — they relied on faith, on community and family but they never went to see a professional. This was weird to me because if you’re sick, you go to a doctor. If your brain is sick you go to somebody who can help you but that wasn’t the case. And I started thinking about why that was. I started doing some research, and I thought if there was something interesting to be uncovered here, I could pitch it as a series of articles. As it turned out, it was one of those topics where the more questions I asked, the more questions I came up with. It became clear that it was a topic that really needed to be talked about in a lot of different but interconnected ways, and that’s how Gila came about.

When I wanted to start writing the novel, I knew that I wanted to create a protagonist who was dealing with this intersection of faith and mental illness, which was a thing that was coming up a lot in the interviews. As Malaysians, we are surrounded by faith, whether you’re a person of faith or not. I wanted a book that explored that intersection between faith and mental illness because I think at the age the protagonist is at, you’re questioning a lot of those things. 

I think you also represented the way our society tends to approach mental illness. It is still largely a taboo topic of discussion, or it’s something you can’t explain. In the novel, Melati’s mental illness was stifling in a way because this sense of losing control, of being enslaved to mental illness, is something we’re all naturally uncomfortable with.
You’re not the only one. I’ve had people say things like the parts where she’s dealing with her OCD, they’re tedious to read and they’re painful. But that’s what OCD is. OCD is tedious and it’s painful. It’s not having these quirks of needing to clean one’s hands or arrange things a certain way. It’s tedious and it’s painful. I wanted the text to reflect that and really put you in her head.

Given how sensitive we are as a society with racism, were you at any point concerned about what you were writing?
Not really, only because we’re not a society that talks about it and that’s a problem. The more we don’t talk about the painful parts of our history, the more likely we are to never learn from them. If we just keep obscuring things that are hard and that are painful and uncomfortable… we have to sit with our discomfort. This is a thing that happened in our history, we have to accept that it happened and we have to figure out why. 

The Weight of Our Sky is available at RM55.90.

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WVC Malaysian Jazz Ensemble to present Shakespeare in jazz

The power and beauty of William Shakespeare’s poetry translated into jazz — that’s what WVC Malaysian Jazz Ensemble will be presenting this March 5 & 6 at Lit Books.

WVC is led by composer and pianist Tay Cher Siang, with AJ Popshuvit on bass, KJ Wong on drums, and Julian Chan on saxophone. Lending his stellar vocals to the music will be tenor sensation Aaron Teoh, with narration by Lim Soon Heng from the KL Shakespeare Players.

Expect an intimate session of original compositions and improvisation, as well as a unique rendition of Duke Ellington’s Such Sweet Thunder, a piece the jazz great co-wrote in 1957 based on a line from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Tickets are RM48 (excluding processing fees). Purchase them at bit.ly/2Me2rgc

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The #loveyourbookstore Challenge 2018

This November, Lit Books is participating in the first ever #loveyourbookstore challenge, a social media initiative spearheaded by publisher and CEO of Sourcebooks, Dominique Raccah, who wanted to give booklovers a way to celebrate and share about their favourite bookstore with others. The challenge runs from Nov 10 to 16. Show us some love this November and stand a chance to win prizes from Lit Books!

Here’s how you can take part:
• Visit Lit Books and take a photo of your favourite section or a book you’d like to add to your TBR list.
• Post the photo on social media — Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter — from Nov 10 to 16, 2018.
• In your post, complete this sentence in 20 words or less: “I love Lit Books because…”
• Include the hashtag #loveyourbookstore,#mylitbooks and tag @mylitbooks.
• Tag 5 friends.

Three of the best posts with all the above criteria met will win a Lit Box with bookish merchandise (a pouch by Out of Print and a Bookjigs bookmark), a paperback novel, and a Lit Books gift voucher (each box is worth RM135).

**Contest ends at 11.59pm on Nov 16, 2018. Winners will be announced on Nov 17, 2018. Winners are responsible to pick up their Lit Box from the store.**

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Aug 3 – Meet the author: Zaheera Hashim

Who: Zaheera Hashim is a Singapore-based artist. She’s a graduate of the National University of Singapore and is currently senior counsel at Procter & Gamble with responsibility for the Prestige Skin and Health Care businesses. Somewhere in the middle of her career, she toyed with the idea of going on a sabbatical but decided instead to take formal lessons in art and sculpture at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts and hasn’t looked back since. Zaheera first exhibited in a group exhibition at P&G’s headquarters in Cincinnati in 2004 and has since shown her artwork in Boston and Singapore.

What: Tired of writing legal opinions, she decided to write fiction in her free time. As she thinks visually and because not everything can be explained in words, she illustrates as well. And that was how Zaheera’s graphic novella, ‘Lost’, was born.

Where: Lit Books

When: August 3rd, 8pm

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Bookmark Live @ Lit Books: Books that changed your life

Lit Books, in collaboration with BFM 89.9’s Bookmark programme, will be hosting another Bookmark Live session on July 26 at 8pm. This is the third in the series, and attendees can expect lively discussion and debate between Umapagan’s panelists and from the audience. Come prepared with a book of your own!

What’s a book you’ve read that changed your life?

We’d love to hear your stories. Come share them on Bookmark Live! with host Umapagan Ampikaipakan and panellists, authors Chuah Guat Eng and Kam Raslan.

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The Half-Yearly Update

Hi folks,

It’s been just over six months since Elaine and I started Lit Books, and we remain amazed by how time seemed to have just flown by! It’s been a steep learning curve and I think we are now beginning to almost, sort-of get the hang of it, but only really sort-of. One of the things that we’ve really come to enjoy is ordering and receiving new books — it still feels like Christmas whenever we get a new box of books — and we are pleased to report that our stock of books has continued to grow steadily.

Our customers have been asking us to come up with a list of our bestsellers, so we have obliged and published our list of bestsellers here. While it certainly provides some insight into our customers’ reading habits, the list has to be taken with a pinch of salt as it is never our policy to purchase more than a few copies of each title. This mean that sales of a title that takes a while to restock may be lower than a title that we purchased in bulk to, for example, facilitate an in-store event.

Another interesting development is how we have really started intensifying the number of literary events at our store. Since the store’s opening, we’ve hosted several authors, live recordings with BFM’s Bookmark programme, book launches, etc. We are also going to be doing a Murakami-inspired jazz performance to show that literature isn’t confined to just the written word.

Another quick word of thanks to all, and keep following us here or on social media to keep up with developments!

Bests,

Min Hun and Elaine

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Malaysia: Turning a New Chapter

Elaine and I would like to congratulate all Malaysians in making the brave decision to vote for change in the recently concluded GE14. As with our fellow citizens, we, too, were glued to our television screens in anxious trepidation — I at the bookshop with some of our regular customers and she in her hometown of Kota Kinabalu — as the polling numbers came in. There was both joy and anxiety as it became clear that we were bearing witness to the start of a new chapter in our country’s story.

GE14 notched many firsts for our relatively young country: the first time we’ve changed the government; the first time bastion states have fallen into the hands of the opposition; the first time that the deputy prime minister (elect) will be a woman; etc. It is no surprise then that a spirit of renewal and optimism has effused the national dialogue and consciousness. But what may be the most important lesson of the election is the proof positive of the possibility of change — a possibility not in terms of a lofty philosophical concept but in terms of the sheer ability of the Malaysian political and governance framework to admit of change. This was a change which former cynics said was impossible.

I used to number myself among those cynics and though I did not see the #undirosak movement as useful, neither did I think that my vote was going to make much of a difference. To be proven wrong was a welcome surprise, and prompted immediate feelings of regret for not having kept the faith.

As impossible as it was, it has happened and we must not squander the opportunity to make the most of this new beginning. Lest we forget, we the Rakyat are complicit in allowing the previous administration to become the oppressive cangue around our necks. The possibility that the new administration may devolve into a similar construct is very real: power corrupts, after all, and the price of liberty is eternal vigilance. It is done.

— MH

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Congratulations to GTLF for winning the LBF’s Literary Festival Award!

We are thrilled by the news that the George Town Literary Festival has won the London Book Fair’s Literary Festival Award 2018! This is such a positive affirmation of the literary scene in Malaysia, and a tribute to the hard work of the festival’s many tireless organisers. Our heartiest congratulations!

“This is a win for culture, for literature, for free speech and expression. This is a win for discourse, diversity and conversation. This is a win for Penang, for George Town, for all who love literary festivals and for all who love our festival. This is a win for Malaysia, for what we are, and what we can be. This is a win for all, for all of us who love the word and what it represents to us, to SE Asia, to the world. This is a huge honour for the work we have done, and the work that we will continue to do. Thank you ALL so very, very much,” 

Bernice Chauly, Festival Director of the George Town Literary Festival.