Reviews for The Weight of Our Sky, by Hanna Alkaf

_chelseawrites's review against another edition

Go to review page

4.0

This is such a powerful book about a story that is so often forgotten. I'll be honest: I knew basically nothing about the conflict in Kuala Lumpur before I read this book. It's a tragic story (PLEASE take the author's note seriously!) but one that needs to be told more. It's sadly still relevant today.
Melati, the main character, also struggles with OCD, though they didn't know what to call it then. It was such a moving picture of what being surrounded by conflict while also fighting a battle inside yourself looks like.
The story did seem to meander a bit. There didn't feel like a clear arc, and if it was a longer book I would have gotten bored and might not have finished. The order of Big Events that happen didn't seem to flow logically to me, but in some ways that fit the chaos of the story well.
I wish Melati had had some better closure with the people who reacted so poorly to her OCD. I won't name them specifically because, spoilers, but there were several important people who are repulsed/disappointed/openly frustrated with her OCD. Which I'm sure is realistic, but I wish there had been some redemption of the relationships at the end, or at least and honest recognition that it can be frustrating for people around her, but they love her and want to support her (or something less cheesy but you know what I mean).

diya's review against another edition

Go to review page

5.0

so much happened in such a short amount of time, but it was done really well.

rachelkc's review

Go to review page

not the right time, not the right mood, not for me right now

asyikin_z's review

Go to review page

challenging dark emotional hopeful informative tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

5.0

TW: graphic depictions of violence & death; racism; ableism; mental illnesses relating to OCD

A powerful story that was emotionally heavy, but absolutely critical especially for a Malaysian like me. It explored the cultural dynamics that not only shaped our multi-ethnics interactions (& subsequently, prejudices & racism that contributed to the '69 riot), but also depicted how they could also influenced one's views & approaches to their health, especially relating to mental illnesses. 

The 1st person view was encapsulating. Hanna structured Melati's account with full convinction; you'd feel her fear & horror: you were roped into the maelstrom of the riot & her attempts to survive. Also, you were given a glimpse into how she navigated the event while living with OCD. Amidst the fears & attrocities though, there were also beams of kindness & resilience, seen not only in our MC Melati, but also in the likes of Auntie Bee & Vince. Notably though,
Spoiler Hanna never attempted to paint the whole situations in rainbows; the story could get gruesome; even with the "kind" characters, there was prejudicial views, implicating normalization of racism. <\spoiler>

That being said, as a Malaysian, what was frightening to me was the fact that the "logic" shared by the bigots in this story had similarities to those bigots in the current day-and-age. As Hanna stipulated in the author's note, this part of our history was glanced over in our school; our government also likely had "revised" (i.e., a systemic disinformation) the event. I believed this story would allowed Malaysians in particular to contemplate the danger & failure to address racism in our country, one that is commonly weaponised by our politicians to turn us against each other while they maintained a kleptocracy; I hope we can all be like Melati, Auntie Bee, Uncle Chong, Vincent, Jay, & all the people who held the value of humanity highest.

The pacing of this story started out really fast as you were thrown into the chaos from the get-go. It did tapered off a bit in the middle; and at times, it got too emotionally heavy where I personally had to take a step away from it for awhile.

Regardless, I've shed tears of angers & disbeliefs at the displays of cruelty, and I was at the edge of my seats, willing for Melati to survive. Despite the adrenaline, kindness imbedded across the story lingered like the echoes from a gong. The story can be heavy & brutal, but I think that was also necessary, because it acted as a reminder of what dehumanizing others that came from racism can cause.

For this reason, I want to learn more, read-up more on the historical facts of what had happened so I, as a Malaysian, could be better; to contribute to building an antiracist society. 

Expand filter menu Content Warnings

doodles_and_books's review against another edition

Go to review page

4.0

”Di mana bumi dipijak, di situ langit dijunjung. Have you heard this before? It means where we plant our feet is where we must hold up the sky. We live and die by the rule of the land we live in. But this country belongs to all of us! We make our own sky, and we can hold it up—together.”


It would be a lie for me to say that The Weight of Our Sky wasn’t a lot, because it was a lot. And it tackled a lot: a moment in history that I admittedly do not know much about (but am now inclined to research further), racism, mental health.

Hanna Alkaf handled this story with heart-wrenching prowess. There is an attentiveness, a sensitivity, and an honesty with which she lets protagonist Melati’s story unfold, a desperate attempt to reunite with her mother amid not only the fire and violence of the 1969 race riots in Kuala Lumpur, but also her OCD and ensuing anxieties.

I feel there’s no possible way I can do The Weight of Our Sky proper justice with my review, so I’ll just say that it was a hell-of-a-powerful read, grabbing me with the first sentence and holding me until the last.

(If I were to have one complaint, it was simply that the tight pacing didn’t allow for as much expansion of other characters, which resulted in some of them falling a tad flat)

haereads's review

Go to review page

dark emotional medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

3.5

staraice's review

Go to review page

5.0

A difficult read in many ways, but so compelling that I read it all in practically one sitting (taking breaks at some more difficult parts and to do things like laundry). Intense and full of heightened emotion, I was on the edge of my seat.

jadeyz's review

Go to review page

4.0

This was such a sad book, but definitely worth a read as long as you pay attention to the listed trigger warnings. (Shout out to Hanna Alkaf for putting all those at the beginning of her book, by the way! Very considerate.)

This book covered a period of history that I barely knew about, but the author managed to give enough details for me to understand what was going on without overwhelming the reader with history and facts. It's set in 1969, during the riots in Malaysia when Malays and Chinese were fighting each other.

In the midst of it all is the main character, Melati. This is definitely a character driven book, and we get close to Melati as her every thought and fear is revealed. I thought this was very well done—how her hopes, loyalties, questions, and struggle with OCD were woven together to make a very dimensional character. It was painful to see how her OCD sometimes took over her body and added so much more stress to an already tense time, but she was also so brave.

This also is not a romance, which I am relieved for. The time frame covered in this book is quite short, so a love story in this would have annoyed me and taken attention away from the other important relationships. Sometimes she only met someone for a very short time, but each character had their own story and complexities—they were all human even when the country was trying to divide itself into Malay and Chinese.

To end, two quotes!

“Bloody politicians and their bloody stupid rhetoric, speeches, ideologies. You ever hear anyone say words don’t matter after this, you tell them about this day, when Malay idiots and Chinese idiots decided to kill one another because they believed what the bloody politicians told them.”

“If I’m going to wage battle with demons both on the street and in my own head, I’m going to do it with all of myself, and not weighed down by borrowed clothes and secondhand memories.”

akhmalaiman's review

Go to review page

4.0

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Thank God for the trigger warning.

This book is so emotionally heavy and it could definitely trigger an anxiety. The cover can look deceiving because in contrast to the colourful cover (it's beautiful, by the way), you can't almost see light and hope in every chapter (thanks to the inner demonic voice).

You might this it is overwhelming but I think the beautiful narrative counters that. I don't know how Hanna Alkaf does it - it surely is a good blend and the weight of the book is well-balanced. It doesn't get you to that point where you have to stop reading the book entirely. You would read until the end.

Speaking of ends, I was slightly disappointed with how Melati deals with the quote-unquote Djinn in the later part of the book, and that one scene where they are caught in the middle of the chaos with the Malays on one side and the Chinese on the other. Too good to be true it almost feels like a shot sequence for a drama series on TV3.

Nevertheless, worth a read especially since this is applicable to what is happening today with the #BlackLivesMatter movement. If reading a non-fiction is too heavy, this historical fiction helps you understand such case (even by just a little). It's also more relatable to us as it talks about the 1969 race riots in Malaysia.