Have you ever read a philosophical action-packed horror-comedy, coming-of-age road trip novel starring a pontianak?
If your answer is yes, then you’ve probably read Suffian Hakim’s ‘The Minorities’. If your answer is no, here are three reasons why you should read it!
1. Hilarious, action-packed plot
First of all, the plot of this book will definitely keep you on your toes. It is set in a Yishun flat illegally sublet to a colourful group of characters, and when one of them commits a grotesque act, a pontianak comes to haunt them!
However, the pontianak is more than meets the eye, and needs the help of our four unlikely heroes. This kicks off a crazy adventure that includes a group therapy session for ghosts, a gangster with a shotgun and a vampire-pontianak-wendigo showdown.
2. Endearing “misfit” characters
The heart of this novel definitely lies in the friendship among the characters that Suffian has created. These characters represent the marginalised in Singapore, and getting to know them is the best part of the book.
The Narrator is a Malay-Jew wannabe inventor struggling to cope with his father’s death. Shanti is a talented laboratory technician hiding from her abusive husband. Cantona is a Bangladeshi construction worker who escaped his company to become an artist. And Tights is a Chinese illegal immigrant with special needs and a Forrest Gump obsession.
3. Social commentary
Of course, underlying all that action and humour is a rather serious commentary on identity, ethnicity and assimilation. Singaporeans have very likely experienced or even took part in marginalising minorities and “foreign talent” from an early age.
The book makes us reflect on what we want Singapore to be. Maybe it should be like how it is in Suffian’s fictional Yishun flat: a place where refugees, outcasts and even ghosts can belong.
“The truth is that human progress is a numbers game. Minorities have chips stacked against them since their moment of inception, lacking the resources and manpower larger groups would naturally have.
The minorities are the wretched of the earth and, in divisions of religion, the wretched of the afterlife, too. Their cultures are branded backwards and the antithesis of what the larger groups deem “cultural” and popular.”