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Malaysiakini talks to Marina Mahathir about her book, ‘The Apple and the Tree’, published by Penguin Random House SEA, scheduled for release on Nov 23.


Malaysiakini: I had expected when you told me you had this manuscript, oh, she probably submitted a few chapters for her Masters dissertation, but you actually wrote something else for submission.

Marina: Yes, I did.

So when was this book conceived?

I did write parts of it during the course, because every couple of weeks we had to write something and it is work-shopped. The early chapter about my childhood house in Kedah was an essay I submitted with my application for the course.

For my dissertation, I had wanted to expand on a piece I had written about a time when I was in the AIDS Council, and we hosted a controversial international conference. In it there was a bit about a transgender speaker.

My supervisor said that was interesting, I should write about that. It was an “Aha” moment, “Yaa!” So my dissertation was a lot of interviews with trans people, a portrait of six or seven.

I hope to turn that into a book sometime because their stories are fascinating. I wanted to show that they are human and cannot be defined just by their gender.

I talked to one of them in Negri, the one who was in a constitutional case. She’s a sex worker. She’s also a prize-winning cat-breeder and cavy-breeder (N.B: Cavy – a South American rodent kin to the guinea pig.). She had all these trophies. She read books on how to breed cats and cavies, how to prepare them for shows. I mean, who would think?

Another amazing interview was when I was in England, June, 2019. My parents came because dad was speaking at Cambridge or Oxford. Because it was Raya time, the High Commission had an open house – in the garden, tons of people, stalls. I was hanging out with my friends when this tall woman in red came up to me.

“Hi, I am M....”

“Hello.”

“I’m the first transgender Crown Prosecutor in the UK.”

“Are you Malaysian?”

“Yes.”

“I’ve got to interview you.”

I went to see her in court in north London. Imagine, someone from a conservative family in KL, non-Muslim, who left, studied law, rose to become a Crown Prosecutor.

I gave the manuscript to an agent in England, but she wanted to give it to...

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