Femininity redefined

05 Apr 2018 / 16:35 H.

FAZLEENA Hishamuddin loves exploring women's issues in her writing, which has led some to assume she is a feminist who hates men.
The 39-year-old author and actress laughs on hearing that.
"Just because I write about a woman's strength does not mean I hate men," she says, adding that women's stories need to be told.
"A woman's voice should be heard in our literature. Why can't a woman write about her breasts? Why can't a woman write about her mother who cooks in the kitchen? Why can't a woman write about an uneducated woman who is living in an isolated island?
"Nobody has the right to stop a woman from expressing herself."
While some women authors project an aggressive, angry tone in telling their stories, Fazleena prefers to let her message comes across subtly in her writing.
"I am a 'graceful' feminist," she explains with a huge laugh.
Her first book, a collection of her poems, came out in 2012, under the eyebrow-raising title of Seksi Ovari. Two years later, she released Bibir Ceri Melati, featuring more poems and some short stories.
This weekend, Fazleena will be launching her third book, Tari Pasar Perempuan. This is a collection of short stories, all focusing on a range of women, from a six-year-old girl to a grandmother.
Some of the stories are told from a man's viewpoint but the central figure is always a woman.
There is also a touch of bitterness and darkness in her stories. Not all her female characters succeed in their struggles for a better life.
"They get defeated," Fazleena elaborates. "But my characters learn to pick up the pieces and carry on with their life."
Tari Pasar Perempuan has one interesting feature that distinguishes it from Fazleena's other books.
"After nearly finishing it, I felt something was lacking in my manuscript," she says. That's when she had the idea of adding illustrations in the book.
After a long search, she finally found a young illustrator named Yani Mahmud on social media.
"Her drawings had [elements of] 'kejahatan', 'kenakalan' and 'kehitaman' (evil, naughtiness, and darkness)," she says, adding that they will complement her stories.
"I did not interfere too much in her creative process and I want her to interpret my stories through her drawings," Fazleena adds.
Explaining the metaphor behind the book title, she says: "In a market, you always find buyers and sellers constantly negotiating. The buyers are looking for a good bargain, and the sellers are looking to make a good profit.
"Life is no different from this metaphor. In life, we are always negotiating to get what we want. Life is like one big market!"
The short story from which the book's title is taken is set in an actual market, the famous Pasar Besar Siti Khadijah in Kelantan, which is run mostly by women.
This wet market was named after Prophet Muhammad's wife, who was known for her entrepreneurial skills.
The story centres on a young woman who performs the Malay traditional dance of Mak Yong in front of her mother's stall.
Mak Yong is banned in Kelantan, as the authorities feel this dance form goes against Islamic teachings. The young woman is arrested, and the women in the market decide to rescue her at all costs.
Fazleena says: "The irony is that Mak Yong can be performed in any place in the world, except the place where the dance originated."
Tari Pasar Perempuan will be launched this Saturday at Publika Solaris Dutamas at noon. Fazleena will be on hand to autograph the book which will be on sale at RM20 (soft cover), and RM50 (hardcover).
So what's next for the author?
Fazleena says she is currently working on her first full-fledged novel, which touches on the world of counselling – a subject she knows very well.
Fazleena not only has a degree in Malay literature, but also a master in psychology, specialising in counselling.
She was a counsellor for two years, during which she also pursued a fairly successful acting career on stage, and in scriptwriting, before turning to novel writing.
"I have been told that for your first novel, you should always write what you know," she explains. "And I know something about the world of counselling."


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