Hey, Nicole! I'm here for your entry review to the Prefect's Celebration Challenge!
First of all, I have to admit, this is one of the best short stories I've read in a while. It was incredibly unique and refreshing to read. The culture shone through spectacularly, albeit some of it not-so-pleasant as with Daniel's parents' reaction to (quite directly) discovering their son's sexuality. I'm really glad that you chose to write an LGBTQ+ story that was based out of Malaysia because, while not making for an incredibly fluffy and happy story, you were able to showcase the societal impacts of being gay in the community that are even so prominent to tear apart a family.
The very first section had that classic feel of "in a simpler time," before Daniel and Aizzat fully recognized their feelings...back when they were just friends, and Daniel's mother teased him for talking on the phone so much. I fully appreciated this section because it (one) highlighted Daniel and Aizzat's friendship in childhood before they were more than friends and (two) showed the relationship between Daniel and Kwai Sim before Daniel left home (following the incident).
Thus, there's an extreme difference of mood in the following section that carries on through the remainder of the story. I love that there is a mystery surrounding what happened and why Kwai Sim hadn't heard from her son in such a long time. You absolutely nailed the awkward tension in the first phone call (and for many phone calls following that). Although we, as readers, didn't know precisely the reason Daniel had been gone so long and what had happened, it was clear that SOMETHING had happened and possibly something to do with his relationship with Aizzat given the first section and Daniel's mention of him while speaking to Kwai Sim. (Of course, we later find out that that is a large part of the reason.)
There is a sincere longing coming from Kwai Sim, which largely makes sense because, despite everything, she misses her son. While it seems she didn't openly denounce Daniel for his sexual preferences, as Daniel said later in the story, she did stand by Ah Huat's side while he did and was also a part of the incident with Aizzat's parents. I can imagine how humiliated Daniel must have felt, having his parents walk in on him and Aizzat like that, most especially given the social repercussions of being gay in Malaysia, and especially with the women's clothes involved and in such a bared state. Of course, it didn't make matters any better that his parents essentially outed Aizzat by going to his house and flinging "blame" back and forth for what had happened.
While his mother did try to make amends in the only way she seemed to know how (by making his favorite meals), it just wasn't enough. It makes sense that Daniel and Aizzat would want to travel somewhere where they could be (mostly) free of the damning prejudices against them. However, this did mean completely abandoning Daniel's family (and possibly Aizzat's as well). So, I love that Daniel does contact his mother out of the blue, as a way of starting to move forward from the past. And even while traveling around Europe with Aizzat, there's something that keeps drawing him to calling her, even if he doesn't want to give her his number.
In the end, it is very clear that there was a lot of work to be done to repair what relationship Aizzat had with his parents, but he and his mother were making strides in fixing it. I especially enjoyed the ending because while it wasn't joyous, it was hopeful. However, it is also very clear that his father hasn't truly come to terms with Daniel and Aizzat's relationship. And I especially adored the way the final phone call happened, where Kwai Sim finally gave in and learned how to use a smartphone. I felt like it was a symbol of Kwai Sim's ability to move forward and grow, and truly accept Daniel for who he is.
Anyway, brilliantly done! Congratulations once again on taking First Place! Please get in touch with me on the Forums or on Twitter to let me know where you want your seven reviews to go (five for placing, and two bonuses for prompts).
Thanks for writing!
Hi teh! This is a phone review so will be somewhat short, but just wanted to say that this was such an incredible story. I'm so happy to be seeing more of your writing showing up here - you're such an amazing writer. And this - as you said, it's not particularly happy, but it does feel like a very honest story. Particularly the character of Kwai Sim, who seems so real in how she's flawed; she disapproves of how Daniel lives his life and tiptoes around the topic, but she loves him, and it's a struggle for her to reconcile those two things, so she settles on small talk so she can still talk to her son but not have to confront what she disapproves of about him. And gah, it's heartbreaking that Daniel and Aizzat had to literally go halfway around the world to feel any acceptance and be themselves, but how at least in Daniel's case, that's still not enough because they're still so alone. :( This was such a powerful story. Thank you for sharing it.
Quodpot Review Match 3
Hi, Nicole! I stopped by yours grabbing the chance at the forum activity.
It's a beautiful piece of your works. I have emotional feeling after reading your story. It's hard to express it into the words. Just emotionally beautiful. I'll try my best to show how beautiful it is.
First, I was very impressed by the tone of your telling the story. You put the articles of the newspaper here and there, which tell us what was happening at that time and readers can sense the problems happening in the same timeline of this story. By that way, you succeeded in letting us feel each scene visually like we see this story in the film.
Second, the main theme is about transgender, however, I would like to focus, or could focus on the relationship between a mother and a son. This is the enternal theme for human-beings. It doesn't make difference, transgender or not, or the other problems. A parent tries hard to understand his/her child and accept all, it's simply affection. A child tries hard to behave as the parent wishes and when he/she has to behave differently, he/she tries not to let the parent worry about him/her. So Daniel ran away with Aizzat for not only to make his boyfriend safe but also trying not to make his parents worry about him.
The third, each description of food added cultural essence to your story. Asian taste let us feel like we live in the same country reading the dialogues. Daniel travels all around the world, but readers feel relived to spot her mother's dishes, feeling "home".