Reading Japanese Occupation in Malaya in The Rice Mother Through the Lens of Social Memory

  •  Nurul Atiqah Amran    
  •  Ruzy Suliza Hashim    


This paper examines the reconstruction of social memory as portrayed in The Rice Mother, a historical fiction of the 21st century which appropriates the history of Japanese Occupation in Malaya from 1941 to 1945. Social memory is defined as a unifying force that envisions the past through which cultural and communal influences are derived and handed down through generations. The studies on social memory raise questions about the transmission of the system, preservation of experience and knowledge, and alteration of culture during the historical period in which based on these premises, we emphasise on the small unit of a Ceylonese family. We discuss the process of commemorating history within individual identity and communal relations in the novel which takes on a dark history as the setting of the stories of a Ceylonese immigrant family and the generations that make Malaysia their homeland. Unlike No Dram of Mercy, a memoir by Sybil Kathigasu, a survivor of the occupation, Manicka’s novel is based on remnants of history as creative background to a tale that runs several generations. We shall identify the ways in which the history of Japanese Occupation in Malaya is being represented through the lens of social memory to show how a contemporary Malaysian writer still remembers afresh the traumatic memory of our war in our history.

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