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Playing for Malaya: A Eurasian Family and the Pacific War

Rebecca Kenneison

Reggie, according to his niece Wendy, 'only told what Reggie wanted you to know.' Reggie was my father. He had honed the technique of talking with apparent openness and using that talk as a decoy duck: while you were listening to it quack around the pond, you weren't noticing all the others hiding in the reeds. What follows includes tales that Reggie told repeatedly but, on the whole, it's about what Reggie didn't tell me.

So begins a stunning personal account of a Eurasian family living in Malaya. Reggie was the author's father, and one of the many gaps in his account of his family was that his mother was Eurasian. When Rebecca Kenneison discovered this omission after his death, she set out to learn more about her extended family on the other side of the world.

Her voyage of discovery is compelling in itself, but Playing for Malaya has a much larger purpose. Set in the 1930s and 1940s, it recounts the experiences of an extended Eurasian family during the invasion and occupation of Malaya by the Japanese. Colonial society considered Eurasians insufficiently European to be treated as British, but during the Pacific War they seemed all too European to the Japanese, who subjected the Eurasian community to discrimination and worse. Because many Eurasians, including members of the Kenneison family, supported the Allied cause, their wartime experiences are an extraordinary account of tragedy, heroism and endurance, presented here with great eloquence and clarity.

«The author connects her family story to larger social and political events with insight, and with a strong sense of fair play and natural justice. She allows emotion, deeply personal, to drive the whole project - and it works all the better because of it. Beautifully written and based on sound critical research, the book presents an account of the war years that is both fresh and riveting.»
-Brian P. Farrell,
Department of History, National University of Singapore

Born in Chelmsford, England, and educated at St John's College, Cambridge, Rebecca KENNEISON lives in Essex with her husband and children.

publication year: 2011
208 pages
ISBN: 978-9971-69-573-6  Paperback  US$30.00  S$38.00

      

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