At a Moment’s Notice

Indonesian Maids Write on Their Lives Abroad

Edited and translated by Jafar Suryomenggolo

  • Published: 2019
  • Pages: 208 pp.
  • Series: Voices of Asia
  • Series number: 1
Available from NIAS Press worldwide
ISBN Hardback: 978-87-7694-270-0, £65.00
ISBN Paperback: 978-87-7694-271-7, £19.99

• 23 short stories by Indonesian domestic workers on their lives working abroad.
• Gives voice to the hopes, fears and everyday reality of maids’ lives.
• First translation into English of this lively, migrant literature.
• Offers startling new insights on female migration.

Life abroad for Indonesian women hired as domestic workers is more than the job. In their spare time, some will plan a better life back home when their work contract ends. Others will venture out to experience the cities (like Singapore, Hong Kong and Taipei) where they now work, even posing as locals and living life to the fullest. And some of these women can write. Recently, a new genre of Indonesian women’s literature has developed, one in which – often in short stories – authors reimagine their experiences as domestic workers in foreign lands. Now, for the first time, a selection of these stories has been collected and translated into English. Collectively, these stories provide an honest description of the complex and multifaceted reasons for working abroad, the maids’ living and working conditions, and their hopes and dreams for a better life. The stories are also a delightful read.

Readership: The anthology can be read, enjoyed and understood in different ways. For the many middle-class employers of such maids, the stories offer startling insights not just into the thoughts of their sometimes infuriating staff but also the culture and experiences that guide them. For scholars engaged with labour migration, the stories give colour and nuance to their ethnographic data and a voice to their subjects not always available. And for those working in literary fields, it opens a space for dialogue between such workers and their readers who may be unaware of their literary products. These non-Western texts also may cause some to rethink their understanding of World Literature. But whatever their background, readers of this lively collection will be moved, amused and even maybe horrified by these thought-provoking stories of life at the end of the vacuum-cleaner in modern Asia.

 

author image not supplied

Jafar Suryomenggolo is Assistant Professor at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS) in Tokyo. A graduate of the University of Indonesia and Kyoto University, his research interests are on working-class politics and political change in contemporary Southeast Asia.  

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by Kate Whitehead
From journal: South China Morning Post
South China Morning Post

This bold collection is a chance to hear the working-class voices of Indonesian migrants that until now have rarely been heard in the English language.

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