19 June 2014: Penang’s History, My Story

Chun Wai makes alive the many legacies of Penang in a refreshingly simple way — Anwar Fazal

Penang My StorySomeone once quipped that memory is a way of holding on to the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose. Its close cousin, nostalgia, is a portmanteau which translates to a painful longing to return home. In Wong Chun Wai’s Penang’s History, My Story, both elements are used to good effect in capturing Penang’s rich cultural and historical heritage. Wong, the Group Managing Director and CEO of Star Publications compiled this book from his weekly series, also called Penang’s History, My Story. The column made its debut on Jan 5, 2013 in The Star’s Metro section and continued for a year. It’s popularity has been vouched for by at least six prominent Penangites, among them Jimmy Choo, Anwar Fazal and Munir Majid, whose capsule reviews are featured in the book.

Wong’s uncanny sense of history and photographic memory explores a plethora of topics, including street names in George Town, the supernatural, politics, personalities, entertainment and culture. Apart from the lighthearted approach, there is also a serious side to Wong’s essays. Lamenting the sad fact that history, as a subject, has been reduced to little more than memorising facts, figures and dates, and stories about leaders and politicians, Wong asks  “What about people like us? Why are there no stories about the people, about social history, popular history?” Penang’s History, My Story rights the imbalance by taking readers on an engaging trek down Penang’s past, in a style that the average person can relate to, through everyday experiences and memories that will strike a chord with the reader. Wong’s former colleague and a prominent heritage personality in her own right, Khoo Salma, contributed the Foreword.

Proceeds from the sales of Penang’s History, My Story will go to the Penang Heritage Trust and Kenosis Home, a drug rehabilitation centre. It is available now at Areca Books.