Marina Mahathir On Tun M: The Apple Talks About The Tree

Marina Mahathir On Tun M: The Apple Talks About The Tree

In this Father’s Day special, Zafigo Founder Marina Mahathir tells us about what went on behind the scenes when working on her latest book, The Apple and the Tree — a memoir about growing up as Tun Dr Mahathir’s daughter. (Left: Image by Tercia Goh. Right: Courtesy of Marina Mahathir.)

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It’s Father’s Day this Sunday, and to commemorate this day dedicated to one of the most important people in our lives, we chat with Zafigo’s Founder, Marina Mahathir, about her newest book — The Apple and the Tree.

A memoir that reminisces what it was like growing up as the daughter of Tun Dr Mahathir, the biography lets us see the legendary politician himself in a different, much softer light. Dad for Marina, Dr Mahathir is the Father of Modernisation for Malaysians and thus a role model for us all.

Of course, if you want all the insight, you will have to read the book. But in the meantime, here are some little nuggets of info from the author herself to whet your appetite for more.

1. You’ve written books before. What made you decide on one reminiscing growing up with someone as legendary as your father?

1. You've written books before. What made you decide on one reminiscing growing up with someone as legendary as your father?

I have written four books before, but three were compilations of my Star columns, and one was a compilation of my blog posts about my Dad being in hospital. I had never written a book from start to finish, and that was why I went off to the UK to take a Masters in Biography and Creative Non-Fiction.

I decided to write this memoir because it is a subject I know well and also to answer the No 1 question asked of me: What is it like to be Dr M’s daughter?

2. Was he okay with it? And how does he feel now that the book’s out?

I never showed my Dad the manuscript while I was writing it. I did tell him I was writing a book and that he figured in it, and I did ask him some questions, mostly about our family history.

I think he’s okay with it. He did say I got some things wrong but didn’t specify. Mostly, I think he found out things about me that he never knew, especially in my years abroad studying.

3. The book gives us a glimpse into what Tun is like as a family man. What was the best part about putting this book together?

3. The book gives us a glimpse into what Tun is like as a family man. What was the best part about putting this book together?

I really wanted to convey my Dad as a human being and not just a public figure, which was not easy since the two roles are sometimes blurred. I think the best part was really finishing the manuscript and submitting it to the publisher.

4. What were some of the challenges you faced working on this memoir?

The main challenge in writing non-fiction is being accurate, especially about factual events. Some of this can be mitigated by research, but since it is a memoir, I relied a lot on my memory. I do remember many things from my childhood, right down to what I wore and what someone said, but more recent things are harder to pull up.

This is partly why I started journaling some years ago. I was amazed how some memoirs had so much detail in them while I found it hard to recall names and dates. Then I realised that those authors took extensive notes. So I found my journals very helpful in recalling the detail of some more recent events.

5. Would you say that this book is a compilation of your favourite memories so far with your father?

5. Would you say that this book is a compilation of your favourite memories so far with your father?

I think some memories aren’t actually good, so no, it’s not. It’s my memoir of growing up with him and my mother, and how that shaped me in my life.

6. Are there any memories that you found particularly difficult to write about?

I think the most difficult part of any memoir is to be respectful of the truth, even if sometimes it might not be pleasant. Also, you write your memories down, not everyone else’s. So there’s bound to be some dispute as to perceptions about events. But in the end, the bottom line for me is: I was there, so I’m entitled to write that memory as I remembered it.

7. So, does the apple fall far from the tree?

The message that I’d like to convey is that all apples come from trees. But it really depends on the quality of the tree, what it has nurtured in the apples.

My parents taught me certain values but also gave me the freedom to think for myself. So, while I held on to the values, I didn’t necessarily have to have the same views on all issues with them.

8. Are any other books or perhaps a part two in the pipeline?

I’m still getting over this book. It is meant to be distributed worldwide, and there is supposed to be an audiobook in the works. So it will be a while before I can do another book.

I have some ideas for subjects in my head but what I really need to do is write them down. Most of all, I need to find an agent to do all the negotiations with publishers for me.

*All images courtesy of Marina Mahathir.

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Going by the nickname Kuzai, the Kelantan native has spent 15 years in the wonderful world of publishing, formerly managing the beauty sections of glossies including ELLE and Harper’s BAZAAR. Now, Kuzai is the Editor of Zafigo. The wannabe runner is also mom to a feisty toddler, suffers from constant wanderlust, and really just works to eat, travel, and shop.