Move Over, Lat. Here’s Kampung Boey

I’d never heard of Boey before I saw the stack of his books at my friendly neighbourhood newsagent.

I picked one up and the guy behind the counter said, “Just came yesterday. You are the first to buy.”

In the weeks since, I suspect many others have snapped up this little charmer because When I Was a Kid: Childhood Stories by Boey is No. 4 this week on the MPH local bestseller list, after peaking at No. 2 two weeks ago behind Dr Mahathir’s memoirs.

Johor boy Cheeming Boey, 34, went to school in Singapore before working as an animator in San Francisco, a job he then left to pursue styrofoam cup art. Yes, that’s art on styrofoam cups.

In his book, he writes about everyday childhood things many of us would instantly recognise. The bowl of canteen noodles with one slice of fishcake that cost 20 cents. The family dogs that were all called “puppy”. The trauma of having your mom throw out your favourite old, smelly pillow. Only to take pity on you and give it back.

And the girl you liked in school but never told.

The day I bought the book, uhm, very little got done. My laundry got left out in the rain, my kids went hungry. One hundred and eighty-three delicious pages. Ate it up in a day.

My eight-year-old stole it midway and I found her lying upside down on the couch lost in the world of Boey. (Warning: Boey’s cartoons contain some PG13 words so you should probably hide it if you have young kids around. My kid appears undamaged.)

The funniest bit – surely inadvertent – is the foreword by his mom.

She appears to have written it midway through reading his book. She tells him some parts are funny.

“…but one thing I don’t like is… talking rubbish about me.”

Boey’s cartoons will make you laugh out loud and make you cry. Yes, cry.

The one that’ll probably make all Malaysians abroad tear up is called “When the Day Comes”.

Boey draws himself as a kid, in bed, blanket pulled up over his face so that only his signature three tufts of hair are showing. He was, he writes, seven or eight years old.

“When I was a kid, one evening, for no reason at all, I realized that my mom will not be with me forever.”

“Nowadays, the thought of losing my mom haunts me every once in a while.”

“I live and work in California now. Everyday, I think about getting that call from someone to tell me my mom is gone. I don’t think the world would be the same after that, ever again.”

Hungry for more Boey? Click here for a Q&A with Boey by Emily Ding of Longwayhome.my, an online mag which shares Outstation.my’s mission – to connect Malaysians around the world.  Find out why Boey started drawing on styrofoam cups, why he recently wrote to Lat and Dr Mahathir and why he doesn’t think he’ll ever move back to Malaysia.

EDITOR’S NOTE:

Because of amendments to Malaysia’s Evidence Act 2012, Outstation recently changed its commenting system to a moderated one (see below). Unfortunately, in doing so, we lost our previous comments. Here are a few we saved:

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