Friday, November 24, 2023

Interviewed about mixed marriages for a children's book... (repost)

From my email archives, a request from Jim Holmes - author of a children's book on "mixed marriages" - for an interview that may never have seen the light of day...

Anoora, Ahau & Antares in Tanjong Malim, 1998

----- Original Message -----
Date: Tuesday, February 4, 2003 9:08 pm
Subject: Re: A Children's Book.

Dear Antares,

Here are the questions, think 12-year-olds. Can I call you by your old name, or should I call you Antares?

Antares applies as it has better exchange value.

There are no guarantees that the interview will be used, as we have 27 out of a possible requirement of 21.

Mine are not the kind of answers that questionnaires seek - not usually - but we'll give it a go.

1. What are your own ethnic roots, and what are those of your partner?

I was born to Chinese parents, but describe myself as primarily human. Anoora is from the indigenous Temuan tribe who live in the Malaysian rainforest.

2. Most people find a partner or get married within their own ethnic group, are there any social barriers to crossing ethnic boundaries in Malaysia?

The usual ones - but these barriers are beginning to disappear as TV brings more of the world into people's living rooms.

3. Do people think it strange that you did not find a partner from your own ethnic background? Does it make life difficult at times?

The raised eyebrows were not because I married outside my tribe - but because I wed someone perceived as socially inferior. My own mother, when shown a photo of Anoora, asked whose maid she was.

4. Can you communicate easily by language and do you find that your partner has different ideals and a differing set of social norms from your own?

Communication of abstract ideas is not even attempted, but feelings are easily understood and require no verbal language. Anoora is in the process of acquiring her own view of what or who she is. When I met her she was only a conduit for tribal customs and beliefs. Our worldviews couldn't be more different - like a dialogue between earth and sky.

5. Has being in a mixed marriage/relationship changed your way of looking at the world?

My way of looking at the world was already different from the norm. Living with Anoora has changed my way of looking at myself.

6. Do you think that mixing the races is one possible way forward for Malaysia?

There is a natural attraction between people of different skin color and perspectives. Over time I believe that at least one-third of humanity will be an exotic genetic mix. However, in Malaysia, Islam is a bit of a barrier to intermarriage. Not many would willingly subject themselves to compulsory change of belief system, even for love. This is a pity, as intermarriage is perhaps the most effective way to outgrow ethnic prejudices that lead to political tension.


In a multi-ethnic community that views people as individuals rather than as racial stereotypes, the politics of ethnic divide-and-rule would soon become extinct. Diversity would be celebrated, not feared.

Anoora, Antares & Eugenie in August 2009 (photo by Robin Tan)

[Originally published 27 June 2012 & reposted 24 March 2013, 1 October 2015 & 13 November 2018]