My characters and I grew up under the New Order, which enforced uniformity. Just as they were graduating college and it was time for them to enter the real world, there were all these new freedoms. Now they could be different, they didn’t have to fear censorship or persecution anymore. But as the euphoria passed, they realized there was still a lot of challenges, and they still had to face their own fears and self-destructive habits. By drawing parallels between my character’s endeavors to realize themselves and Indonesia’s efforts towards democracy, I want to write a story about how to break free and be loved for who you are.
As democratic reforms swept Indonesia in the late nineties, the nation’s young generation asked themselves: what does it mean to be free? This novel is a compelling study of freedom and love, community and conformity, told with humour, sensuality and a subtly sharp political intelligence.
How was it possible that these people, after three decades of silence and obedience and fear, now found the courage to protest? These people were so used to submitting to fate. How had they decided that they could break the course of History? The protests impressed him profoundly as the first confirmation that one could indeed bring about change. He would never forget how, along with the sound of thousands of students marching, he had heard God lovingly whisper in his ear, ‘You too can change your life’s course.’
Seraya Indonesia menjelang demokrasi pada akhir ’90-an, generasi muda bertanya: apa makna kebebasan? Seorang laki-laki dan seorang perempuan mendambakan kebebasan untuk jadi diri sendiri, meskipun itu berarti hidup di luar norma-norma masyarakat dan budaya.
Aku ingin karyaku turut memajukan kisah inovasi lintas benua dan lintas zaman, aku ingin menciptakan diriku dari apa pun yang kuyakini dapat mendekatkanku ke sebaik-baik Eliza Vitri Handayani.
My Javanese father gave me the Javanese name ‘Handayani’—he dislikes going out and likes to eat only Indonesian food; he believes it is his right and obligation to be the head of the family. My Madurese mother gave me the Western name ‘Eliza’—she likes traveling and trying cuisines from around the world; she believes in the values her parents taught her: obedience to husband, submission to God. Fate decided my middle name: I was born on Idul Fitri, but, horrified at the thought of her first-born named like every other baby girl born that day, my mother swapped the F in ‘Fitri’ for a V. ‘Vitri’: fate tweaked by free will.