Publication date: October 2010
Retail Price:
RM 34.90 / S$ 18.60 before GST
Format: 130 mm X 198 mm ;
208 pp with colour photographs
Category: Fiction / Asian Heritage
Territories & Rights:
World / All languages
Imprint: Marshall Cavendish Editions



Kebaya Tales:
Of matriarchs, maidens, mistresses and matchmakers

About the Book

Kebaya Tales is a delightful collection of short stories, teeming with fascinating and interesting characters, unexpected twists and turns, cultural rituals, beliefs and superstitions and poignant events in the life stories of the Peranakans.

Lee Su Kim’s book brings you into another world, a world that many know little about—the world of the Babas and Nyonyas or the Straits Chinese, a colourful, flamboyant and unique community still in existence today in the former Straits Settlements of Malacca, Penang and Singapore. Like her previous books, Lee Su Kim’s stories in this book are laced with humour and occasional gentle satire. All the stories are based on or are inspired by real-life events which Su Kim has collected from her nyonya mother, grandmother, bibiks and nyonyas.

This is a first-ever collection of short stories of a unique cultural community, at the crossroads as to its very survival, but presently enjoying a tremendous resurgence. Su Kim’s debut collection of stories are simply stunning and heartwarming, evocative of a bygone era and a cultural community renowned for its unique multicultural legacy.



Excerpts from the Book:

From “Boxed In Bibik”

... “I have already given instructions to Janet,” she croaked to her family summoned to her bedside on yet another false alarm. “ After I am dead, I want to be dressed in my expensive kebaya – Janet knows which one, my best kerosang, and my diamond earrings. And my favourite slippers - the red beaded kasut manik. Don’t anyone dare go against my wishes.”

What?! Rosie, Daughter-in-law Number One, who had been doing a poor job of massaging the matriarch’s bony shoulders, jerked upright, forgetting to maintain her staccato-like clumsy kneading for a full two minutes. She had hoped that Bibik’s gorgeous kerosang - three delicate brooches of filigree gold metalwork studded with intan diamond flakes, linked by a dainty gold chain - would fall into her hands when the bossy old cow died. But now, the wrinkled vainpot wants to wear her three carat diamond earrings as well! What next? Who the hell is going to look at her wherever the hell she’s going ? If the old loony went on like this, the entire family would go bankrupt. I didn’t marry the eldest son of the family for nothing, fumed Rosie.

“And don’t forget my gold anklets. I want to go out in style as they say...heh heh. And my silver belt – the one with the biggest buckle…make sure my sarung is fastened properly…,nanti sarong jatuh..,” croaked the old Bibik, enjoying her own bawdy humour, as she winked at Janet and glared at Rosie.

“If she lives another week, your crazy Mother may decide to give everything to charity next. What are we to do, Boon Eng? You are the eldest son – do something!” Rosie complained bitterly to her husband that evening over dinner.

“What do you expect me to do? Can’t you be patient for once? She won’t be around much longer, “ he snapped back.


Read ‘Kebaya Tales’ for the rest of this story and more!





" Like the generations of babas and nyonyas who traverse these stories, this book is a succulent mixture of colours, kebayas, kerosang and conversations, of scents, spicy food and feisty families. Lee Su Kim brings her sharp eye, her love of stories, and her keen sense of the verbal and visual to this delightful book which gives us a chance to savour the richness and diversity of Peranakan lives."

Professor Alastair Pennycook,
University Technology Sydney, Australia


"Mothers tell stories, daughters often forget them but not Lee Su Kim. She shows that Malaysian Peranakan mothers transmit stories with a distinct flavour. Through these bright and trenchant vignettes, Su Kim has heightened the uniqueness of her community. One might add that these enjoyable tales also add a more nuanced dimension to the art of being both Malaysian and Chinese.

Professor Wang Gungwu,
National University of Singapore, Singapore


"A fascinating collection of tales bringing together the uniqueness of traditional Peranakan culture with universal human themes. By turns deeply moving and deliciously funny, these stories and the lives they portray go on reverberating in the mind long after reading them."

Professor Alan Maley, O.B.E.,
Leeds Metropolitan University, UK


Copyright © 2010 LEE SU KIM. All Rights Reserved. Text, and Media may not be reproduced without written permission.