Indonesian Self-Help Book Helps Navigate Rough Waters of Youth
“Been There Done That Got the T-Shirt (B.T.D.T.G.T.T.S)” may be one of the most creatively presented self-help books ever authored by an Indonesian. The neon yellow tint of its cover and pages encapsulates the book’s off-kilter take on getting through in a young adult’s self-knowing universe.
The lifestyle tips laid out eschew any spiritual claptrap; instead they jump between whimsical factoids and unambiguous notes on understanding and surviving the daily routine. It is a short book that is unlikely to give older readers any particularly insight, but should offer sprinkles of knowledge for younger readers eager for succinctly delivered know-how.
Writer Risyiana Muthia and illustrator Emeralda N.A. are children of the digital age, and they lay out their lifestyle guide with a dynamic tone, using conversational language that is witty and interspersed with Internet-style and absurdist humor. Older readers may scoff that the ideas presented are inane and should be common sense to many, but the authors’ intentions feel innocent enough to survive such judgment.
In the book’s “How To” section, which is accompanied by Emeralda’s enchantingly grotesque comic-strip drawings, Risyiana gives tips on things like executing Michael Jackson’s famed moonwalk dance, correctly cracking an egg with just one hand and using sign language. These tips certainly add a novelty value to the book’s dynamism, but they rarely feel devoid of context; learning sign language and making your own eggs isn’t a waste of time, after all.
In the book’s most Indonesian-teen-relatable section on how to save money, titled “The Cheapskate!” Risyiana conveys her ideas like an older sister scribbling thoughtful notes for her younger ones (in fact, the book’s textual design is a handwritten-style font).
Some of the tips sound facetious on the surface but make perfect sense for young Indonesians.
“If you don’t want to cook your own meals” (“Cheapskate Trick #1”), the author suggests “buying bread after 3 p.m. (when it starts to stale and is thus sold cheaply)” or a routine of finding lunch at remote sections of the city, where food stalls are often cheaper.
These may sound obvious to many, but they are handy ideas for those living on a shoestring budget in a rented kost somewhere in the middle of Jakarta.
Other similar tips include saving transportation costs by “nebeng” (“hitching a ride with a friend”) and taking up sewing to modify old clothes in order for them to stay up with current fashion trends.
The book does include some questionable ideas, particularly in a section that teaches readers how to use their smile as a weapon of charm.
While using your smile to convince others to help you might be acceptable in a self-help-book kind of way, getting people to “do your homework” may be a step too far.
“B.T.D.T.G.T.T.S” deserves props for being an efficient book of tips that does not look at all intimidating. Desperate youth calls for desperate measures, and just maybe, it takes a brightly colored book to get kids reading for ideas again.