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Posts Tagged ‘The Heartsick Diaspora’

The Heartsick Diaspora‘ by Elaine Chiew is a collection of fourteen short stories. They were written in a ten year span, and each of them is beautifully sculpted, and most of them cover unique themes. The stories explore the lives of Singaporeans, many of whom belong to the Singaporean diaspora and have migrated across the world. The stories are mostly set in Singapore, London and New York. There are all kinds of Singaporean characters featured in the book – some of them are glamorous and play it cool and others are maids and construction workers. There are stories which focus on Singaporean history and they are fascinating to read. There is one ghost story too, which was one of my favourites (at one point the ghost says “Feed me, or you die“, to which the narrator replies “That not even scary. What kind of ghost are you?” I couldn’t stop laughing when I read that 😁) and there is another story which is a modern take on mythology which was quite fascinating. Some of the stories are about food – there is a beautiful description of tomato and how it is cooked, which was one of my favourite passages from the book. Elaine Chiew has edited a book on food fiction and her stories with a food theme are some of the most beautiful in the book.

The stories in the book touch on many aspects of Singaporean culture – the relationship between parents and children, the importance of being filial and the lengths to which people will go to do that, love (there is a beautiful story set during the Japanese occupation in which two people bond over food), migration and its complexities, friendships between women which cross ethnic lines and the beauty and complexity of such friendships, Tiger moms, how immigrant women worked hard in construction in the ’60s to help build the country, the beauty of Singaporean art – these and other themes are explored beautifully in the book. There is even one story, which is a kind of meta fiction, because it takes some of the other stories under its wing. I loved all the stories in the book. Each one was beautiful in its own way.

I loved ‘The Heartsick Diaspora‘. Elaine Chiew’s prose is beautiful and is a pleasure to read. I highlighted many beautiful passages in the book. I think this is the first book by a Singaporean author that I have read, and I think I can say that this introduction to Singaporean literature has been spectacular. I can’t wait to read Elaine Chiew’s next book.

Have you read ‘The Heartsick Diaspora‘? What do you think about it?

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