NTU’s Creative Writing Faculty held a reading on 7 April at Artistry featuring several writers in residence: Tash Aw (Taiwan/Malaysia/UK), Divya Victor (Singapore/India/US) and Boey Kim Cheng (Australia/Singapore).
Tash read from his new nonfiction book, Strangers on a Pier, and entertained with tales of bourgeois gangsters and ‘bodice ripper’ reading teachers.
I like the emphasis in his essay on ‘routes’, rather than some fundamental ’root’ at the core of identity. See Stuart Hall.
I will write more about Strangers on a Pier and it’s themes of nostalgia, the frame of narrative and story technique in migrant tales, mixed identities and imposter syndrome in a later post. These thoughts will be written from the perspective of a reluctant ex Yuppie, Eurasian with an adopted and adopting, hybrid identity.
Divya read a selection of her poetry, prose poems and essays including pieces from her forthcoming book, KITH and a prose poem about the Tamil child suicide bomber who assassinated Rajiv Gandhi.
Boey Kim Cheng read The Golden Temple and a stamp poem (after forgetting where he’d put it).
The common theme reflected in the readings and their readers seemed to be the entanglement of national and cultural identities - or perhaps I was reading this into things.
Meanwhile, despite it being obvious to the point of banality that any one individual can have many identities, influences and stories, lately, political and privileged classes have ramped up discourses of bigotry and racism so anything reflecting the complexity of lived experience (we are many not one) should be celebrated.
Examples of discourses of ‘othering’ include:
- in Singapore, Denise Phua MP's comments on migrant workers in Little India,
- in Australia, the treatment of Gold Logie nominees Waleed Aly and Lee Lin Chin, and
- in the US. Trump and the other Republican candidates.
Where is this racism, xenophobia and prejudice coming from? Punching down and a distraction from anxieties felt by the mainstream over the decline in opportunity and privilege? Another topic to be discussed in a later post.
Anyway back to the wonderful evening which may be summarised as follows:
the sandwiches were decent, and the satays and readings were better.