When I was asked to ‘put together some Singapore writers’ for an issue of STAND magazine, my first reaction was whether we had enough range of writers from the humdrum bourgeoisie liberal arts grads skulking around as civil servants or lawyers on this small island. Furthermore, they seem all to be sensitive new age male writers.
So I decided to do better, by tying one arm behind my back, and finding a nice swath from across only women Singaporean writers. It was an open call, no theme, only word limits.
To my surprise, when co-editor Shirley Chew and I sat down together, we came up with a rather fun and high quality list. To my second surprise, the pick of ten we have for STAND runs across genres, across ethnicity and across generations. I’d like to think of this showcase as having breadth and depth. (And remember that it is only half the Singapore population – 50.49% to be precise).
The resulting collection is what we would, in local patois, say ‘rojak’. A true melting pot of a small nation. We are between thirty and seventy-five years of age, we are preoccupied with religion, identity, race AND sex. The impetus comes from everywhere: Balli Kaur writes through Punjabi lenses of her schooldays; Pooja Nansi, whose ancestry is Gujarat India, writes about the multitude of influences growing up, including Michael Jackson; Nuraliah Norasid writes as a Muslim woman sent to space. The rest of us are Chinese women, born and bred in Singapore. Most of us speak at least two of the four official languages (English, Chinese, Tamil, Malay) not including various dialects.
This IS Singapore. We are learning, adapting and growing in a rapidly changing world. Our ancestors came here not even a hundred years ago, from Guangzhou, from Fu Jian, from Chao Zhou, from Punjab, from southern India, from northern India, from Malaysia, from Arabia, from Indonesia. We are a mixed bag and we have just celebrated fifty-three years of independence, but in this short time we have become very, very Singaporean.