After the little complaint about the censored short story, author Wena Poon dropped an e-mail suggesting that I check out the rest of her short stories in their (untouched) entirety. I managed to get a copy from the library and read this book through the week. For some strange reason, it provided a little reprieve from the very localised issues I was facing at work. Perhaps because the characters were all displaced (but in a familiar sort of way) which in turn took me out of my present situation. Two stories I liked:
“The Man Who Was Afraid of ATMs” reminds me of all the pictures of rosy-cheeked mum’s friend’s children in bright checkered blazers that were sent back. With a tinge of envy, my mum would show me these glossy photographs, and sometimes even prop them up on the hall mantel. In particular, Sharon from Toronto’s pictures were a big favourite, because this kid just radiated with pure joy. I’ve learned over the years that my mum’s greatest regret was not staying longer in London, and as such I only have one set of blazer-adorned studio photos, which she hates because my nose looks too flat (“I just want to keep pinching it.”) I’m glad for this other side of the immigrant story with this unassimilated ATM grandpa character, which I realised is an issue many of my overseas friends hardly ever talk about.
“The Shooting Ranch” was a rather dark tale of a Singaporean family in Nevada. One line which made my heart break a little: “I just wanted to get married to a Singaporean Christian man and settle down and have a simple life.” Many Christian women hunt down Christian men because of religious compatibility (and implicitly, eternal happiness), but at the end of the day, it’s still a human you are marrying. This human has choices and sometimes, the choices will hardly be holy. Disturbingly enough, the anti-Western father antagonist reminded me of a group of Hwa Chong boys who wanted to beat up my male classmates after my female classmates said something sarcastic to them at some sports events in junior college. Apparently, that group hated “outspoken banana females”.
There are eleven stories in all for this collection, all very readable and authentic (from the point of view that there are no flowers, phoenixes and other overtly oriental symbols). I like the neutral, observational tone throughout this collection of stories, which is refreshing since most local literature can get quite angsty. Actually, I am a little unsure whether this is truly “local” literature, but it is a great read for anyone who is a) Singaporean and living abroad b) Singaporean and wanting to live abroad c) Singaporean and has lived abroad for a certain number of years.