Friday, July 31, 2015

The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye by Sonny Liew

As a self-respecting book reviewer, the moment I laid eyes on this copy of The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, I knew I had to get it. I didn't quite know what it was about, but from the controversy it generated, it was definitely something worth looking at.

I must admit that this is the first Singaporean graphic novel I've read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I was drawn into the story and was convinced that Charlie Chan was a real person until I found out otherwise. Sonny Liew did an impressive job crafting this masterpiece.

The story basically revolves around the life of Charlie Chan who grew up in Singapore before World War 2. He's a gifted artist and we see how he grows as a comics artist as he interacts with publishers, many of them dismissing his art. The story follows the history of Singapore, the rise and fall of David Marshall, Lim Yew Hock, and the eventual domination of the People's Action Party (PAP).

We see a darker side of Singapore's history that comes about with the ascent of PAP and how the protagonist responds. 

The end of the story where Charlie created a new comic, inspired by what he saw at the San Diego Comic Con was the part that blew me away. I'll not give anything away here.

Beyond the controversy this book generated, Sonny Liew has created a gem, multi-faceted and quite a sight to behold. I'd urge all to grab a copy and I look forward with excitement of his world-wide debut now that Pantheon picked it up (hardcopy to be released in 2016). 

Excellent job Sonny Liew!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Malay Sketches by Alfian Sa'at

This is one lovely book by the masterful writer that is Alfian Sa'at. I enjoyed reading this book very much.

As a Malay writer, he gives an insight into what the lives of the Malay people through his (really) short stories that are 1 to 3 pages long. I took it with me on my commute as it was perfect for the short trips that I make daily. I didn't have to worry about forgetting the plot of the story as I could finish each story before I alighted. Brilliant stuff.

I must say that if the stories are a reflection of what's happening in Singapore right now, it's pretty sad. Well, if this is so, more people should read this book then. Only with education can attitudes change.

My favourite story is the story titled "Losing Touch", have a quick read and you'll find out why I love it.

Love the accompanying illustrations by Shahril Nizam that come with each story too!

Well, all in all, it's a must-read for all Singaporeans. Go buy get your copy today man. (Mine was a borrowed copy from the NLB. Which is a great alternative when one is short of cash. Haha.)

Emergence - Labeled Autistic by Temple Grandin and Magaret M. Scariano

This book is an autobiography of Temple Grandin, a person who was labelled autistic when she was a little kid but grew up and overcame the obstacles that came with the diagnosis.

We get a glimpse into her life as an autistic child and the challenges that came with it, including bullying, difficulty in finding a suitable school, a desire to be touched yet flinching when hugged. 

It is an educational experience reading this. I find myself wondering how she got through life the way she did. And I am very grateful for her explanations and illustrations that helped me understand the mind of an autistic person.

She did point out that everyone's experience is different and hers is not a cookie cutter story that one can apply to all as everyone is made differently. But there are definitely things to be learnt.

I would recommend this book to everyone in general, but especially those that may have a friend or family member who is autistic or on the spectrum and wishes to know more, to understand, and to help that someone.

Happy reading!

Friday, July 10, 2015

The best of Kirpal Singh by Kirpal Singh

I picked up this book at the Singapore Collection section of Clementi Public Library as I was browsing one day. 

It's an excellent read. 

How is it that I've never read Kirpal Singh until now, I don't know. But I enjoy his poetry very, very much. 

They range from the tragic:

To the quirky yet thought-provoking:

I loved some poems so much I copied them into a notebook I bought so as to enjoy them after returning this gem of a book. 

Of course, there were some, especially the ones he wrote as a tribute to his friends that I didn't quite get. But they were pretty nice nonetheless. 

All I can say is, for the lover of Singaporean poetry, go grab this book by Kirpal Singh and like me, you might just wanna continue with his other collections. 


Monday, July 6, 2015

Redefining Realness by Janet Mock

I can't quite recall how I got to hear about this book, but I have a vague recollection that it was probably my Amazon app on my iPhone that recommended this book to me. That was one brilliant suggestion I must say. I got a good friend to buy it for me after she offered to buy me a book. 

Well, what can I say? You should go read this book. 

*Spoiler alert!*

Janet Mock is a transgender journalist and activist who was assigned male at birth. The book opens with her meeting the man of her dreams in a club one night in New York City (NYC) and was quickly faced with the decision of whether to reveal her past to him.

The first chapter starts with a memorable incident where a young boy Charles and his playmate were in a backyard playing "Truth or Dare". Charles chose a dare and his friend challenged him to put on his grandma's dress which was hanging on a clothesline near them, run to the end of the road in her heels and run back.

He did so, was caught, and disciplined by his grandmother and father. The latter told him that that's not what little boys do.

Charles grew up and was separated from his father when his parents divorced. A while into the story, his mother decided to send him and his younger brother back to their father when she found a new beau and decided to settle down with him. 

Life with his father was difficult. He could not excel in the sports his father forced him to try. It was here that he was sexually abused by Derek, a teenager that lived with them and was the son of the woman Charles' father was with at that time. That was his initiation into the world of sex.

It was also around then that he began dressing as a girl and even attracted the attention of an older boy by becoming "Keisha".

When his mom requested custody of the boys, Charles was overjoyed. It was in Hawaii as he lived with his mom that he met Wendi in school. He initially rejected her friendship because he wanted to be the best boy he could be for his mom and leave his alter-ego behind. But he soon became firm friends with Wendi.

She was starting on hormones and gave some of it to Charles who was more than happy to begin transitioning at 14.

Later, to fund her bottom surgery, she decided to use sex work to achieve that aim.

It's heartbreaking to read.

Well, she finally got her surgery done in Thailand, finished up her undergraduate degree in Hawaii and moved to NYC for graduate studies. She continued working there but was out to no one.

Eventually, she opened up to a colleague of hers before she met the man in the club she felt was "The One". Aaron seemed to have a difficult time after she came out to him, but eventually came round and supported her as she gave an interview to Marie Claire which was her coming out to the world.

This is a refreshing and educational read that gives one insight into the life of a transgender person of colour. Being biracial, she faced her own set of challenges that were intertwined with growing up trans. The intersectionality is interesting and she highlights the plight of trans women of colour who often end up doing sex work because of discrimination from every quarter.

I felt so much for her reading it. You probably will too. Go get your copy today.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Transience by Timothy Joshua

If you've never read much poetry, you might wanna check out this lovely book of poetry by an aspiring Singaporean writer, Timothy Joshua. A hit on Instagram, @timoteijosh has nearly 11,000 followers appreciating his one-of-a-kind, bittersweet love poems. 

As an Instagram poet, the poems are understandably minimalist. That however, does not take away the power of his words. 

Here's one of my favourite:

This book is a reflection of his Instagram handle and was quite a quick read. Flipping through it brought a smile to my face. Poetry has never quite done that to me before. Perhaps it was because it was so relatable. 

The book is arranged in 5 sections with each section being introduced by a lovely illustration and an accompanying short text. A love story that ends somewhat sadly is slowly unravelled through the pages. It had a rather nice and complete end to it. Apart from Cyril Wong's After You, this is the second book of love poems that doesn't make me cringe, and one that I quite enjoyed reading.

A quick check on the author's webpage tells us that:
I believe that poetry is the art of stringing words like velvet to provide a blanket of solace through our darkest nights – nights which we all have. In return, I hope to spread my words further and to hear people’s voices, and hopefully see that my words could somehow heal their brokenness. 

Well, if you're in love, and especially if you're out of love, do get this awesome book that will certainly speak to you.

Those interested can order his book at an affordable $16 (without shipping) at his etsy page.