Tuesday, November 7, 2017

'Others' is not a race by Melissa De Silva

Can I first comment on how gorgeous this cover is? It's essentially a cake broken up into 4 parts - 310g butter, 200g sugar, 150 sugee, 12.5ml vanilla essence representing the four major races in Singapore. It's simple, elegant, and captures the population breakdown so very well.

I sat in at the book launch of 'Others' is not a race as part of the Singapore Writers Festival last weekend and was intrigued by the premise of the book and promptly went to purchase it.

It is essentially a collection of short stories by Melissa De Silva about the Eurasian experience in Singapore. She describes in beautiful prose how it is like to make a sugee cake to defend her heritage after encountering a lousy cake in a cafe with her friends.

Also, she elaborates about how it was like being mistaken for being Indian in primary school and how she was forced to take Malay as a Mother Tongue as well.

I thought the speculative science fiction story at the end of the book was really good and very interesting to read (I've always loved sci-fi).

Then there is the rant in the piece that inspired the book title, Letter to Anonymous Policy Maker (RE: 'Others' is Not a Race) where she lets it rip, and allowed me to understand how Eurasians have always been forgotten in the national narrative even though we've had a Eurasian President (Benjamin Sheares) and an Olympic gold (Joseph Schooling) from the community.

This book was an eye-opener and allowed me to plumb the depths of how it is like being Eurasian and it certainly helped that the writing was clear, clever, and very engaging.

It's part history, part memoir, and wholly captivating.

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