December 2, 2023


Connecting Asian writers with global readers

Kitaab interview with Cheryl Tan: The deep, dark secrets behind the ‘Singapore Noir’

2 min read

Cheryl TanCheryl Lu-Lien Tan is a New York-based journalist and author of A Tiger In The Kitchen: A Memoir of Food & Family (Hyperion, 2011). She is the editor of the fiction anthology Singapore Noir (Akashic Books, 2014) and is currently working on her first novel. Born and raised in Singapore, she crossed the ocean at age 18 to go to Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.

She was a staff writer at the Wall Street Journal, In Style magazine and the Baltimore Sun. Her stories have also appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, Marie Claire, Newsweek, Bloomberg Businessweek, Martha Stewart Weddings, Chicago Tribune, The (Portland) Oregonian, The (Topeka) Capital-Journal and The (Singapore) Straits Times among other places. She has been an artist in residence at Yaddo, where she wrote “A Tiger in the Kitchen,” Hawthornden Castle, the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, Ragdale Foundation, Ledig House and the Studios of Key West. In 2012, she was the recipient of a major arts creation grant from the National Arts Council of Singapore in support of her novel. An active member of the Asian American Journalists Association, she served on its national board for seven years, ending in 2010.

Currently in Singapore to launch Singapore Noir (Monsoon Books), she shares the deep, dark secrets behind the making of this uniquely Singaporean noir anthology with Kitaab’s editor, Zafar Anjum.

How did the project ‘Singapore Noir’ take off?

I’d long adored and admired New York publisher Akashic Books’s award-winning Noir series — a series of anthologies, each one set in a country or a city. (“Brooklyn Noir” was a personal favorite.) Some really big names have edited these collections of dark stories set in these locales — Joyce Carol Oates edited “New Jersey Noir,” for example, and Dennis Lehane edited “Boston Noir.”

In November 2011, I happened to be at the Miami Book Fair speaking about “A Tiger in the Kitchen,” my first book. At the authors’ party, mystery writer extraordinaire S.J. Rozan introduced me to Johnny Temple, Akashic’s publisher. I told Johnny how much I loved his noir series but asked why there hadn’t been a “Singapore Noir.” He said it was because he didn’t know any Singaporean writers. And S.J. said, “Well now you do.” And that was the beginning of “Singapore Noir.”

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