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Sick: An interview with Porochista Khakpour

(From Tin House. Link to the full article given below.)

Porochista Khakpour’s staggeringly beautiful memoir Sick is a travelogue of sorts. As it moves from Tehran to New York to Santa Fe to Los Angeles, each destination exquisitely rendered, the roads it travels—some pot-holed, some dirt, some shiny and quick—are Porochista’s traumas and redemptions. An addiction to benzos. Being hit by a truck. Broken love affairs. A family in distress. Sexual assault. And at the center lies a grim compass, an unbearable illness, one that, especially in the beginning, doctors refuse to believe is real: Lyme disease. Porochista lays all this bare in an effort to discover the roots of her illness.

….

Jane Ratcliffe: “I’ve never felt comfortable in my own body,” you write. Yet you go on to say that through chronic illness you began to feel more at home there. It’s easy to imagine the opposite might be true. Can you talk about how that came to be?

Porochista Khakpour: So, I’ve had multiple identifiers that are “marginal.” (I actually hate that term because I feel like it’s like “minority” and in America all of us who are pushed to those identifiers are actually the majority.) They all pose a lot of problems. There was this feeling I had at one point where chronic illness and disability was finally a home where I could be understood—it was not a good feeling, by the way, but one I’d call a dead-end one. I’ve had many of those in my life.  None of my other identifiers seemed acceptable to people around me but illness/disability was a language most people understood, even if they didn’t understand my particular illness or even believe in it. So, my body felt like a settling point. Of course, that settling is temporary, always, but it doesn’t erase that it’s a valid feeling. I am deep in illness all over again now and I do see my body as a home, but a dark cold damp miserable one. I want out of my body all the time, but I am trapped in it, so, well, it’s my unhappy home and I have to make of it what I will.

To read more, go to this link

 

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Book review: The Bamboo Stalk by Saud Alsanousi (translated by Jonathan Wright)

Reviewed by Krishnasruthi Srivalsan

The Bamboo Stalk

Title: The Bamboo Stalk
Author: Saud Alsanousi, translated by Jonathan Wright
Publisher: Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing
Pages: 384
Buy

The protagonist of Saud Alsanousi’s The Bamboo Stalk is a deeply conflicted man. Jose Mendoza is raised in his mother’s country as a god fearing Catholic who was baptised in the church at the age of ten. Yet, his mother prepares him for a life in the promised ‘paradise’, his father’s country, Kuwait. Jose has a Kuwaiti passport, a Kuwaiti name – Isa al Tarouf – but as the son of his father’s Filipino maid, he’ll never be accepted by his father’s family, despite being the only male heir to carry forward the family name.

Expertly translated from the Arabic by Jonathan Wright, this is an immensely moving novel, weighing heavily on metaphors, that explores multiple themes like race and religion, identity and class, and highlights the often humiliating immigrant experience overseas, especially in the Gulf.

Alsanousi, a Kuwaiti journalist and novelist whose earlier work includes the novel The Prisoner of Mirrors, explores the concept of ‘the other’ in this book. Often the underdog, the ‘other’ is viewed negatively by the majority. Not being able to fit into clear boxes, the ‘other’ find themselves in a murky marshland of mixed up identities, rootless and unwanted. Blinded by one’s own prejudices, society fails to acknowledge and empathise with the ‘other’ and it is precisely for this reason that al Sanousi modelled Jose as his protagonist.

Jose’s story begins with his mother, Josephine, who leaves the squalor of poverty back home in the Philippines and goes to Kuwait in search of a better paying job. She lands at the house of the illustrious al Tarouf family whose matriarch, Ghanima, is as superstitious as she is stubborn. Joza, as Ghanima refers to the Filipino servant girl, arrives on the day a bomb explodes near the Kuwaiti Emir’s motorcade, narrowly missing him. Ever since, Ghanima has viewed Joza’s arrival as a sign of bad luck. Rashid, Ghanima’s only son, an aspiring idealistic writer, is taken by Joza’s good looks, and she agrees to a ‘temporary marriage’ which ends the day Jose is born. Josephine returns home and her son is raised with the promise that he will one day go back to Kuwait.

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Hong Kong literary giant Liu Yichang passes away at 99

(From radiichina.com)

Born in Shanghai on December 7, 1918, and originally named Liu Tongyi, Liu Yichang first came to Hong Kong in 1948 and settled down in the city with his wife Lo Pai-wun in 1957.

In a writing career spanning more than six decades, Liu published over 30 books including novels, literary reviews, essays, poems and translated works.

He is credited with establishing modern literature in Hong Kong, with many of his works carrying the city’s unique metropolitan flavour. Liu was also known for discovering and nurturing a number of outstanding Hong Kong-based writers, including late poet Leung Ping-kwan, who went by the pen name Yesi, and author Zhang Yan, also known as Xi Xi.

If Liu’s name doesn’t ring a bell for you, the best-known adaptation of his work might: Hong Kong auteur Wong Kar-wai’s 2000 masterpiece, In the Mood For Love. Writer and translator Eileen Chengyin Chow — who’s well worth a follow in general for fans of modern and not-so-modern Chinese literature and poetry — commemorated Liu’s passing yesterday with an instructive thread on the late novelist’s relation with Wong:

Read more at this link


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Event: Half-day workshop for aspiring writers

AUTHORPRENEURSHIP: A Half Day Workshop for Aspiring Writers who Want to be Successful

WHEN: Saturday; 30 June|  9pm to 12pm;

WHERE: Writers’ Lounge, Book Council Office, Goodman Arts Centre

Workshop Facilitator: 

R. Ramachandran; Director| Singapore Book Council;

This workshop will be useful to emerging writers and others who wish to write for an additional income. To  those with manuscripts; the workshop will show the way forward .The workshop is focused on writing with a view for publication and sale of the written works either fiction; nonfiction or just freelance writing. At the end of the workshop the participants would have an opportunity to network  with other writers in the workshop.

The workshop  is free. Registration is required. Please email <info@bookcouncil.sg

 


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The 9th Asian Festival of Children’s Content 2018

Singapore Book Council (SBC) Press release: Remembering our children’s literary heritage & becoming future ready at 9th Asian Festival of Children’s Content 2018

Singapore Book Council

SINGAPORE, 30 May 2018 – Early bird ticket sales for the 9th edition of the Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC) kicks off today. Running for three days from 6 to 8 September 2018 at the National Library, its theme is Imagine-Asia with Singapore as its Country of Focus to celebrate local children’s literature.

Over 90 Singapore and international writers, illustrators, publishers, storytellers, educators and media producers from 14 countries such as Australia, Indonesia, Japan, Philippines, the UK and US will be featured. Notable speakers include renowned Japanese picture book author and illustrator Satoshi Kitamura; UK publisher Sarah Odedina, who has worked with authors such as J.K. Rowling and Neil Gaiman, and the husband-and-wife graphic novelists and digital storytellers, Colin Goh and Yen Yen Woo of Dim Sum Warriors,.

This year’s AFCC will celebrate Singapore as the Country of Focus in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of Singapore Book Council (SBC). The festival will showcase Singapore’s literary heritage in children’s books, whilst highlighting the new means of content creation and digital platforms for storytelling.

An exhibition to honour pioneer Singapore illustrator, the late Kwan Shan Mei, will showcase some of her award-winning illustrations. Award-winning author Suchen Christine Lim will be giving the annual Children’s Literature Lecture. To enable the industry practitioners to stay abreast of digital trends that have changed the way readers consume stories, AFCC will be featuring sessions that look at digital and cross-platform storytelling, including AR (augmented reality) and VR (virtual reality) technologies.

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Book excerpt: Indian Cultures as Heritage — Contemporary Pasts by Romila Thapar

Indian Cultures.

SCIENCE AS CULTURE

Many Indian scientists, competent in their fields of specialization, know less about science as a form of knowledge, or the kind of reasoning involved in the scientific method that can also be applied to other forms of knowledge. This might explain their surprising and tacit acceptance of some of the more ridiculous statements made by non-scientists on the fantasy-based claims pertaining to science as supposedly practised by our ancient ancestors. This reduces their ability to recognize the difference between the remarkably impressive knowledge of premodern Indian thinkers in some of the sciences, and the infantile fancies that are often projected in their name by those ignorant of science in both premodern and in current times. The reasons for doing the latter are more often political rather than due to any scientific assessment.

The onus is not only on the scientist but also on the historian. Not enough attention has been given by historians to integrating the ideas related to the sciences from earlier times to other aspects of culture. The historian’s intervention from this perspective would require the re-crafting even of some historical formulations. This is being done for some other aspects in recent historical reinterpretations. One of these is the notion of ‘civilization’ as a somewhat fixed and continuing historical unit.

Used more casually in the earlier centuries to refer to the softening of manners and to artistic and literary achievements, it became a widely accepted unit of history from the nineteenth century, coinciding with colonial perceptions of history. The world was divided into discrete, geographically bounded areas each with a dominant culture, recognizably different in intellectual, aesthetic, technological and religious attainments, all of which were associated with urban centres, the use of scripts, the existence of a state and of an organized social order. In A Study of History, the British historian Arnold Toynbee counted twenty-six such civilizations, each rising in response to challenges and declining when the response was inadequate. More recently the count has been reduced to eight in Samuel P. Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. As a spokesman of the American political right wing, his theory that the future of the world will revolve around the clash of civilizations inspired by religious identities seems to envisage conflicting civilizations as a replacement for the cold war.

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Book review: A Different Sky by Meira Chand

Reviewed by Mitali Chakravarty

A Different Sky

Title: A Different Sky
Author: Meira Chand
Publisher: Vintage Books (2011)
Pages: 488
Buy

A Different Sky by Meira Chand spans an era of transition in Singapore from 1927 to 1956. The narrative races through a period of rebellion against the colonials, the Japanese occupation, and the move towards an indigenous government. Geographically, it travels through India, Malaysia, England, Australia and Singapore.

The Daily Mail listed it as an ‘extraordinary book’ while the Historic Novel Review says, ‘Chand weaves a gripping adventure, magnificent romance and well informed history into the sort of book it’s difficult to put down.’

Meira Chand, a well-established novelist of Swiss-Indian parentage, has created a grand, multi-layered story. The novel weaves the intricate lives of characters from multiple races and backgrounds into historic events tracing the turmoil faced by Singapore to become ‘a place of dreams, holding the souls of men to ransom’ from being ‘a pinprick on the great body of Asia’. It opens with the communist uprising of Kreta Ayer in 1927, under a sky of unrest in British Singapore and walks through three decades of transition. The three main characters, a Chinese, a Eurasian and an Indian, are introduced in a bus caught in the riot. This is an ingenious start to a story well spun. The Chinese protagonist, Mei Lan, educates herself to rebel against negative traditions. She falls in love with Howard, her Eurasian neighbour. They are torn asunder during the Japanese occupation, suffer tortures and live through horrors. Howard leaves to study in Australia funded by Raj, the rich uneducated Indian businessman whose past was that of a penniless immigrant. When he returns after graduating, he meets a new Mei Lan, almost a stranger after being victimized and tortured during the Japanese occupation despite her law degree from England. Both of them reject multiple relationships overseas.

The story winds through the trauma faced by the characters as they move to create a new Singapore, under a bright sun ‘thrusting out fingers of brilliance through the grey clouds’ with ‘a bank of red balloons drifting under the endless arc of the sky’ holding a white banner with ‘Merdeka’ (a Malay word meaning rich, prosperous and powerful) on it. Will Howard and Mei Lan unite under this different sky with the outgoing first chief minister of Singapore, David Marshall, faced by chaos and the future Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew in full control? As Meira Chand intertwines the lives of real historic figures with that of her creations, she adds to the glamour, suspense and appeal of her novel.

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Kitaab’s The Best Asian Short Stories (TBASS) 2018: Winners and selected authors

Today, when latitudes shift, cultures collide, and we are all travellers in one form or another, in ways perhaps unprecedented, these stories must be told.
              — Dr Debotri Dhar, editor TBASS 2018

 

Putting together an anthology of short stories is not easy. Reading across a continent and picking from among the best of its writers and their stories is a daunting endeavour. TBASS 2018 is the fruit of this undertaking — 24 writers, 13 countries — led by Dr Debotri Dhar, Editor, TBASS 2018 and Zafar Anjum, Series editor.

‘The winners of TBASS 2018 are Rakhshanda Jalil (India), Aditi Mehrotra (India), and Martin Bradley (Malaysia; originally UK),’ said Dr. Debotri Dhar. ‘I also loved the translation of Japanese writer Mogami Ippei by Avery Udagawa (Thailand; originally USA), and there were many other excellent entries, from more than 13 countries.

‘While Rakhshanda Jalil is a seasoned writer known to many in South Asia, Aditi Mehrotra is an aspiring Indian writer whose story delightfully juxtaposed textual passages and news clippings on women’s empowerment with everyday life vignettes of domesticity from small-town India. Martin Bradley’s story highlighted the intersecting themes of travel, historical memory, and communication across differences. Today, when latitudes shift, cultures collide, and we are all travellers in one form or another, in ways perhaps unprecedented, these stories must be told.’

‘The response to TBASS 2017 has been tremendous. That really encouraged us to continue the series and redouble our efforts,’ said Zafar Anjum, Series Editor of TBASS and founder of Kitaab. ‘TBASS tries to represent the best of Asian voices, and we are specially keen to provide a literary platform to emerging, new voices from the region.  The sheer writing talent that we have gathered in this volume is a testament to Asia’s creative fecundity.’

Winners: 

  1. Rakhshanda Jalil (India) Story title: ‘Diamonds are Forever’
  2. Aditi Mehrotra (India) Story title: ‘Don’t Ask! Poocho mat!’ aditi.mehrotra@hotmail.com
  3. Martin Bradley (Malaysia; originally UK) Story title: ‘Bougainvillea’ martinabradley@gmail.com
  4. Also, Avery Udagawa (Thailand; originally US) Story title: ‘Festival Time.’ Translation of Japanese writer Mogami Ippei. She is working on the translation rights. averyudagawa@yahoo.com

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Events: Workshops for kids and parents: Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality Storytelling!

WORKSHOP 1
Workshop - June 22 AR Eventbrite
 
 
Children can experience Augmented Reality (AR) through colouring and designing their first AR programme. 
 
When: 22 June 2018, 10am-12pm
Where: 

SBC Training Room – 90 Goodman Road Blk E #03-32, Goodman Arts Centre, Singapore 439053
*Please note that there is no lift access to the Book Council Training Room (at 3rd level).
Cost: $60
 

Trainer:

Alison Foo – Alison has been an EduTech trainer for the past 2 years and taught over 40 classes with students ranging from pre-schoolers to the elderly. 
 
Benson Teo – Benson possesses both industry and training experiences in 360 productions, AR and VR. He has been an EduTech trainer in immersive media

technologies for the past 2 years.
 
What Will You Learn: 
Participants will learn how to create an AR programme based on a selected narrated story theme.
 
Who Should Attend:
Suitable for 7-12 year olds. Parents may attend as well. 
 
SIGN UP at  ALAP.BOOKCOUNCIL.SG or HERE:   https://goo.gl/Qd5TQv
WORKSHOP 2
Workshop - June 22 VR Eventbrite
 
Turn your own written story into a Virtual Reality experience! Create a simple 3-scene Virtual Reality environment from your own story!
 
When: 22 June 2018, 1pm-3pm
Where: 

SBC Training Room – 90 Goodman Road Blk E #03-32, Goodman Arts Centre, Singapore 439053
*Please note that there is no lift access to the Book Council Training Room (at 3rd level).
Cost: $60
 

Trainer:

Alison Foo – Alison has been an EduTech trainer for the past 2 years and taught over 40 classes with students ranging from pre-schoolers to the elderly. 
 
Benson Teo – Benson possesses both industry and training experiences in 360 productions, AR and VR. He has been an EduTech trainer in immersive media

technologies for the past 2 years.
 
What Will You Learn: 
As we explore the different storybooks, dive into Virtual Reality and watch parts of the story come alive around you.
 
Who Should Attend:
Suitable for 7-12 year olds. Parents may attend as well. 
 
SIGN UP at  ALAP.BOOKCOUNCIL.SG or HERE:  https://goo.gl/A6r4uX

 

 

About Singapore Book Council:

Singapore Book Council

Singapore Book Council (SBC) is a charity founded in 1968. Its vision is to Build Our Imagine-nation by developing creativity, imagination and original thought through writing, reading, illustrating and storytelling. Its mission is to fulfil this vision by developing the literary art sector through books and literary art events, workshops, and awards. Its focus is Asian content, content creation, translation, rights, markets and training. SBC is currently chaired by Ms. Claire Chiang, co-founder of Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts.

SBC supports the community at all levels, from language programmes and books for children, to aspiring individuals and professionals like writers, illustrators, storytellers and relevant industry partners by providing a platform to learn, network and collaborate. It also organises events to foster professional and community engagement like the annual Asian Festival of Children’s Content and All In! Young Writers Festival, and grants prestigious awards, like the Singapore Literature Prize, to recognise and encourage excellence. Finally, SBC offers publishing-related and literary arts-focused courses and workshops to enhance skills and encourage lifelong learning through its academy. SBC aims to become a hub for Asian content for the world, encouraging stories to be created and told across platforms. Through telling our own stories by writing or illustrations, it promotes understanding, impacts legacy and connects Asia with the world. 

Because it all starts with a story.