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As a book-lover, if there is one thing that we might have missed in this lockdown the most, then it would be bookshops and libraries. So here’s a bit of happy news for all the book lovers in Singapore.

The National Library Board has announced that, “The National Library Building, the National Archives of Singapore building, our 25 public libraries and the Former Ford Factory will reopen to the public on 1 July 2020 with shorter opening hours and capacity controls in place. This is in line with the safe reopening measures under Phase 2 and to safeguard the health and safety of our patrons and staff.”

bookvendingmachineWriters hate being boxed in. But some Singaporean authors have found their works kept in a box and sold in an innovative yet familiar way – through vending machines. A truly novel way to sell a novel.

Two vending machines stocked with Singaporean literature were set up separately in the National Museum of Singapore and the Singapore Visitor Centre in Orchard last Friday (June 3). These machines were set up in the hopes of getting Singaporeans more interested in their local literature. Each machine stocks about 20 titles ranging from poetry to short stories and sketches, and can fit some 150 books.

balli kaur jaswal

Balli Kaur Jaswal grew up in Singapore, Japan, Russia and the Philippines. She attended the creative writing programs in Hollins University and George Mason University in the US. In 2007, she won the David TK Wong Fellowship at the University of East Anglia, where she wrote Inheritance, her first novel, published by Sleepers Publishing in February 2013.

Currently, Jaswal teaches VCE English in a secondary school in Melbourne.

Inheritance is a story about a traditional family grappling with their rapidly modernising surroundings.  It is a nation’s coming-of-age story, seen through the sharp lens of a traditional Punjabi family as it gradually unravels.  Set in Singapore between the 1970’s and 1990’s, Inheritance follows the familial fissures that develop after teenaged Amrit disappears in the middle of the night. Although her absence is brief, she returns as a different person.

In this interview with Kitaab’s editor Zafar Anjum, Jaswal discusses the journey of her first novel from its genesis to its publication.

Inheritance is your debut novel. How did the idea of this multi-generational saga come to you?

The characters came to me before the story did. When they started interacting with each other and conflicts began to arise, the story was born. In rising Asia, there is a palpable tension between tradition and modernity. The characters from different generations play out these tensions – they’re living proof of one country’s uneasy balancing act of past and present. As the landscape of Singapore changes, the characters have to decide between adjusting to them or completely retreating.