MIND YOUR (INTER)CULTURE
A book club hosted by Constance Singam
Welcome to Mind Your (Inter)Culture, our new book club that aims to open up intercultural exchanges through books. This Feb we delve into the English translation of Death by Perfume by award-winning writer You Jin.
Set in 1970s Jeddah, Death by Perfume tells a fictionalised account of You Jin's stay in Saudi Arabia. In the late 1970s, a young Singaporean writer arrives in Jeddah with an infant son. She encounters a strange and often hostile environment with curiosity, empathy and good humour. In this collection of linked stories, the narrator confronts, among others, a bored expat wife with dangerously extravagant tastes, a divorced engineer with the face of a camel, and a desperate security guard who finds solace in downing bottles of perfume.
Beguiling, plaintive and profoundly insightful, the book, translated into English by Jeremy Tiang, is a vivid evocation of Saudi society. It is wonderfully interlaced with themes of isolation and uncertainty in a foreign land.
The session is hosted by writer and civil society activist Constance Singam. Join us for an afternoon of reading and discussion with You Jin. The session will be in English and Mandarin.
Mind Your (Inter)Culture
A book club with a difference, this monthly get-together showcases translated works from Singapore and Southeast Asia. The readings and discussions broaden the exposure of the general public to works written in different languages, and promote intercultural understanding among the communities through books.
Look out for our March reading on The Goddess in the Living Room by Latha and April on Confrontation by Mohamed Latiff Mohamed.
About the writer
Tham Yew Chin, better known by her pen name You Jin, is the author of some 177 books and a prolific writer of travelogues, essays, opinion pieces, short stories and novels. Known for her heartwarming and sensitive observations of everyday life, she has been recognised in Singapore and China. The inaugural recipient of the Singapore Chinese Literary Award and the Montblanc-NUS Centre of the Arts Literary Award, she was honoured with the establishment of the You Jin Research Centre in Chongqing University in 2000. In 2009, Tham received the Cultural Medallion for her contributions to literature in Singapore.
About the host
Constance Singam is an author and civil society activist. She began her career in journalism, before taking a degree in English Literature in her forties, and a Master's degree in her sixties. She has been a columnist in several publications. Her works include A history of the TWC: Building Social Space in Singapore, and Re-Presenting Singapore Womenwhich she co-edited. She released her memoir Where I was: A Memoir from the Margins in 2013. She blogs at: http://connie.sg/