Another Token Appearance

I have been thinking on how to write about this and at which angle, so that I would sound objective.

Ok first of all, let’s call the island I came from Sunny Island Set In The Sea ( SISITS ). Recently, one of my country mates, who belongs to my generation i.e within my age group, published a book of short stories compiled over the years, supposedly about the ‘people of our country,’ displaced fellow SISITS who left the island to seek greener pasture elsewhere because they could not fit into the system and/or are already disillusioned by it. And the book looks like this

It was launched here and as soon as I found time to squeeze in another book into my schedule, I got myself a copy and within 2 days, finished it off. It left me with a very mixed feeling, a not so nice one at it.

Taken from the back cover of the book, ‘In this collection of eleven insightful stories, Wena Poon examines the quiet lives of displaced (SISITS) living abroad and those in (SISITS) who are often torn between two worlds in their search of imaginary homeland’

Fair enough. Had I not been from SISITS like her, I would find the book a refreshing change from the typical East Asian English Literature, always lamenting about concubines, male gender preference, arranged marriages and binded feet. But because I was from SISITS like her, from her generation too, I cannot help but feel that the book is not a wholesome representation of what it claims to be. It is not about displaced (SISITS), rather, it is about displaced Chinese (SISITS), to be precise. And please, had I not known where or what (SISIT) is, just by reading the book, I would have automatically think that it is Macau or Taiwan or Hong Kong.

Funny that she wrote about a setting so familiar, yet, for all the eleven stories found in the book, it is only about how the Chinese people in SISITS found themselves displaced and questioning their identity. None of the stories was from say, an Indian perspective or a Malay perspective on their displacement issue. It is as though they do not exist on that island, safe for the token mention of minute characters like ‘Ravi’ and ‘Ibrahim’ and passing by ‘a Malay nasi lemak stall’ and ‘missing roti prata when in New York’. So I guess, in her eyes, as depicted by the book, the ‘others’ do not really have significant existence on the island. They do not have displacement issues like the Chinese there do, and are contented with grants and help from Mendaki and Sinda ( the self-help groups there ) and live on that island being a ‘yes man‘ to all of government’s policy hence living happily ever after. 😛

Maybe, it is a calling now ? To compile stories of displaced ‘other’ fellow SISITS who, unfortunately or fortunately are not oriental looking and do not only, in her own words in the book ‘ migrate to ang moh countries’. For I know lots of them here who left, feeling utterly displaced and left out after being disillusioned by the ‘blue skies and sunny days’ advertisements of government propaganda. Others on can vouch for that, really.

I enjoyed the book, honestly I did. But I think I would be able to relate to it more maybe, if it had been less myopic and not seen through the author’s elitist slit eyes.


3 thoughts on “Another Token Appearance

  1. Kak Teh did start a project entitled “Projek Antara Benua”, which I was supposed to be part of. It was supposed to be a compilation of stories from people like “us” who have “migrated” to faraway lands. But it was supposed to be written in a humourous manner. And I am waiting for some status updates from her.

    On another note. Hmm…. this is a very sensitive issue to comment on. I wish to say that many people leave their homeland for various reaons, one of them being marriage (like me, like me). But for my 2 cents–I am a very realistic, objective person (God bless…) I do NOT pine for greener pastures, I NEVER felt displaced in my own land or the 3 lands which have opened their generosity to our family when my own land would not, and I am NOT hoodwinked into thinking things will be better.

    The authors (and others in the same boat, I should say) will never be contented with the cards dealt them. Thus, my conclusion, it is not the island’s problem, it is not the other country’s problem. THEY are the problem.

  2. i wouldn’t say i have issues with why people leave the country. I too left because of my marriage.
    But you have to be from my country and read the book to understand what i am talking about.
    It is the way the book is written, that I have issues with. Not why the book was written. And it is not an issue of leaving the country that i am pointing out. It is something deeper and stronger that have been bothering lots of ‘orang kita’ from my country… if you get the drift

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