The Heartsick Diaspora, and other stories
Elaine Chiew’s stories are inter-laced with humour, compassion and the importance of food and cooking, and the memories that meals evoke, as her characters negotiate unfamiliar worlds, raise children in another country or introduce parents to partners who don’t speak their language.
In the title story, four writers find their cultural bonds of friendship tested when a handsome young Asian man joins their group. In other stories, a brother searches for his sister forced to serve as a comfort woman during World War Two; three Singaporean sisters run a French gourmet restaurant in New York; a woman raps about being a Tiger Mother in Belgravia; and a filmmaker struggles to document the lives of samsui women-Singapore’s thrifty, hardworking construction workers.
Elaine Chiew drills below the surface of her characters’ circumstances with exemplary narrative skill and subtlety. Her stories are as varied, worldly and emotionally resonant as the characters themselves. This is fabulous debut collection and heralds an exciting new literary talent .
'Innovative in format and original in content, The Heartsick Diaspora is clever, multilayered, challenging and political. It's also full of verve and wit.' Monica Ali 'These are stories to savour like the fine food they describe. Sharply observed, funny, sad and entertaining, they leave you more knowledgeable about the world we live in. I loved this book.' Paul McVeigh; 'The Heartsick Diaspora is an unflinching examination of the hybrid and hyphenated lives of global nomads, shining a bright light on Singaporean-Chinese voices, but also the larger Malaysian and Singaporean Chinese diaspora. It is philosophical and poetic in turns, and stories like 'Face' and 'The Heartsick Diaspora' and 'Mapping Three Lives' are absolutely stunning. Memorably populated with characters who linger in the mind long after the last story ends, this book is a truly impressive debut, full of humour and heart.' Dipika Mukherjee; 'A spectacular read! What a handsome showcase of the consummate storyteller Elaine Chiew. Hers is a winning voice, working in pathos with great elan. We become witness to such a rich understanding of human emotion and desire. Elaine lets scene and character speak for themselves, with such self-assured perspicacity.' Desmond Kon Zhicheng-mingde; 'In The Heartsick Diaspora, Elaine Chiew allows us to visit a breadth of experiences among Chinese migrant communities, both past and present. The range of the emotional worlds of the characters represented in the book is depicted in fragments, echoing the disjointed, often repressed manner in which many of the immigrant families communicate with one another. The stories do an outstanding job of capturing an atmosphere that is recognisable, but presented in fresh tales to engage the mind and heart of the reader, even as they entertain. It is a brilliant first collection by Chiew, marking her as a writer to be watched' Shelly Bryant; 'Elaine Chiew's short stories are hugely incisive. Here is a satisfying mix of poignancy and humour, light and dark-an unforgettable journey into the hearts and minds of the displaced. Chiew brings original and multiple award-winning skills to great effect in these sparklingly intelligent explorations of identity and displacement. The added charge in Chiew's work comes from her impressive range-her clever, nuanced and varied stories are perfectly balanced.' Vanessa Gebbie
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