One of the most distinctive features that sets Singaporean literature apart from other South East Asian and Asian counterparts is that amid a mix of Asian languages, including Chinese, Malay, and Tamil, its words are mainly expressed in English, its adopted language.For a nation of 6 million that has recently celebrated its 49th year of independence, Singaporean literature only had a relatively short time to grow, but it already covers most genres, including poetry, fiction, drama, and graphic novels. Although this is the first time a city other than Singapore will present three days of Singapore literature, most of the festival participants are no strangers to the international stage. Among them, writer Alvin Pang, who has appeared in many major festivals and publications worldwide, and who has works translated into over fifteen languages. Wena Poon authored eight books and has had her fiction works serialized on BBC Radio 4. And playwright Haresh Sharma has written more than fifty plays staged in cities like Glasgow, Birmingham, Cairo, and London. Kirstin Chen’s book Soy Sauce for Beginners has even been featured in USA Today’s ‘New Voices’, and in O, The Oprah Magazine, as a book to pick up now, while Cheryl Tan’s food memoir, ‘A Tiger in the Kitchen,’ has brought a taste of Singapore Cuisine to New York readers.
According to festival co-founder, New York based writer and editor Paul Rozario-Falcone, the quality of Singaporean writing has reached a level of sophistication that begs a wider and international readership, not merely in technical terms of plot, structure, theme, and appeal, but also in the writer’s responsibility to elevate the mundane and breathe life into the banal. Like New York, Singapore is an urbanized and multicultural metropolis, highly developed and an environment conducive for writers to explore universal themes of society and humanity, issues relevant across cities and cultures; including change, gentrification, identity, and love and family. And the Singaporean writers do so from a strikingly modern point of view, their perspectives are not only unique but also globally relevant and relatable.
“Besides, everyone loves a good story,” says Rozario-Falcone, who let on that the idea for the festival as a platform to showcase Singapore literature had hovered for the last few years before finally taking root. This community-led festival has raised almost $8,000 on Kickstarter to bring nine Singaporean writers to New York City (joining six US-based Singaporean writers) to present their works at the 92nd Street Y, McNally Jackson Books and Book Culture in Manhattan. The festival also aims to connect publishers, literary professionals, and the community of New York readers at large to Singaporean literature.
For more information on the festival, please visit: www.singaporeliteraturefestival.com