Love and Life in Singapore

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Tilting Our Plates to Catch the LightTilting Our Plates
by Cyril Wong
Published by Firstfruit Publications, 2007

A lyrical story of two lovers found and lost — or rather, in the process of losing — intertwined with the myth of Shiva falling in love with Vishnu as Mohini. Listed by The Straits Times as among the best 5 books of 2007, Cyril Wong’s collection of poems brings into play his background in music, intermingling the lives of gay male-partners with the tribulations of lovers distant and near, including the romance between “two shape-shifting Hindu deities”, Shiva and Mohini (the female-incarnation of Vishnu). Interwoven with the motifs of time and death, these poems segue into each other like movements in a symphony, singing equal parts tragedy and joy.

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Glass CathedralGlass Cathedral
by Andrew Koh
Published by Epigram Books, 1995

Winner of the Singapore Literature Prize Commendation Award, Glass Cathedral’s sensitive depiction of homosexuality in conservative Singapore is a landmark in local literature. This novella was part of a small wave of gay and lesbian–themed drama and fiction that appeared in Singapore during the early 1990s. The story is about a university kid named Colin, just out of National Service, who falls passionately in love with a wealthy fellow student named James. Besides the courtship, romance and sex, there’s a lot of exploration of what it means to be gay and Catholic in Singapore: facing both homophobia and calls for evolution of the faith. 

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The Hills of SingaporeThe Hills of Singapore: A Landscape of Loss, Longing and Love
by Dawn Farnham
Published by Monsoon Books, 2010

Young, beautiful and wealthy, widow Charlotte Macleod, leaves Batavia in the 1850s and returns to Singapore for the English education of her two young sons. She is determined not to be drawn back into a secret affair with Chinese triad-member Zhen. Drawing on the real-life historical personalities of the time, Dawn Farnham deftly mixes fact and fiction to paint a vivid portrait of mid-nineteenth century Singapore at a time when triads, piracy and crime were rife.

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Star SapphireStar Sapphire
by Han May
Published by Nova Books, 1988

Han May is the pseudonym of Joan Hon who is better known for her non-fiction books. Her science-fiction romance Star Sapphire (1985) won a High Commendation Award from the Book Development Council of Singapore in 1986. Yva Yolan (the female protagonist who is half human, half alien) is a girl of Eastern polygot origins with a touch of alien blood and lives in New Temasek (the future Singapore). She accepts the job on-board the spaceship Star Sapphire. There she meets with the two main male characters, Timothy Huha the Chief Personnel Officer and Adam Zear, also known as the Registrar, with whom she experiences romantic encounters. Quite clearly drawing on Star Trek, May’s book seems to be an interesting reflection of gender relations and notions of love and sexuality during that time.

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Peculiar Chris - Johann-S-LeePeculiar Chris
by Johann S. Lee
Published by Cannon International, 1992

Now funny, now poignant, but always honest and thought-provoking. Peculiar Chris is a simple story about complex feelings. About coming-of-age. About love. About life and death. The book recounts the life and love of Chris and his partner Samuel. It is also noteworthy for documenting how the military bureaucracy reacts when a soldier comes out in Singapore. With subtlety, lucidness and quiet courage, Johann S. Lee weaves an intricate fabric of thoughts and emotions, and portrays a human experience hitherto unexplored in Singapore fiction.

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