I'm a transnational artist/writer. Born and raised in the United States, I have lived in Japan, Hong Kong and Paris. Since 2002, my base has been Singapore. I am writing this from Bali. In the physical world, I am somewhat friendly, but am definitely not one who joins groups. I don't really use social media.
To give you some background...
I Ate Tiong Bahru is a portrait, a lyrical documentary about a place I lived in Singapore.
IATB was self-funded. The cover is stark: just the four word title,written in black letters on a white background. The back cover is completely white. My name isn't on it, there isn't a photo of Tiong Bahru's Art Deco buildings. I didn't ask a famous person for a blurb. For the most part, The Straits Times and other Singaporean media organizations seem to be unaware of IATB.
To give you some background...
The day I "won all of the awards", I hadn't slept for about forty hours. I had arrived in Singapore at 9AM, which meant that I left Bali about 6AM, which meant that I was at the airport about 4 something, which meant that...
The bus stop incident is part of this. At the bus stop, I squeezed an uncooperative container of sunblock. The top shot off covering me with goo. Blobs of white sunscreen dried on my shirt and pants, most of them around my crotch.
My meal of laphet is part of this. After I dropped off my bags, I ran errands. I had to pick something up at Peninsula Plaza. In Peninsula is a food stall that serves the best laphet in Singapore. Laphet is tea leaf salad, a Burmese traditional food. I love it. I ate some, including the many little cloves of garlic. I
The unwanted books are part of this. A book shop (in Tiong Bahru, of all places) decided not to carry IATB. So I was carrying a bag full of my books that had been rejected.The plastic bag that the books were in was becoming frayed and holes were appearing.
And it began raining. I got very wet. I have forgotten to mention that my shoes needed to be replaced.
AND SUDDENLY I WAS AT AN ART OPENING. I had planned to go to the opening AFTER I'd had a nap, a shave and a shower. After I'd put on fresh clothes and bought new shoes. But, one of my errands took me very near the art space and so....
I went and I was welcomed. Not just welcomed, but treated like a celebrity! (I have never, ever wanted to be a celebrity, let me make that clear.) Attractive, intelligent women wanted to be photographed with me! Handsome, successful men looked me in the eye, shook my hand and listened to me! I was given wine and special curry puffs and a very good otah-otah!
This is what I mean by "winning awards!"
I am sharing this because the excitement was real. Genuine.I Ate Tiong Bahru, and the writing within it, had connected with people. Those people were interested in me not because of where I had gone to school, not because of my sexuality, not because of advertising or FB "likes", not because I'd been endorsed by the media, not because I was in the right clique, not because we were in a slick art space or trendy book store etc. etc... My clothes and shoes were wet. The rain made my hair look like a mop. I resembled a homeless person(in more ways than I care to admit), but the words in my book had been perceived as having value. IATB was referred to as an "icon"!
The next day, I was at the Tiong Bahru market from 7AM to 2 PM. Then I was Booktique, from 3-7. Again, I was overwhelmed. A woman living in Tiong Bahru told me that she read the book to her son! And she wanted two more copies! I smiled and thanked her, but inside I was close to tears. Other people also came up to talk about their experiences with the book.
Another thing you should know I that I do not write to please the reader. I write to challenge the reader, albeit in a caring and thoughtful way. IATB is not" feel good nostalgia".
So the weekend was unforgettable. No red carpets, none of the "friends" that always appear at openings and book launches, no reviews in influential media...just that indescribable feeling that occurs when a genuine, heartful connection has been made.