New books

Joining the growing pile of Books I Really Need to Read About Singapore are two new releases this week: Singapore in the Malay World by Lily Zubaidah Rahim and Beyond the Blue Gate by Teo Soh Lung. Now that I think about it, that makes two new books by two very passionate women, about Singapore-related issues that don't usually get a proper airing.

Singapore in the Malay World is, as the title implies, about Singapore's relations with its Malay neighbours, i.e. Malaysia and Indonesia. Not that there isn't a library full of material written about these particular foreign relations, but from what I heard Dr Lily say at the book launch on Thursday, I think what she's drawn in about cultural (not just political) angles and issues of representation should be a kicker to read.

Beyond the Blue Gate is Teo's account of her detention and imprisonment without trial under the Internal Security Act first in 1987 (part of the alleged "Marxist conspiracy"), then again in 1988-1990. I've read the first chapter, which is a chilling account of her 1987 arrest --- and I really do mean that it gave me the chills, over just five short pages, even though I read it during the day surrounded by a roomful of people. There is an energy and honesty to Teo's voice that makes me want to devour the book immediately, although it's not quite what you'd call bedtime reading.

At the latter book's launch on Saturday, I couldn't help looking at the slight yet spirited person that Teo is today, and marvel at her strength and clarity of mind. She dared first to write, then to prepare the manuscript, in what I imagine must have been an incredibly painful process. The least we can do is to read it.

(My friend Cheng Tju has another story about Teo, this one related to censorship.)



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