International Women’s Day is held on March 8th every year, and it’s a day to celebrate half the world for their amazing social, cultural, economic, and political achievements. Not sure how to celebrate other than wishing everyone a ‘Happy Women’s Day’? Then why not pick out some works from celebrated Singaporean authors and be inspired by their creativity? Here are some local female authors to look out for:
Lee Jing-Jing | How We Disappeared
Longlisted for the 2020 Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction, this novel is about ‘comfort women’ during WWII Singapore. The story follows Wang Di, an elderly cardboard collector who endured sexual slavery in a WWII Japanese military brothel as a teenager, and Kevin, a 12-year-old boy who is bullied at school and is trying to find a missing link from his family’s past. Weaving together two timelines and two very big secrets, it opens a window on a little-known period of history.
Amanda Lee Koe | Delayed Rays of a Star
Amanda was the youngest winner of the Singapore Literature Prize for the story collection Ministry of Moral Panic. Her latest book, Delayed Rays of a Star, is a dazzling novel following the lives of three groundbreaking women – Marlene Dietrich, Anna May Wong, and Leni Riefenstahl – cinema legends who lit up the 20th century. It’s a visceral depiction of womanhood – its particular hungers, its calculations, and its eventual betrayals – and announces a bold new literary voice.
Grace Chia | The Wanderlusters
An accomplished writer in several genres, Grace is an accomplished poet. The Wanderlusters, her first novel, tells the story of a diva working for the globe-trotting and glamorous Cirque Obélisque, but her life turns upside down when – after her husband and daughter abandons her – a charismatic performer enters her life. It’s a backstage pass on how life on the road can make one stronger or tear one apart. Her characters are greedy for love, attention, novelty, experience, and above all, feelings of specialness.
Jo-Ann Yeoh | Impractical Uses of Cake
She won the Epigram Books Fiction Prize 2018 for her first novel, Impractical Uses of Cake, which tells the story of 35-year old bachelor, Sukhin, a teacher at a junior college who reunites with a homeless person who recognises him. It reveals a side of Singapore that many may not be aware of, with a dry sense of humour and a deep understanding of human difficulties and the problems faced by Singapore as an urban centre.
Nuralia Norasid | The Gatekeeper
Nuralia’s novel is a rare find – it’s a fantasy fiction about a young medusa who accidentally turns an entire village into stone and flees to an underground settlement for protection. Instead, she becomes its gatekeeper but her new friendship with a human threatens to dismantle the city. Winner of the Epigram Books Fiction Prize, the novel is set in a world based on Malay and Greek mythology, and is a fascinating examination of the impossibility of running from your past.
Pauline Loh | Lion Boy and Drummer Girl
Award-winning author Pauline reimagines the traditional art of lion dance as a pop sensation that has taken Asia by storm in her book Lion Boy and Drummer Girl. While other Leopop wannabes seek fame and fortune, charismatic and handsome US import Ricky Ang dances to the beat of his own drum. It’s an easy read with language that’s simple but not simplistic, a sensational teenage drama woven into the local context, bringing a traditional performance art to life.
Clarissa Goenawan | Rainbirds
A coming-of-age novel with a dark twist, Clarissa’s Rainbirds opens with a murder and is set in 1994 Japan. Ren Ishida moves to Akakawa, where his sister was murdered, to pick up where she left off. Following his sister’s murder, Ishida is haunted by the image of a young girl in his dreams. Having won multiple awards even before its publishing date, Rainbirds deals with many difficult and heavy issues, but it’s not a heavy read, with a slow pace and captivating moments of humour, candor and whimsy.
Sharlene Teo | Ponti
A recipient of the Booker Prize Foundation Scholarship, Sharlene comes from a literary background. Her novel, Ponti, is a story about the friendship between two absolutely average teenage girls and reminds us of the things we do when we’re on the cusp of adulthood that haunt us years later. Her work pokes at minute societal problems that are brushed under the carpet – all wrapped up in her sharp-witted prose and wonderful caricatures of colourful personalities.
Of course, there are so many other great female authors in Singapore – all you have to do to discover your favourite voice is to simply head to your nearest bookstore or library, online or in person.