Publishing feels like a mysterious castle floating above the clouds, especially when you’re not white, you don’t live in New York, don’t have an MFA—or like me, all of the above, plus I don’t even live anywhere near America. An agent feels like an express shuttle who will whisk you past the grand gates of publishing.
Political protest is an act of personal expression. It says: this is me, this is who I am and what I stand for, and you can’t take it away from me.
What was I doing thousands of miles from home, in a place that had no interest in who I was or where I came from? Was it wishful thinking, hoping to find an audience for my work in the US? What I came to realise was that Tin House may mean the world to a writer from Singapore, but a writer from Singapore may not necessarily mean anything at all to Tin House.
I was standing in front of the boarding gate when a message arrived from my AirB&B host in Portland: “We’re sorry but our place is no longer available.” I read the message over and over again. Did my host just cancel my stay? Just the night before, they had been texting me information on how to get to their place from the airport.
It was hard not to panic: I had a twenty hour cross-ocean journey ahead, I had never been to Portland, and less than fifteen minutes to decide if I wanted to get on the plane or arrive in a foreign city without a place to stay.
Crash Landing on You is probably the first South Korean drama ever where:
1)North Korea isn’t the bogeyman
2)North Koreans feature prominently, the roles acted by top South Korean actors
3)North Koreans have rich emotional lives
I will say this off the bat: Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between The World and Me is the most powerful book I’ve read all year. And everyone should read it.
Between the World and Me is an electric force. And yet his words are never complex or bombastic, but slow and quiet. His words have a life of their own so that they are not just words, but an energy that leaps off the page. To read Coates is to burn; to come so close to fire something in you ignites. To read Coates, for me, is to realise the gap between the writer I am right now and the writer I want to be.
One or two years into my new job at a large Singaporean organisation, I found out that my senior from high school had been appointed to shadow a prominent minister. Over lunch, I asked him what he had learnt.