Sunday, September 6, 2009

Yu-Mei: A Biography

So here's my dirty little secret: I didn't like history when I was in school. My teenage self would have blamed this firmly on an uninteresting teacher, even less interesting school textbooks, and a preference for the kaleidoscopic world of fiction, as opposed to the dreary world of dates and dead people.

My adult self knows better. I simply hadn't hit the right books yet.

It was only as a liberal arts student in an American university that I was required to take a couple of history classes – and was startled to discover that history could be compelling and enjoyable. I wound up taking many more history classes than I was required, enough to make it my second major (in addition to English).

Then I came back to Singapore and became a literature teacher; subsequently I worked in the ministry of education. Any more formal explorations of history got put on hold for a while.

In 2006, I left teaching and was trying to figure out how I could make a living as a writer. A friend introduced me to the exhibition design firm GSM, which had been hired by the National Museum of Singapore to produce its Singapore History and Living Galleries. GSM hired me as a senior researcher and script editor, which is how I ended up working with Mark, who was already Content Director for the project. Amidst all the research, interviews and storytelling that I was thrown into, I was repeatedly struck by what fascinating (hi)stories Singapore has, and how much we do know, despite the gaps, about this funny little island.

In the work I've done since the National Museum experience – whether it's this book or other research and writing projects – I find myself still intrigued by historical accounts and ideas about history. I'm not sure what my next big project will be, but I'm sure these are ideas that I will keep poking at and writing about for a while yet.



Post a Comment

<< Home