Thursday, December 10, 2009

Interview on Happyesque

Happyesque, 'a journal of ideas and things', has posted an interview with me: 'Historically speaking about Singapore', in which I ponder whether history is cool, how Singaporeans deal with their history (or not) and how I feel about the poor old Padang. There are also some neat photos of the inside of our book.

They're also running a competition where you can win a signed copy of our book, if you simply describe Happyesque via Twitter/Facebook/email. Deadline: 13 December. More details are available here.


Friday, November 20, 2009

What the Singapore media said

Trust the timing of these things to happen when neither Mark nor I was in Singapore. The day after I took off to Vietnam on a short work-and-play trip, the Straits Times ran its coverage of our book, side by side with another new release Chronicles of Singapore.

(The article ran over two pages in the Life! section; to read it, click on part 1 or part 2.)

We'd been interviewed by the journalist Akshita Nanda a couple of weeks earlier, over coffee just before the reading at Books Actually. I think the report neatly highlights some of the stories that got us excited about writing the book (as you've no doubt heard us mention on this blog). Mark also got to use his soundbite about Singapore being a 'testosterone-laden system' before the 20th century and about the intensity of war accounts meaning that the war section 'practically wrote itself'.

The only blip was that another of Mark's lines was mistakenly attributed to me:
The audio recordings and written texts were so powerful that Balasingamchow found herself recreating ancient history while walking the modern streets of Chinatown.
I did find the various historical sources powerful and compelling, but the mystical Chinatown walkabout moment was Mark's and Mark's alone. (Ask him about it some time.) On his part, he doesn't quite recall the line about Mrs Siraj – it might've been me waxing lyrical about her. But that's the thing about a joint interview, perhaps: that two excited co-authors might start talking over each other's lines, and it gets a little hard to separate who said what.

(Click here to embiggen)

Just this past weekend, Singapore: A Biography got mentioned in Lianhe Zaobao (Singapore's main Chinese broadsheet), in an article about the recent surge in books about Singapore history and interest in the subject. The journalist Cindy Chia had contacted us when we were both not in Singapore, so I wound up writing her a quote while I was sipping Vietnamese coffee in Hoi An.
Q: Can you tell me what sort of approach did you adopt while writing the book? What went thru your thoughts in trying to make history digestible and approachable to the public? Who are your targeted readers?

A: The book is targeted at the general reader – not a specialist but someone who's simply curious to find out more about the stories and personalities in Singapore's history. At the same time, academics or specialists will find the book is substantive and rigorous. We generally tried to let the voices of the different historical personalities speak for themselves, whether it's a quote from Raffles's personal letters, or an oral history interview or radio broadcast by David Marshall. We tried to let readers step into the shoes of the various people throughout history and see events through their eyes.
It made it, more or less, into the last paragraph of the story.

We'll still waiting on a couple other media that have expressed interest in our book, so we'll keep you posted as other articles and reviews appear.


Friday, October 16, 2009

Hot off the press

Hot off the press

The book is in from the printer's! (Pictured here with my MacBook for scale.)

Mark and I got our first copies today, and we're ecstatic. As you can imagine, we spent a fair bit of time this afternoon flipping through them.

The book will be available in Singapore bookstores from next week, so look out for it. It'll also be on sale at our upcoming events:
Click here for more info on our events. If you've enjoyed our ramblings on this website, please come for the events and say hello!

For those of you who placed pre-orders, the books will be delivered to me next week. I'll get in touch with you then.

Wondering how the book reads? Check out our book previews and look out for a new one next Monday.


Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Co-publication by Hong Kong University Press

We always intended Singapore: A Biography to be a 'crossover' work of history, and so it's nice to be able to confirm that the book will be co-published in Hong Kong, China, Australia and the United States by Hong Kong University Press (and distributed in the US through the University of Washington Press).

This means that the book is now officially academic popular history.

(For history students, this also means that if our book gets onto some reading lists you might have to read it, or at least pretend you have read it. Why not be cool and get ahead of the pack? Who wants to be lining up in the university library for the book to finally become available 'on reserve', and then for only a few hours? Invest in a copy now!)

Seriously though, while the references will remain tucked away at the end of the book with the bibliography, so that readers won't have to be bothered by them while gripped by the flow of the narrative, we still believe they are well worth following up on – especially if you want an even fuller picture of the island's history.

For more on the joys of venturing down the murky trail of footnotes in this book (be careful of where they might lead you), watch this blog.