teapasar Reads: Local Authors

The local literary and creative scene continues to be transformed by a budding pool of local talents with refreshing and eye-opening works. As local writers leverage on personal experiences shaped within Singapore’s cultural locality, their work delivers narratives reflecting our social and political landscape with candour and courage, touching hearts and engaging minds to pave the way ahead.

Home to individuals and communities that desire to create unique offerings for the tea scene in Singapore, teapasar’s marketplace features local tea brands alongside international brands to increase the value and visibility of stories and flavours based in Singapore. Pair a cup of tea from a homegrown brand alongside one of these local works and share with us the pieces you were moved by.

1) This is What Inequality Looks Like, Teo You Yenn

Summary – Produced as an ethnography, Teo You Yenn unravels the experience and conditions of inequality by drawing on her personal observations and interactions with individuals and families. Framed as a series of essays, each piece introduces a key aspect of the experience of being low income, and unpacks these experiences to reflect the links to structural conditions of inequality. By illuminating embedded links and assumptions about the experience of being low-income, Teo invites readers to revelations about ourselves and society that once we see, we cannot, must not, unsee.  

Why read it? “What is dignity? It is a sense of being valued, a feeling of being respected, a sensation of esteem, of self-worth. How and from where does one get it? In everyday life.”

Crafted with sensitivity and empathy, Teo lends a voice to the individuals she encounters and reframes inequality as deeply personal and embodied experiences, not simply distilled into a statistical representation. The day-to-day experiences of parenting, working and schooling of low-income residents are paralleled with readers’ own journeys, providing powerful resonances and teasing out uncomfortable revelations in the way that social structures and imaginings inform different outcomes that residents face by virtue of class circumstances. Teo’s ways of seeing presents readers with the opportunity to consider where they fit within these social structures, and extends an invitation to consider how we can be part of potential solutions.

teapasar’s pairing – Whittard’s Chelsea Breakfast Tea, a full bodied black tea with rich complex flavours to pair with the provocative and hard questions raised in the essays – goes well with a touch of milk and sugar.

2) Self-made: Creative Lives in Southeast Asia, Stephanie Peh

Summary – Borne out of a desire to become a better listener, Stephanie Peh weaves in a compilation of prose and interviews with creative practitioners based in Southeast Asia to discover the lenses that shape their view of work. Self-made takes readers on a sweeping journey from independent studios in Manila to a showroom in Indonesia, from a passion to keep long form articles relevant to partaking in fashion projects that empower the underprivileged, sharing the startup stories of architects, artists, designers, photographers and filmmakers within the region.

Why read it?“To the amateur, the hard worker, the mentor, the dreamer, the misfit, the creative spirit, the yes men and women who won’t take no for an answer.”

Self-made is a nod to the nascent rise of individuals within the creative sphere, and a refreshing portrayal of the lives in a region often framed through discourses of undeveloped and rural underpinnings. Readers are treated to a veritable spread of passionate and courageous voices as they share how they navigate terrains of uncertainty to do the work they believe in. In a landscape where our perspectives of work are largely synonymous with hustle, affluence and stability, the narratives of this community inspire and compel a different rendering of the way we consider work. 

teapasar’s pairing – The Tea Story’s Tropical Blend, consisting of richly layered tea infusions with spicy, bright, and citrusy flavours evocative of the fresh narratives developing within the Southeast Asian region.

3) Homeless, Liyana Dhamirah

Summary – For Liyana, the experience of adolescence becomes inextricably intertwined with precarity and hardship: pregnant at 22 without a place of her own; settling in a makeshift tent at Sembawang beach, privy to routine checks and NParks patrol; a tenuous relationship with her husband. The vignettes of Liyana’s lived experiences points to the invisible hardships faced by the homeless community – the bureaucratic processes to claw through and government policies that draw on discourses of self-reliance, yet unravels a narrative of solidarity and community. Ten years on, Liyana materialises her dreams of being an entrepreneur, mother of three and an advocate for the homeless community. 

Why read it?– Liyana’s memoir lands midway within her ongoing narrative to continue pursuing her childhood aspirations of being a lawyer and persevering to bring families out of poverty, even as her journey attests to her success despite the many odds stacked against her. Highly readable and accessible, Liyana’s memoir evokes a mixed bag of feelings – of indignation and incredulity at the veiled challenges faced by the underside of Singapore society, and wonderment at her indomitable spirit that reverberates throughout the chapters. It invites readers into an intimate and honest portrayal of the day-to-day experiences of the less fortunate in Singapore, to confront the gaps by first seeing, and engage with meaningful change. 

Homeless is available as an E-book on the National Library Board app Libby. 

teapasar’s pairing – Sucre’s Chamomile Hibiscus soothes the edges of the rough chapters of Liyana’s journey and fits the strong character with its calming and complex floral notes.

4) The Magic Circle, Charmaine Chan

Summary – Spending 10 years assembling the stories told in vivid prose, Charmaine Chan recounts the unravelling of her sister Elaine’s journey with cancer. Written in three parts, her recounts oscillate between stories of childhood and  the years drawing close to Elaine’s death, and offers a visceral exploration of family, grief and death binded by fragments of memories. Chan traces the past in a mix of unrestrained honesty and candid reflections, as she navigates her sister’s weakening attachment to this world held by a few slender threads. 

Why read it? – “But I don’t want to embalm Elaine that way, don’t want to preserve her in golden amber like a fossil. I want to remember her as she really was, deeply flawed yet profoundly loveable.”

This memoir lays a path for readers to mourn their individual traumas, a balm for anyone who has been torn apart and brought together by collective memory. Chan’s thoughtful rumination of her past balances the pains and delight of sisterhood and growing up, and weighty questions of faith and death are delicately wrought with sensitivity and perceptivity. Chan’s lyrical narration speaks to the souls of those in a search of home and a yearning for a sense of identity, unravelled through space, time and the relationships that bind us.

The Magic Circle  is available as an E-book on the National Library Board app Libby. 

teapasar’s pairing – Kindred Tea’s Elder and Cream Black Tea unfolds a sweet and tart blend that accompanies the ups and downs of sisterhood with a black tea delicately balanced with fragrant floral scents and sweet cream. 

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