The Heartsick Diaspora, and other stories

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Set in different cities around the world—Hong Kong, Florida, New York, London, Ipoh and Singapore—Elaine Chiew’s award-winning stories travel into the heart of the Singaporean-Malaysian diaspora, and ask what it means to be ‘Chinese’ or ‘Asian’ within the context of dual, or hyphenated, identities.

Acutely observed, wry and playful, her debut collection celebrates people who are torn between cultures and juggling a fragmented sense of self.

In the title story, which was runner-up in the 2018 Bridport Prize, four Asian writers are flummoxed by the sexual shenanigans that start when a handsome young Asian writer joins their support group. In other stories, three Singaporean daughters welcome their mother on a first visit to London and quarrel over steamboat; a Chinese woman raps about being a Tiger Mother; an elderly Chinese woman finds that it isn’t race that estranges, but the inability to tell the truth; and an ethnic writer takes on Eastern mythology in a metaphoric quest to understand the anxiety of Western literary influence.

Elaine Chiew drills below the surface of her characters’ circumstances with exemplary narrative skill and subtlety. Her stories are as varied, worldly and emotionally resonant as the characters themselves. This is a fabulous debut collection and heralds an exciting new literary talent.

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