Elaine Chiew is a writer and a visual arts researcher, and editor of Cooked Up: Food Fiction From Around the World (New Internationalist, 2015).
Twice winner of the Bridport Short Story Competition, she has published numerous stories in anthologies in the UK, US and Singapore.
Originally from Malaysia, Chiew graduated from Stanford Law School and worked as a corporate securities lawyer in New York and Hong Kong before studying for an MA in Asian Art History at Lasalle College of the Arts Singapore, a degree conferred by Goldsmiths, University of London.
Elaine lives in Singapore and her book The Heartsick Diaspora, and other stories, will be published by Myriad in 2020.
Interviews and Features
Short Story Month featuring Elaine Chiew and Hannah Vincent
‘May is Short Story Month! I am so excited to share my favourite short story collections with you all … I couldn’t let this opportunity pass without recommending The Heartsick Diaspora by Elaine Chiew and She-Clown and Other Stories by Hannah Vincent. Both of them were incredibly written and memorable in their own ways. I highly recommend picking these up.’
Elaine Chiew on The Heartsick Diaspora with Jessica Tay
Q: Most of the endings in this collection are open ended or very loose. Could you share with us why you decided to do so?
Elaine Chiew: E.M. Forster says, “The plot-maker expects us to remember; we expect him to leave no loose ends.” Realistic short stories (as a genre), however, by nature of the format, aren’t so much about plot as they are about change. The change is often in the heart, minute or invisible; in a hidden glance, a small gesture, a sudden apprehending, sometimes even a withdrawal. Even stasis, a character refusing to admit emotional change when a situation has changed, is a fundamental shift in psyche. The best short stories are windows into lived lives, and neatly tied endings would, in the end, do the reader a disservice because they are gimmicky and not true to real life. Our lives don’t consist of neatly tied chapter-by-chapter anecdotes or stories, do they?
Special Mentions in the 2020 Saboteur Awards
We’re so pleased to announce that several Myriad authors received special mentions for the 2020 Saboteur Awards, including Elaine Chiew for The Heartsick Disapora and our Spotlight Authors Ana Tewson-Bozic, Elizabeth Ridout, Georgina Aboud, Jacqueline Haskell, Tara Gould and Sarah Windebank for the Spotlight Books series. Tara received a second mention for her novella, The Haunting of Strawberry Water.
You can review the entire shortlist here.
My bookish life… Elaine Chiew
We’re delighted to begin My Bookish Life, a new series which will feature on our weekly newsletter, with writer and visual arts researcher Elaine Chiew, whose debut collection of short stories, The Heartsick Diaspora, came out in January.
How have your days changed?
As with many around the world, our routines got up-ended with my partner now working from home, and the kiddos being home for the short-term (Singapore just announced school closures). In daily life, we are doing some things different: (1) we no longer do our food-shopping on weekends, for two reasons – we are buying less each time, so as not to hoard, and we go during weekdays when the shops are emptier; we are also trying to support local businesses so we buy all our fruit now from our local fruit vendor around the corner; (2) we don’t allow talk about the pandemic at the dinner table and instead chat about what we did that day – a sharing of something learned, something experienced, something felt (or, sometimes, we do Jimmy Carr’s trivia quizzes while eating – it’s a good laugh); and (3) although we didn’t eat out a lot to begin with, now we don’t eat out at all, so this has meant a lot more of my time spent planning meals and being creative about them (which also rejuvenates the spirit). My son and I also do home-learning together (Coursera is great, and we are taking a course on Ancient Greek Civilisation together).
Read our full interview with Elaine here, and make sure to sign up to our newsletter to catch all our news and special offers. (Link at the bottom of our homepage.)
Elaine Chiew at The Conduit Club, London
Rap and Fine Dining: The Mix in The Heartsick Diaspora with Hyphen magazine
Leland Cheuk: I love a good ol’ ghost story, of which there are a few in the collection, but my favorite stories of yours are the ones in contemporary milieus like the fine dining kitchen or the mind of a mom who is super into hip-hop. There’s rap and food throughout the collection, and in “Chronicles of a Culinary Poseur,” there’s both. Can you tell me a little bit about what inspired the story? Did you spend time working in a fine dining kitchen?
Elaine Chiew: It’s fun to hear what stories appealed to a reader and why, so thank you! I did spend a week working in an Italian fine dining kitchen in New York City while researching a novel about haute cuisine and hip-hop (buried now in novel boneyard). I was intrigued by the class divide I saw from the kitchen peephole. Outside, the diners come to dine in their finery and spend easily upwards of hundreds of dollars per meal; inside the kitchen, the line cooks earn little more than minimum wage, and it is usually staffed by ethnic minorities, and yes, hip-hop music blares in the kitchen. Peepholes and doorways figure in several of the stories in the collection, for a reason — they often act as boundaries, keeping out (excluding) as well as keeping in (maintaining, protecting), but so flimsy and so porous. As a fellow writer, don’t you often feel that we as writers exist as translators or conduits or doormen? We stand at these liminal thresholds where we present contrasts by juxtaposing them. As service to story. Not to judge, but often as facilitator, “Look, look at, look through; perceive.”
Amy Baxter and Elaine Chiew talk diversity, genres and short stories for Bad Form
Do you believe it is best to write from personal experiences? Could a non-migrant, for example, write fiction about migrant experiences? Or should they?
‘I don’t believe in policing fiction or the imagination, but I do believe that if you’re going to write experiences very far from your own, it takes an incredible feat of empathy, imagination and hard work to check all your blind spots. It’s important to get it right, it’s important to do it with incredible sensitivity. I contend that freedom to write is not in question, but peeps seem to be expecting freedom from consequences when they get it wrong.’
Elaine Chiew on BBC Radio London with Tim Arthur
Hannah Vincent talks short stories on Brighton Book Club
Hannah Vincent joined Anna Burtt, host of Brighton Book Club podcast, to discuss short stories. They focus on Hannah’s new short story collection, She-Clown, alongside The Heartsick Diaspora by fellow Myriad author, Elaine Chiew. Listen again HERE.
The Heartsick Diaspora on Bookanista
Chinese Almanac, a short story from Elaine Chiew‘s debut short story collection, The Heartsick Diaspora, is available to read in full on Bookanista. The collection, published this month, has already been shortlisted for the Manchester Fiction Prize 2020, and will be launched at Waterstones Tottenham Court Road as part of their Chinese New Year celebrations.
The Heartsick Diaspora shortlisted for the Manchester Fiction Prize 2020
One of Elaine Chiew’s unpublished short stories has been shortlisted for the Manchester Fiction Prize 2020.
To see the full list of finalists, head to the MMU website.
LoveReading's Debut of the Month
LoveReading chose The Heartsick Diaspora by Elaine Chiew as Debut of the Month. ‘Author Elaine Chiew was born in Malaysia, graduated from Stanford Law School and worked as a lawyer in New York before studying in London. She now lives in Singapore. Her writing ranges from thoughtful to provocative, pithy and vibrant observations bring these short stories to life. She has the ability to transfer emotions from the page, straight into my heart and mind.’
You can read their review of Elaine’s short story collection over on the LoveReading website. FULL REVIEW
The Heartsick Diaspora in The Bookseller
The October issue of The Bookseller previewed The Heartsick Diaspora by Elaine Chiew within the new literary fiction section, citing Monica Ali’s quote that the upcoming collection is ‘full of verve and wit’.
The Lounge Chair Interview: 10 Questions with Elaine Chiew
Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?
My short story collection, The Heartsick Diaspora, draws upon my experiences of being part of the Malaysian and Singaporean Chinese diasporas in the cities I’ve lived in, mainly New York City, London, Singapore. Even saying this, frankly, stumps me with an oceanic wave of imposter syndrome. I feel I know Malaysia less than Singapore, and Singapore less than the U.K.
Elaine Chiew discussing Urban Collages at STPI Gallery
In conjunction with Manuel Ocampo’s “Ideological Mash-Up/Remix”, STPI Gallery held a panel discussion involving Fyerool Darma, Vikas Kailankaje; author Elaine Chiew. The dialogue was moderated by Melanie Pocock, Assistant Curator, Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore (ICA), LASALLE College of the Arts. Listen to the entire discussion HERE.