The Heartsick Diaspora and other stories: Asian Representation Done Right || A Book Review

The Heartsick Diaspora and other stories (ARC)

Author: Elaine Chiew

Publisher: Penguin Random House SEA

Released: January 23rd 2020

Genre: Fiction, Short stories

Pages: 256

Format: Paperback

The Heartsick Diaspora is a collection of short stories that feature mostly Singaporeans and Malaysians as the main characters. The stories’ settings range from ancient Asian myths to the 1960s right until the present day. This book discusses about Asians’ cultures, faiths, beliefs and many more.

When I first started reading this book, the first few short stories caught my attention. The writing style was beautiful and the stories were very different from what I expected and I found that pleasing. Many aspects in these stories could resonate well with its readers, especially the Singaporeans and Malaysians. The way the author inserted different languages, dialects and slangs, including fillers into the stories is one of my favourite thing about this book.

The themes of The Heartsick Diaspora range from Asian myths, to life as immigrants, parents and children relationships and of course identity of oneself as Asian. I found many of these stories are interesting and very well written, even thought provoking.

However, since most of the endings felt rather loose to me, I felt lost whenever I reached certain short stories’ endings. I didn’t get what certain endings try to convey, it’s like an open ending that I could hardly decipher. Anyways, this point is very subjective, what I couldn’t understand perhaps understood easily by others (so don’t take what I say as it is, try flip a page or two first and see how you like it). Other than that, I appreciate that all of the stories carry meaning, history and personality.

Some of my favourite stories are:

  • The Coffin Maker
  • Run of the Molars
  • A Thoroughly Modern Ghost of Other Origin
  • Chinese Almanac
  • Mapping Three Lives Through a Red Rooster Chamber Pot

Overall, though some stories’ ending didn’t sit well for me, I liked the book as a whole and I feel like everyone should give this book a try and experience the Malaysian’s and Singaporean’s life, stories and history.

Thank you Times Reads for sending this ARC in exchange for an honest review. This book is now available is bookstores, so make sure to check it out.


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