Literary City Guide


I’m over at Eat This Poem, a literary food blog helmed by writer, blogger, content developer, community builder, good food advocate, and home cook Nicole Gulotta, with a short “Literary City Guide” to Singapore! An excerpt:


Basheer Graphic Books. Basheer Graphic Books carries a range of art and design titles, from fashion photography monographs to furniture design tomes, from cinematography manuals to ceramics encyclopedias.

Wardah Books. Wardah Books stocks an astounding collection of English-language books on Islamic philosophy and Sufism. I love the cheeky section titles in Wardah Books, such as “Reign of Quantity” (books critical of modern capitalism) and “Matters Still Unfolding” (books on politics and Islam).

Woods in the Books. This picture book shop houses picture books, graphic novels, and comic books for children and adults.


La Ristrettos. La Ristrettos is hidden in Novena Medical Center; grab a seat on the terrace for a quiet meal.

The Plain. The Plain serves comfort food (including all-day breakfast and delicious open-faced sandwiches) and great coffee.

Loysel’s Toy Cafe. Best known for its premium gourmet coffeeconcoctions tucked away on the banks of the Kallang River.

Continue reading “Literary City Guide” to Singapore.

At the Arts House

A bit of shameless self-promotion: I’ll be speaking as part of The Arts House’s World Voices series on June 9 at 7:30pm.

World Voices invites authors and poets from around to share their perspectives on literature and craft. I’ll be talking about my own creative work—Under Her Skin: How Girls Experience Race in America, an anthology of essays, and Mama Saris, an illustrated children’s book—contemporary American literature for young readers, creative writing and the classroom, and a whole lot more.

Come? It’s free. And if you are so inclined, we can have a cup of tea and a slice of cake after the event.

The Picture Book as Art Object: A Panel Discussion at The Pigeonhole [UPDATED]

UPDATE 5/19: This event is tonight, Thursday, May 19 from 7:30pm to 9:30pm (more details below). Do come by and say “hello.”

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I popped by The Pigeonhole, a new cafe and arts space, this past weekend. It is spacious and warm, eclectic and inviting. The Pigeonhole’s mission is to “promote Singaporean non-governmental organizations (NGOs), music, film, fine arts and performing arts.” The Pigeonhole also brews a mean coffee and houses a thoughtful collection of second-hand and rare books.

It’s the perfect place to while away an afternoon with other like-minded souls. I wish owners Rayner Lim and Ave Chan great things. The Pigeonhole is much-needed on this tiny island.

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I am thrilled to present the UNESCO-NIE Centre for Arts Research in Education (CARE) Forum Series’ The Picture Book as Art Object: A Panel Discussion on Thursday, May 19 from 7:30pm to 9:30pm as part of The Pigeonhole’s wonderfully curated events’ calendar.

As you may have gleaned from my posts, I am passionate about the book arts and see the book as much an art/sculptural object as a work of fiction or nonfiction.

This panel will explore contemporary interpretations of the book as an art object and traditional artistic practices of the art of the book. It will also address the “picture book” as a unified artistic whole in which text and pictures, covers and endpages, and details of design work together. And it will offer teachers, parents, and others who work with young people ways to use the picture book to provide an aesthetically satisfying experience for young readers.

Panelists include:

Pooja Makhijani (Moderator)*. The editor of Under Her Skin: How Girls Experience Race in America, an anthology of essays, and the author of Mama’s Saris, a picture book. She has taught writing and children’s literature at Western Connecticut State University and Middlesex County College. In addition, Pooja has conducted writing workshops and presentations at a number of colleges and universities, schools, libraries, and other educational institutions all over the United States. In May, she will be participating in the Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC) and, in June, she will be part of Children’s Season 2011, a series of school and family programming at the National Museum. She holds a B.S. from Johns Hopkins University and an MFA in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College.

Eriko Hirashima. A book artist and founder of LA LIBRERIA. Born in Fukuoka, Japan, she graduated with a BA in Textiles and PGC in Fine Art from Goldsmiths College and a MA in Book Arts at Camberwell College of the Arts. She has exhibited book works in the UK, Japan and Singapore. Eriko has taught at the School of Art, Design and Media at Nanyang Technological University. In 2010, she curated the artists’ book exhibition, Centre to Periphery, at the Japan Creative Centre, Singapore. She will be exhibiting new work in an exhibition, Library Thoughts, at Raday Konyveshaz and Gallery, Budapest, Hungary in August 2011.

Suzy Lee. The author and illustrator of many books, including the critically acclaimed Shadow (named as one of the New York Times’ Best Illustrated Children’s Books in 2010), as well as Wave, The Black BirdThe Zoo, and Mirror. She was born in Seoul, Korea. She received her BFA in painting from Seoul National University and her MA in Book Arts from Camberwell College of Arts. Her books and paintings have won numerous international awards and have been featured in exhibitions worldwide.

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* AKA “notabilia.” Many of you know me personally, but for those of you who don’t, I am a writer, editor, educator, and more. If you love books, design, or craft, do come out to The Pigeonhole and say, “hello.” I promise you a thought-provoking and engaging evening.

Children’s Literature and the South Asian Diaspora at The Messenger Pigeon

I am at The Messenger Pigeon today chatting about children’s literature and the South Asian diaspora. The Messenger Pigeon is a collection of interesting things to read, curated by the wonderful team behind The Pigeonhole.

An excerpt from my Q&A:

In your view, what is the function of children’s literature in American society? For instance, does or should it serve a moral or sociological purpose? Does or should this function differ in the Asian or Southeast Asian context?

In her book, Against Borders, Hazel Rochman writes: “Books can make a difference in dispelling prejudice and building community: not with role models and literal recipes, not with noble messages about the human family, but with enthralling stories that make us imagine the lives of others. A good story lets you know people as individuals in all their particularity and conflict; and once you see someone as a person – flawed, complex, striving – then you’ve reached beyond stereotype. Stories, writing them, telling them, sharing them, transforming them, enrich us and connect us and help us know each other.”

We as human beings are natural born storytellers and those of us who trade in the telling of tales (i.e. writers, filmmakers, artists, musicians) aim to illuminate an aspect of the universal human condition. I believe that this is the function of all art, including children’s literature, anywhere in the world.

I could write a thesis in response to any one of The Messenger Pigeon‘s thoughtful questions. Thank you, Ave and Rayner, for the opportunity to share my first loves, reading and writing, with your audience.

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I’ll be at The Pigeonhole moderating UNESCO-NIE Centre for Arts Research in Education (CARE) Forum Series’ The Picture Book as Art Object: A Panel Discussion on Thursday, May 19 from 7:30pm to 9:30pm. RSVP on Facebook.

Singapore Shopaholic: Woods in the Books

For a small city with a number of large, chain stores, Singapore, surprisingly, has several thriving independent bookstores. My favorites so far? BooksActually, Basheer Graphic Books, and Woods in the Books: The Picture Book Shop.

I find so much inspiration at Woods in the Books. I can spend hours browsing through owners Mike Foo and Shannon Ong’s handpicked collection of picture books, graphic novels, and comic books. The white walled and inviting shop carries work by house favorite, French cartoonist Jean-Jacques Sempé; quirky graphic novels; pop-up versions of The Little Prince and The Wizard of Oz; and of course, classic books such as Goodnight Moon and Where the Wild Things Are.

The shop is also part gallery and showcases framed, limited-edition prints by several up-and-coming local artists, including Mike (AKA moof). The last time I was there, I spotted these delightful giclee prints by “Twisstii.”

I dare not call Woods in the Books a “children’s book shop.” There is a common misperception that picture books are exclusively intended for the very young. They are not. I would venture a guess that both Shannon and Mike would agree with me that the picture book is a form of literature for people of all ages.

^ That’s Mr. Scotti, Woods in the Books‘ “big boss.” Follow his adventures on the Woods in the Books blog.

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A friendly reminder: Learn more about picture books at the UNESCO-NIE Centre for Arts Research in Education (CARE) Forum Series’ The Picture Book as Art Object: A Panel Discussion on Thursday, May 19 from 7:30pm to 9:30pm at The Pigeonhole. RSVP on Facebook.

(Additional credits: Photographs via Woods in the Books’ blog. Used with permission. Tape strip clip art via Pugly Pixel. Scallop medallion via Pugly Pixel.)