BOOK REVIEW: The Heartsick Diaspora, and other stories by Elaine Chiew

March 2, 2020

The Heartsick Diaspora, and other stories

Elaine Chiew

Set in different cities around the world, Elaine Chiew’s award-winning stories travel into the heart of the Singaporean and Malaysian Chinese diasporas to explore the lives, both past and present,  of people experiences the pressure of living lives between cultures and juggling divided selves.

Her characters intersectional experiences are written with an everyday obviousness which allows those of us who don’t share this heritage to feel the experience keener; there are also some fierce pokes from the daft cultural fabrication stick.  She wrapped curious and thought provoking narratives around the central theme of motherhood, from pressured rapping confessionals to surrealist dreams we are kept connected to the authentic voices in these stories.  Chiew gives us quite the breadth of stories in this wonderfully cheeky collection and I enjoyed the change from style that each new story presented, but always appreciated Chiew’s seriously delicious word play and brisk similes.

This is an author for whom words dance, and often with a wonderfully rich self-awareness to the steps.  There’s a tart edge to her writing, it feels fresh and fun and although the subject matter is both serious and sometimes dreamlike, the ghost story being an exercise in humour and honour, the Nanny just pure horror, Chiew manages to convince in narrative beat and human heartfelt engagements and her stories stick around, bringing a familiar smile in an unfamiliar world.    She does funny as well as sad, sometimes serving up a bittersweet combination of both superbly. The stories inhabit a world where they reference each other, and I loved this meta-story,  bringing us back to the title of this collection, scattered, but joined by a beating thread of common experience.  Recommended.

Out now, for more info or to buy a copy visit the publishers website here: