The book is Crazy Rich Asians, and the author is Kevin Kwan, who grew up in Singapore and also Texas. It is a fun and popular “beach read” in its own right, but also more subtle and sociologically intriguing if you know a bit about Singapore. I found it difficult to put down and it even made me laugh in a few places, which few novels do. By the way, the female protagonist is an economics professor at NYU.
Here is one excerpt:
“Every time any Asian guy so much as looks in your direction, you give them the famous Rachel Chu Asian freeze-out and they wither away before you give them a chance…Honestly you are the most self-loathing Asian I have ever met.”
[the protagonist, Rachel] “What do you mean? I’m not self-loathing at all. How about you? You’re the one who married the white guy.”
“Mark’s not white, he’s Jewish — that’s basically Asian! At least I dated a lot of Asian guys in my time.”
Singapore is the only place I know where you can meet someone who has an economics degree from Stanford, and have her tell you that she has a liberal arts background.
Anyway, I recommend this book to about one-quarter of you.
Yesterday I was visiting Kinokuniya, the largest bookstore in Singapore. I asked the literature specialist which Singaporean novels I should buy. Without irony he responded “I don’t know, for literature we are a small provincial backwater.” But I hope that is wrong. And after all, he didn’t mention Crazy Rich Asians to me.
But I have a question for you, dear readers — which are the Singaporean literary works to buy, read, and perhaps reread? Amanda Lee Koe? How about Alfian Sa’at? Oddly enough, or perhaps appropriately enough, he published a famous poem “Singapore You Are Not My Country,” well-written, far too negative in my view but at least he mentioned easy access to all the MRT stops and also seems to understand the difference between gnp and gdp.
Please leave your Singaporean literature recommendations in the comments.