Singapore Shelf: We Do Not Make Love Here, Of The Florids and more

We Do Not Make Love Here by Nisha Mehraj. PHOTOS: EPIGRAM BOOKS, MUBARAKH RAHMAN

SINGAPORE - In this month's edition of Singapore Shelf, The Sunday Times lines up eight new titles that have hit the shelves - from a debut novel by an ex-schoolteacher, to a debut poetry chapbook drawing on natural history.

1. We Do Not Make Love Here by Nisha Mehraj

Fiction/Epigram Books/Paperback/248 pages/$26.90/Buy here

Three years ago, Nisha Mehraj made a bold decision - she quit her day job as a secondary school teacher to focus on writing.

Her efforts paid off when her manuscript for a novel was shortlisted for the 2022 Epigram Books Fiction Prize.

We Do Not Make Love Here, a family saga told from the perspectives of four ordinary Indian Singaporeans, is now published.


2. Potong: To Care/Cut by Johnny Jon Jon

Drama/Ethos Books/Paperback/188 pages/$14/Buy here

This book contains the scripts for Hawa (2015) and Potong (2018), two plays by acclaimed playwright Johnny Jon Jon.

In Hawa, a new Muslim convert finds herself overseeing funeral arrangements for a "friend" who is in fact her lover.

Meanwhile, Potong features a young man, Adam, who reckons with two rites of passage - national service and circumcision.

3. A Flutter In The Colony by Sandeep Ray


Fiction/Penguin Random House South-east Asia/Paperback/296 pages/$31.99/Buy here

A Flutter In The Colony, historian Sandeep Ray's debut novel, was first published by HarperCollins India in 2019.

The story begins in 1956, when the Senguptas leave Calcutta for Malaya and start a new life on the edge of a British rubber plantation.

4. Aesthetics Aside?: Observations On Design In The Everyday by Justin Zhuang


Non-fiction/In Plain Words/Paperback/234 pages/$32.50/Buy here

This breezy collection of essays touches on topics such as subway signage, playground design and the cheap stackable plastic chairs (also known as monobloc chairs) which are ubiquitous in Singapore.

Author Justin Zhuang urges readers to look at design more closely. "Not just that it can be beautiful, good for business and even empower people, but also how design is bad, excludes and even kills. Whatever the impact, design cannot - and should not - be set aside."

Zhuang, who writes about design, is the co-founder of In Plain Words, a writing studio and publishing imprint based in Singapore.

5. Of The Florids by Shawn Hoo


Poetry/Diode Editions/Paperback/48 pages/$19.50/Buy here

What does it mean to be "of the florids"? A narrator ventures a litany of examples: "the long takes of the cinematic forest/ Walcott's long ant lines shouldering sugar/ dioramic imaginations: Bosch, Haw Par Villa/ a tuft of bird's nest fern cable-tied on a rusty shack/ shafts of light through Gaudi or People's Park Complex/ bodily onomatopoeia: snapping fingers of rain". This chapbook, filled with allusions to natural history and urban geographies in South-east Asia, is a lush and ambitious debut. Shawn Hoo is a name to watch.

6. Once Upon A Place: 8 Singaporean Memoirs by Koh Gek Ling Emily, Lee Tzu Pheng, Lee Seow Ser, Ng Sok Huang Charlene, Oon Sim Sim, Seah Hui Wen, Christine Tee and Yeo Hock Yew


Non-fiction/Helang Books/Paperback/128 pages/$18/Buy here

Eight people from different walks of life reflect on places past and present in Singapore. Their memoirs range from The House Of Possibilities, where poet Lee Tzu Pheng writes about the colonial-style Wilkinson Road bungalow she grew up in; to The Carpenter's Shophouse, in which Ng Sok Huang Charlene reflects on her father's furniture store in Aljunied. The anthology will be launched at 4pm on Saturday at The Pod on Level 16 of the National Library, and available in-store after that.

7. Letters To Singapore by Kelly Kaur


Fiction/Stonehouse Publishing/Paperback/300 pages/$27.95/Buy here

This novel consists of letters exchanged between Simran, a young woman studying at the University of Calgary in Canada, and her mother, sister and friends back home in Singapore.

Their epistolary exchanges stretch from the mid-1980s - after Simran escapes from an arranged marriage and arrives in Canada - to the late 1990s, when the once-foreign country now feels like home.

8. The Lost Children Of Gloam's End by Clementine Darling


Fiction/Lorgnette Publishing/Paperback/Fiction/284 pages/$15.95 (black and white) or $27.95 (colour)/Buy here

"There was once a girl named Josie. She was small and very pale, with dark, round eyes, and black hair cut in a curling bob about her ears.

"Josie lived in a very old house at the edge of a wood. It wasn't a very nice house, nor was it a very nice wood, but Josie didn't have much choice because it was the best her father could do."

So begins this tale by doll artist Janice Yong, writing under the name Clementine Darling.

Things get curiouser when Josie is forced to stay at Bramstone Hall down the road and drawn into the lost world of children who went missing more than a century ago.

Yong has also included original art and antique photographs in the pages of the book.

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