Inez Tan – This is where I won’t be alone

A friend recommended me the recent book of Inez Tan, This is where I won’t be alone, and above that got me a copy signed by the author delivered to a conference in Korea I attended.

This book is a collection of short stories published in various media over the years, where the connecting thread are feelings about home versus displacement. As one who has lived in a completely different cultural surrounding than my original one for nearly ten years, many of these stories resonated within me and recalled similar feelings.

Here are comments to some of the stories, but I try not to spoil the pleasure of reading them yourself: The starting one is Edison and Curie, a gripping story about brother and sister, him being a genius, and their development. Nice story, well built up, I was only a bit unsatisfied about the ending. Oyster tells the story of life of a bag of Oyssters, absolutely great!

The story Lee Kuan Yew Is Not Always the Answer is about a young teacher in Singapore reflecting on the history of Singapore as well as her own development:

In the past, our leaders fought their battles to determine what we were not. We were not a British colony. We were not a communist state. We were not part of Malaysia. The struggle now has been to define what we are. Adolescence – we can relate to that, especially those of us who haven’t quite figured our way out of it yet.

The next piece, The Colony, is one of my favorites, and also provides the book title. A story about ants, humans, and living together. Following is Why, Grandmother, a very short piece, just three pages, but with few words a full world of memories is created. I liked it a lot, despite the fact that I cannot really explain why. The following story, Tragic Flaws, is the one I liked the least. I wasn’t sure whether the broken English was on purpose, I couldn’t really relate to the story.

Single is a story about lost, or failed, love. Talking to Strangers is again a piece I liked a lot, talking about crossings of lives and surprising developments, missed opportunities. The Princess and the Dragon tells the story of a little princess facing a everything devouring dragon, and somehow taming it. I liked the dragon, he was such a lazy bun. Reproduction, another very short story of three pages, ingenuously tells us how incidental our partnerships often can be.

Dear Famous Poet is again turning around courtship, in particular the nervousness of boy bringing out a girl to a poet’s reading. The tension between the high values of poetry, the expectation of excellence, the story how it all came up to this date, is a moving story of young love. My favorite quote from the book is also from it:

We live our lives like strobe light flashes, hoping that the next burst will make sense after the next. Is that reverence or fear? Is that a series of excuses, or is it all there is?

Home, the shortest story with just two pages, contrasts the meaning of “home” with a disappearing McDonald’s. Very funny and interesting. I often miss a way to express the German “Heimat” in English, because it has so much more connotations then I know of “home”.

You were the one who told me that home is something we have to make for ourselves.

The last story, One the Moon, relates stories from a moon base and how people deal with their lives there. Sometimes living abroad does seem like living on the moon.

I am very grateful to Stella for introducing me to this very nice book, and to Inez for signing me a copy. It was a great book, and my daughter enjoyed “reading” it, too. Well, especially looking at the beautiful Inez Tan 😉 If you get your hand on this book, I heartily recommend reading it, especially if you have or had times wondering what home, loneliness, and “Heimat” is.

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