de Vries, Hendrika. 2019. When a Toy Dog Became a Wolf and the Moon Broke Curfew. She Writes Press.
This is a memoir about growing up in Amsterdam during the German occupation, including the winter of 1944 when food ran short and many died. It includes the author's idyllic childhood prior to the war as well as some years after, until her family migrates to Oz in search of better economic opportunities. I had not realized that the Dutch economy experienced such a slow recovery following the war.
The book is written as short chapters that, with a few exceptions, describe specific episodes. Introspecting about my own memories from the same ages that seems natural. As an adult, the author became interested in Jungian psychology and it shows in the combination of warmth and detachment with which she considers both her younger self and her parents. You really feel the texture of life under German occupation for a child. I enjoyed it quite a lot and learned from it as well.
Full disclosure. The author's husband's father is one of the (many) brothers of my mother's mother. I heard about the book from said husband during one of the weekly zoom "reunions" of (a subset of) my mother's side of the family that have been an unexpected positive side effect of the pandemic.
Koe, Amanda Lee. 2013. Ministry of Moral Panic. Singapore: Epigram Books.
It seems like a different lifetime, but only six months ago I spent 10 days in Singapore, giving two seminars, and presenting and participating in a panel at the Asian and Australasian Society of Labor Economists meetings and, of course, shopping for books.
Amanda Koe Lee is apparently a star of Singaporean literature - "a distinctive literary voice for Singapore's contemporary condition" according to one of the blurbs on the back of the book. And the cover is bright pink, and the title is excellent and short stories are often a fine way to sample a new author. So I bought it and got around to reading it last month.
I found the stories a bit uneven. I quite enjoyed "The King of Caldecott Hill" about an aging television star and his groupie. I also liked "Alice, You Must Be the Fulcrum of Your Own Universe" about a young women and her vaguely mysterious older woman friend as well as "Every Park on this Island" about a female undergraduate who spends a summer dating a visiting American student. On the other hand, "Siren" seemed forced. Overall, the stories have a bit of a "writer's workshop" flavor to them, which has its costs as well as its benefits.
Did I gain some distinctly Singaporean insights (as opposed to generic insights in Singaporean settings)? The collection has some of both. I did learn some Singaporean social history too.
Recommended as something a bit different.
Amazon book page
Barnes and Noble book page Bricks and mortar store (the one on Orchard Road) where I purchased the book. The store is part of an international chain; I have been to the one in Sydney as well.