Lions in Winter

Lions in Winter➥ [Epub] ➟ Lions in Winter By Wena Poon ➯ – Oaklandjobs.co.uk The model student who breaks his parents' hearts when he drops out of medical school to study fashion design in London The shampoo girl who leaves Singapore for the hustle and bustle of New York's Chi The model student who breaks his parents' hearts when he drops out of medical school to study fashion design in London The shampoo girl who leaves Singapore for the hustle and bustle of New York's Chinatown The schoolteacher whose anxiety about white people cripples his dream retirement in Toronto The mother who dreams of an old world amidst changing landscapes Lions in Epub / and an unlikely Singaporean family in Nevada cut off from the rest of the world by an obsessive patriarch In this collection of stories Wena Poon examines the uiet lives of displaced Singaporeans living abroad and those in Singapore who are often torn between two worlds in their search for an imaginary homeland Poon's portraits of various lives share a common constant yearning to belong in a place made foreign by time or space Occasionally humorous but always with compassion she captures the rich inner lives of individuals who form part of the kaleidoscopic yet wistful modern history of Asian migration Wena Poon a Singaporean by birth resides in the US. Over the summer I picked up Wena Poon's 'Lions in Winter' after hearing about all the international acclaim it fostered Being nominated for the Frank O'Connor Award and the Singapore Literature Prize definitely caught my attention although I must silently admit that it doesn't take much for me to be enchanted by any local fiction that champions one of my favorite discourses post colonial literatureFrom the first few pages I felt like I was alongside the characters breathing and feeling their very circumstances through her erudite descriptions I related to every one of them which on a broader level garnered an intimate insight into the Singaporean cultural landscape I felt transported into those awkward and invisible cultural spaces that she managed to access boldly and convincingly Her characters were raw and she made no apologies for their circumstances another reason that made the book so relatable and gave me lots to think about from the teenage boys to the old Chinese man She made the read easy through her complex crafting of the characters and their lives sometimes two dimensional but can we ever really go beyond discourse? This is not science fiction after allAs the short stories went on I felt the stories got and abstract such as Chicken and although initially I wasn't entirely convinced of the shift I realised later she probably didn't want to compromise the potential of fiction to explore greater literary philosophy and post colonial themes such as hybridity diasporas belonging history and power I thought as her first attempt it was a great balance between literary and cultural expression I would keep a copy in my library for sure Although several of the stories in Wena Poon's Lions in Winter have been published in different places and at different times the collection as a whole is unified by the common thread of displacement Like the Chinese lions in the snowy New York landscape in the title story many of her characters are Asians transplanted to the westSometimes they also make the journey back to Singapore giving us the chance to see the country through their eyes There is a very telling moment when the protagonist of the same story Freddie stops for a moment to sniff the air as he goes through immigration at Changi airport knowing that withing twenty minutes his nose would have got so used to the distinctivewarm seeping slightly musty smell of earth tinged with the faintest hint of diesel that he will fail to notice it it is in those first moments of homecoming that we see everything with a sharp clarity that we uickly lose as we reassimulatePoon's great gift though is to keep that freshness of vision and to bring out the extraordinariness of the ordinary lives she describes looking not only at immigration and the sometimes painful path to assimilation but also uestioning just what it means to be SingaporeanShe writes beautifully in a style that is both informal and conversational and there are clever little asides thrown into the narrative that really tickle the funny bone This made me chuckle as I read Those Who Serve Those Who Do Not National Service was the male euivalent of having one's period predestined to occur at a certain age repeated throughout the most productive years of one's life and entirely and relentlessly gender specific Like menstruation it was an inscrutable rite of passage about which one gender hardly shared notes with the otherI'd had Poon down as a clever humourist after enjoying her two stories which appeared in the Silverfish collections Kenny's Big Break in which a boy snaffles the ang pow money at his sister's wedding to finance his education made me laugh as much as ever and how many times have I read it? Addiction the story of a Singaporean medical student in London who decides to defect to do a fashion design course while stringing his mother along on the end of the phone was another complete delightBut it is the poignancy of the other stories in the collection that hits home In The Man Who Was Afraid of ATM's an elderly Chinese teacher finds his confidence and in fact his whole identity eroded after emigrating to Canada with his son and his family He doesn't fit in Chinatown because he cannot speak the Cantonese which is the lingua franca and he finds he cannot cope with the westerners A moment of crisis comes before an ATM machine as he struggles to make a withdrawal to pay for his daughter in law's dress ironically of course a cheong sam For me the most moving part of the story is the description of this scholar's old Chinese books which he almost had to leave behind and which represent a heritage that not even his own family care to shareToys is a particularly interesting story as the Asian character remains just outside the frame of the story throughout The story is written from the point of view of a bed ridden American woman recovering from a serious car accident With little else to do but look out of the window she becomes obsessed with the toys in the back of an Asian neighbour's car giving each one a name and becoming upset when the toys slowly start to disappear Ironically the neighbour is never named and lumped instead with all other Asians in an all encompassing they we do not even learn what race she is We can only wonder at how events might have turned out differently if that first impulse to invite her to thanksgiving dinner had not been stifledMy favourite story though is The Shooting Ranch in which mother and daughter Cynthia and Anouk drive to Nevada to visit the daughter of an aunt who lives on a ranch They imagine some pleasant get away but instead they find themselves marooned in a situation of almost unbearable social awkwardness and participating in one of the most uncomfortable meals I think I've ever read about in fiction It turns out that this isn't even a ranch in the true sense but a place where tourists come to shoot pheasants and rabbits released into the woods for their sporting pleasureThe characterisation in this story is masterful particularly in the contrast between sophisticated screenager Anouk with her terminal fear of the uncool and Nancy's terrified and deprived twin daughters who undertake only the uietest form of rebellion gathering the injured animals and nursing them back to healthPoon doesn't surrender to the kind of sentimentalised depictions of heart wringing deprivation which are the hallmark of much Asian American writing In The Shooting Ranch she even takes time out to make fun of the stereotypes As Cynthia tells AnoukIn America Asian means we're the kind of people who live between the covers of books with geisha's pictured on the front and titles written in brushstroke font usually a bird of flower forms part of the title Memories of Lotus Leaves Grandmother's Peony Diaries Palace of dreams and Wild Cranes My Hurting Achy Bound feet That kind of thingA case in point is The Hair Washing Girl a story which centres on a hair salon in New York's Chinatown Mina works long shifts in conditions too cramped to allow her space to rest for just 8 an hour and shares and apartment with six others Abandoned out of necessity by her Indonesian mother and made to shift for herself after her adoptive mother turned her back on her at the age of 15 she comes to work in New York as an illegal immigrant after being made unemployed in Singapore Her employer Mrs Fong has a life story even heartbreaking yet as we eavesdrop on their lives for a few hours we realise that neither of them cast themselves as victims Mina makes her first expedition into the city beyond Chinatown to see a film with a friend while Mrs Fong makes plans for her 60th birthday celebrationsI am so proud to have played a small part in this collection coming to print I knew Wena deserved to be published but this collection of short fiction is even stronger than I had expected and I feel honestly that this is a book you could confidently put beside other collections by prominent Asian American short story writers Most of the stories were hard to read especially since they were not especially insightful The two main themes that the stories claim to discuss are only dealt with handily in a fraction of the stories such as The Man Who Was Afraid of ATMs Additionally a few of the stories sounded less like actual stories than complaints about Chinese families On that note the author does not seem to understand the evolving mentality of Asian families and seems to show a disconnection with the Singaporean population One thing that irked me was how the dialogue was awkward and the lexical and semantic choices are not in line with that of the average Singaporean There are just some words that the average local would not use probably would not even know in daily conversation Overall 2 3 substantial stories at best while the rest scratch the surface of the themes and offer flawed illustrations of local life The stories in the front half of the book were stronger coherent and had texture compared to the second half of the collection That being said Poon’s collection of stories of dislocation and migration are multifaceted and provide different lenses to seeing Singapore — not just narratives of longing and fracture but also capturing why people desire to leave Singapore in the first place; what one doesn’t miss No one can hate a Singaporean so much as another Singaporean Lions in Winter may be described as a short story collection but there are no stories in hereConflict is the reason stories existbut many of these stories have no conflict The stories follow a tired formula peering over the shoulder of a character or two and describing the events all around that person The characters have little if any actual input in the events of the story Even conflict wherever it arises tends to be muted in favour of description of characters actions and environments The titular story Lions in Winter is a perfect example It follows a man as he watches a Chinese family having dinner in New York goes home to watch his family interacting with each other and concludes with him wondering how to balance his identity I couldn't even tell if he had some kind of identity crisis at all That is the entirety of the story; there is literally nothing to spoilThe author has received critical acclaim for her settings and her themes She rightfully deserves praise in this department But it becomes tiring to read about the same thing over and over again every story is about the juxtaposition of SingaporeanChineseAsian culture with Western culture of the traditional clashing with the modern of the local and the global The only variation lies in the subject matter being examined such as National Service the role of the elderly On a big picture level I see this contrast raised again and again without resolution and sometimes without anything to resolve On first glance most of the characters in these stories appear very Singaporean To a certain extent that is true They talk like Singaporeans think like Singaporeans and act like Singaporeans But to a Singaporean eye they are flat They are archetypes born from complex Singaporean stereotypes the National Servicemen trading complaints the Chinese educated man cast adrift in an English speaking world the foreign student looking for a place somewhere Many of these characters do little if anything they are static This is especially true in the story Those Who Serve Those Who Do Not in which the only thing that happens is a conversation between the characters Many of the characters have no problems to solve and those who do solve them without much drama or conflict or hassle There is no sense of growth or development just people running in rutsAs literature Lions in Winter is a useful exercise in studying static characters language environments and themes As fiction it is painfully boring Over the summer I picked up Wena Poon's 'Lions in Winter' after hearing about all the international acclaim it fostered Being nominated for the Frank O'Connor Award and the Singapore Literature Prize definitely caught my attention although I must silently admit that it doesn't take much for me to be enchanted by any local fiction that champions one of my favorite discourses post colonial literatureFrom the first few pages I felt like I was alongside the characters breathing and feeling their very circumstances through her erudite descriptions I related to every one of them which on a broader level garnered an intimate insight into the Singaporean cultural landscape I felt transported into those awkward and invisible cultural spaces that she managed to access boldly and convincingly Her characters were raw and she made no apologies for their circumstances another reason that made the book so relatable and gave me lots to think about from the teenage boys to the old Chinese man She made the read easy through her complex crafting of the characters and their lives sometimes two dimensional but can we ever really go beyond discourse? This is not science fiction after allAs the short stories went on I felt the stories got and abstract such as Chicken and although initially I wasn't entirely convinced of the shift I realised later she probably didn't want to compromise the potential of fiction to explore greater literary philosophy and post colonial themes such as hybridity diasporas belonging history and power I thought as her first attempt it was a great balance between literary and cultural expression I would keep a copy in my library for sure I picked this up uite randomly for research But boy was I surprised when I read this I enjoyed all of the stories and could relate to them Maybe because Poon is writing as a Singaporean I could truly feel a connection with the stories and the character's feelings It isn't often I read about such familiar things like MRTs HDBs and coffee shopsMy favourites were Addiction The Man Who Was Afraid of ATMs Those Who Serve Those Who Do Not Kenny's Big Break and The Shooting Range I was particular angry at the last story especially how Henry treats his wife and children I wanna say even though Singaporean Chinese like the older ones can be traditional they are not so extreme like Henry Perhaps his actions were brought on by living in America As Poon illustrates immigrating is not easy I laughed with some if the stories like in Kenny's Big Break when his friend Chee Beng said Women have this anger I see it in my mother and cousins They're so pissed off that they have to be the ones who have the babies so they have this kind of jealousy at our mobility It's payback for the centuries of male Chinese patriachy I swear to God I really enjoyed this collection and may read of her books I am interested in Singapore Literature because it is like reading what your family members are commenting about each otherI know that the theme of the book is identity gender national ethnic and the dichotomy between the individual and the collective However as the stories go on the discourse becomes belabored Kenny's Big Break and The Shooting range are examples of stories that are not very credible to be able to elicit discussions about the themes Poon does better with stories that discusses these themes subtly such as Addiction and The Man who was afraid of ATMS I don't like it when the tensions are explicitly stated like in Lions in Winter Why do we constantly turn our prows to distant shores? Why do we know when to leave and when to return? Could we really really bear to leave those we knew behind even if we no longer loved them?uestions left unuttered will burn longer in the hearts Fantastic Ranks right up there with first collections from Jhumpa Lahiri Nam Le Junot Diaz and Daniel Alarcon Poon amazingly describes the Singapore experience through the eyes of expats and emigrants dislocated souls bumping up against new cultures or traditions The Singaporean references are slight but speak volumes and Poon's way with words is incandescent