Photo: Veronica Tay

Melissa De Silva, who is of mixed ancestry (Portuguese, Indian, Malay, Chinese, and a smidgen of Dutch and Italian), struggled with identifying herself through her race during her formative years.

Through the writing of her novel, “Others” Is Not a Race, she finally came to terms with her heritage.

In the process, she also reclaimed some of her Eurasian culture. The novel was the winner of the creative nonfiction category in the 2018 Singapore Literature Prize, organised by the Singapore Book Council.

Published by Math Paper Press, the thought provoking collection of short stories and essays reflects on being a Eurasian in Singapore, explores the Eurasian identity and culture, and questions the concept of race as a social construct.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Introducing Melissa De Silva from BAW’s newest line-up of writers! Melissa is the author of ‘’Others’ is Not a Race’ which was awarded the Singapore Literature Prize 2018 in the Creative Nonfiction category. Her fiction has been published in ‘Best New Singaporean Short Stories Vol.3, Singapore Quarterly Literary Review’ and ‘LONTAR: The Journal of Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction’. Melissa has worked as a journalist and book editor and is Singapore’s Education Ambassador for online global creative writing platform ‘Write the World’. Her upcoming book, ‘THE KRISTANG CLUB’ is a historical fiction novel set in Singapore in 1906. The book will be published this August 2019 by Math Paper Press. To find out more about our writers, click on the link in our bio! #BAW #bookawriter #singlitstation

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“As Eurasians, we don’t have cultural markers that are as tangible as those of other races in Singapore. Subconsciously, I tried to search for them to bolster what I felt I didn’t have.” The first short story she wrote was The Gift, inspired by the passing of her maternal grandmother, Patsy Pinto, who spoke Kristang, a creole of Portuguese and Malay.

“I had no interest in the language before, but when she passed away, my chance to learn it was gone,” she rues.

In the fictional world, though, her heroine finds resolution by learning her mother tongue.

The Gift was first published in the Spring 2014 edition of Wilderness House Literary Review, a US quarterly online literary journal. Reviews were positive, and readers responded with similar experiences of their own.

After that, Melissa decided to publish a collection of short stories on the theme of identity and cultural attrition.

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Melissa is no stranger to expressing herself through words, with more than 10 years of experience as a magazine journalist and editor, including a nomination for Journalist of the Year at the Mediacorp News Awards in 2006. Writing the book, though, was an introspective challenge.

Singaporeans don’t think too much about race issues. A positive spin you can put on that is that as a people, we are much more integrated than in many other countries. But race relations are out there in the void decks, in our kopitiams, and on TV.

As U2 sang so plaintively on One, “We’re one, but we’re not the same.”

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She’s already working on her second book, a historical novel set in 1906 Malaya that explores further the dynamics of class, ethnicity and power – as experienced by Eurasians in the British colonial era.

“Awareness,” she adds, “is the first step to reclaiming our culture.”more integrated than in many other countries.

She’s already working on her second book, a historical novel set in 1906 Malaya that explores further the dynamics of class, ethnicity and power – as experienced by Eurasians in the British colonial era. “Awareness,” she adds, “is the first step to reclaiming our culture.”

Image credits

ART DIRECTION Shan

DIGITAL IMAGING Sebastian Lee

STYLING Violet Foo, assisted by Praveena Ravin

HAIR & MAKEUP Zoel Tee, using Hanz De Fuko & 3INA

This was first published in the May issue of our magazine.

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