Category Archives: Book Club Themes

100th Discussion: Eight Plays by Ovidia Yu

Attendees: Asyraf, Joyce, Rachel, Yi Sheng, Pamela, Timmy
Moderator: Vicky

All of us completed the required reading and were raring to go!  Continue reading

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Filed under Family, Lesbian, Love, Ovidia Yu, Play, Politics, Race, Religion, Singapore

99th Discussion: Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong

Attendees: Asyraf, Pamela, Kenny, Maya, Timmy

All of us read the book, but the abstractness left us perplexed. Pamela said reading the book was like reading “random words strung together”. Kenny was left frustrated, as he really tried to find resonance with the collection; this ultimately marred his enjoyment of the book. Asyraf shared that the sense of fulfilment after reading was missing, since they didn’t get what the poems meant. Maya admitted to Googling his poems to find any interpretations of them. We collectively agreed that the book is an esoteric collection not meant for the masses.

There were a lot of things to unpack and decipher with this book: Continue reading

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Filed under Family, Gay, Love, Migration, Ocean Vuong, Poetry, Race, Religion, USA, Vietnam, War

98th Discussion: Queer Singapore edited by Audrey Yue and Jun Pow

Attendance: Timmy, Ash, Raj, Yisheng, Ron, Sophia, Claudia, Y-Lynn, Veronika, Karen, Rachel, Michelle, Jun, Qian Hui, Pam, Shawn, Aaron.

We talked about reaching an acceptance between homonationalists and radical advocates; 377a and how it affects both gay men and lesbians; the queer culture in Singapore (if any); lesbian spaces in Singapore; racism and national identity in Singaporean Indians.

We also want to see more diverse topics in queer research in Singapore such as transgender, age, technology, BDSM, etc.

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Filed under Queer, Singapore

96th Discussion: Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s Everything Begins & Ends at the Kentucky Club

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Attendees: Raj, Rachel, Maya, Asy, Vicky, Scott, Pierre, Timmy

Keeping in theme with the book, we had Mexican food to munch on as we animatedly discussed about the book. Continue reading

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Filed under Americas, Benjamin Alire Sáenz, Bisexuality, Class, Family, Food, Gay, Love, Mexico, Politics, Queer, Race, Religion, Short Stories, USA, War

Book Discussion: Queering Fat Embodiment edited by Cat Pause et al

Attendees: Timmy, Asy, Raj, Nicole, Olivia, Zoe, Mya, Daniel, Jess, Alex, Aaron, Vic, Fiona

We had super delicious homemade deep-fried Indian food and curry puffs, packed with aromatic spices (Thanks Raj!), as we discussed about the book. The book seems to present (mostly) cis-women’s perspectives on queer fat studies, very different from Peter Hennen’s Faeries, Bears, and Leathermen, which we did last year. We spoke about the cultural discourses around fat studies such as the terminology (fat VS obesity) but perhaps the authors could deal with topics of denial of ill health and obesity. We also discussed the paradox of fat pride yet wanting to lose weight: there is no win for fat people. If you lose weight, you hate your fat self but if you remain the same weight, you don’t love yourself.

This complication about fat manifests in many other ways such as the “Forgotten Women” chapter in which the author points out the contradiction that fat women are sexually voracious but also seen as sexually undesirable.

Perhaps it is also because that fat studies is so complicated that different authors assume different things about the gender of fat without substantiating their assumptions. Some claim that fat is feminine, and some say it is masculine. Furthermore, there is an easy assumption that because fat bodies do not belong in a heteronormative narrative, fat is seen as queer. Surely fat and queer overlap in some ways but some rigorous scholarship is required here, instead of blanketing them together by the editors. The third assumption that went unchallenged in the book is that fat is subversive; sure, maybe it is but nobody ever says, “I want to be subversive, so I got fat.” Some editorial explanation may be required here to deal with the three assumptions.

Besides some editorial explanations, we were also disappointed by the article on fat and internet. There is much potential to discuss the “disappearance” of a fat body in cyberspace yet much of the article pontificates on how the internet can help with the movement.

We talked a lot about the portrayal of fat people in media, especially in comedy, relating it to Jack Black, Seth Rogen, Queen Latifa, Modern Family (specifically Cam and Jay), Amy Schumer, Margaret Cho, Melissa McCarthy, Rebel Wilson, Kevin James, and Louis C.K. While comedy embraces fat people, comedians are merely falling into stereotypes and not challenging any social structures. Perhaps other than This is Us, there are few body-positive depictions of fat people. Timmy brought up an excellent counter-example to the American shows, Under One Roof, a local sitcom where there are many fat people in the show but they are depicted as ordinary people who are not ashamed by their bodies.

Talking about performing fat, we wondered if it is so easy to transpose Butler’s theory of performativity onto fat studies. For one thing, while gender is a performance that creates one’s identity, a fat person cannot take off their fat like pants or skirts. A man can pass as a woman, and a woman can pass as a man, but a fat person can never pass as a thin person (unless they are in cyberspace, and that’s why we were disappointed about the article on internet and fat).

We also talked about the intersections of fat with race, with social class, with Asian culture (“You look healthy,” “You look prosperous,” and also fat can be considered beautiful in some Asian cultures), with consumerism, and with disabilities.

But perhaps most importantly, we celebrated Vicky’s birthday. Happy birthday!

By the way, if you’re counting, we noticed that, for the first time, there is finally some gender equality in the book club! 5 men, 6 women, and 2 genderqueer. Yay!

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Filed under Academic, Queer

Movie Discussion: The Chinese Botanist’s Daughters (2006)

Attendees: Raj, Timmy, Asy, Fiona, Mya, Vicky, Reynard, Shawn, Aaron, Henry, Olivia.

We discussed The Chinese Botantist’s Daughters, directed and written by Dai Sijie, a French-Chinese, who writes in French, although he is a Chinese national. The themes that we talked about: nature/locationreligion, music/soundtrackrebellionpoliticsrace, and family.

In particular, we looked closely at the drug scene in the steamroom where hallucinogens are used to induce buried memories (of the Western mother), prompting Liming to cut her hair short and don a man’s uniform; why are drugs associated with homosexuality? And why does Liming fall into a heteronormative narrative of being a “man”?

We also talked about the phallic symbols in the movie and how male sexual desire needed to be extirpated in order for lesbian love to rise.

We also reached a conclusion that the rebellious actions are sometimes pointless and, coupled with the paradisal locale, the Western corruption into a carefully cultivated isle can be read allergically as serpent destroying Eden (Liming as the serpent, An as Eve, her brother as Adam, and the father who created the isle as God) or politically as Pro-China. The political aspects, we concluded, are so patent in the movie that we didn’t believe Dai Sijie when he claimed that his movies aren’t political.

Furthermore, in the last scene, which moved many of us, an educator and religious leaders support the lesbian couple; we read this as a form of resistance against the state laws. We thought the “Bury the Gays” theme deserves 10000 eye-roll, but, like all tragedies, their deaths make the movie more poignant.

 

 

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Filed under China, Dai Sijie, Ecology, Family, Lesbian, Politics, Race, Religion

Book Discussion: Candy Everybody Wants by Josh Kilmer-Purcell

Attendance: Henry, Daniel, Alexis, Timmy, Mya, Zoe, Vicky, Pierre, Raj, Aaron.

“Hopeful and optimistic.” — Timmy.

“It’s in the details!” — Vicky.

Candy Everybody Wants by Josh Kilmer-Purcell“But it’s the mid-west! It’s the mid-west!” — Pierre.

“Billy is the pet dog, right? Woof woof!” — Pierre.

“The space between the lines is huge… which makes reading easy.” — Alexius.

“Praise the author, not the characters!” — Zoe.

“We went in knowing this book is trashy.” — [I forgot whom]

“The book feels very noisy.” — Alexius.

We also discussed themes such as parenting, family, and diversity; and characters including Toni, Tara, Jayson with a Y, Helene, and Davin.

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Filed under Disability, Family, Gay, Josh Kilmer-Purcell, Race, USA, Young Adult