When Epigram released their set of Understanding Singaporean books, I was rather curious about the contents. Initially, I thought they were stories which answered the questions on the covers, and wondered how on earth they would make a story about say, Eurasians liking sugee cake, interesting. When I flipped through the books, I realised that each book contained 20 relatively common questions that a young child (or even adults) might have about the Chinese/Malays/Indians/Eurasians, and that made a lot more sense to me.
To be completely honest, when I first tried reading the books with N, he stopped me after a few pages and declared that they were “so boring”. I think it was because the questions had never occurred to him, and he wasn’t particularly interested in the topics. At his age (he’s turning five next month), fiction books are way more appealing, and the only non-fiction books he’s interested in are about space and science.
Since we are currently based in Jakarta now, N has been asking a few questions about the locals and their culture, so I thought that the ‘UNDERSTANDING SINGAPOREANS: Why Do Malays Avoid Pork?’ book was pretty useful. N has a long way to go towards understanding the language and terminology here, but some of the questions answered in this book will definitely help me in explaining things to him. Our helper and driver are both Muslims, and N has been curious about the fasting process. He asked me when the “Bahasa people” (I keep telling him that they’re called Muslims, but he doesn’t seem to get it) can eat and drink, and why they cannot eat pork, so I read the relevant pages to him.
Why do Malays Avoid Pork?
Personally, I found some of the questions in the books rather interesting, and I admit that I learnt the answers to some questions that I had as well. I mean, it’s not really considered politically correct to ask your Indian friend why he shakes his head when he talks, is it? (Yes, the answer is in the book, and I’m not telling you why, so you’ll have to get a copy of the book to find out!)
I’ve included some sample pages from the four books, so that you get an idea of what the books are like. I think the questions are answered clearly and more importantly, diplomatically enough to not ruffle any feathers.
Why do Indians Dot their Foreheads?
Why do the Chinese Shout Yam Seng?
Why do Eurasians Love Sugee Cake?
If you have an inquisitive (and loud) child who has been asking you some rather awkward questions about the people he meets, this series of books will go a long way in helping him to understand the different cultures in Singapore. They won’t be able to help you in teaching him tact or volume control, but at least it provides answers to some questions that you might find difficult to answer.
Buy the Book Understanding Singaporeans Bundle on Epigram Books
Disclaimer: We received a set of the ‘Understanding Singaporeans’ bundle for the purpose of this review. All photos and opinions are, as always, our own.
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