Am I a good person?

Vanitas Still Life (ca.1665–1670) painting in high resolution by Jan van Kessel. From Unsplash.

Over a month ago, I sat at the edge of my seat in the darkened black box theatre at the National Library. Around me the crowd was a mix of people reeling with laughter, then sniffling, shifting uncomfortably in their seats. We were watching Checkpoint Theatre’s Brown Boys Don’t Tell Jokes, written by Myle Yan Tay. Amongst the many scenes that were gut-wrenchingly moving, I still find myself thinking about this one moment—as the emerging rapper Dev (played by Krish Natarajan) grapples with the guilt of his past wrongs, he phones his mother and asks her: Am I a good person? Do you think I am a good person?

This is a question that recurs throughout Myle Yan Tay’s novel catskull too. I’m reminded of Ram who has to reckon with his fatal mistakes in pursuit of justice. Of his seemingly jovial brother Logan who will have to confront the truth of grievous hurt he has caused. Of Kass, who will have to live with the decisions she’s made. 

After reading several drafts of this novel, sitting with the characters and following their arcs, there are many questions I’m still pondering—are we the mistakes we’ve made? Is ‘the right thing’ always just? Can we still be loved by the people we love if we have done bad things? What does it mean to be a good person? How do we be accountable for our actions?

There are no easy answers, but I hope that the novel gives you the permission to hold space for these complex questions and flawed characters. We’ll be exploring these questions and more at the launch of catskull in two weeks. Come join us, and maybe you’ll see that these characters may not be so different from us after all.


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