My Mother-In-Law's Son
by Josephine Chia
My Mother-In-Law’s Son centres round a Peranakan woman, Swee Gek, who is in an abusive marriage but is constrained by the limitations of women in her time to take positive action.
Her marriage is further strained by Choy Yan, the eponymous Mother-In-Law of the title, whose values are archaic and patriarchal. Taking place in a 1949-1950 Singapore that is just recovering from the onslaught of the Japanese War, Swee Gek’s Chinese husband, Wong Kum Chong, is inadvertently drawn into anti-colonial activities by a communist agitator, Teng Xin Nan.
Narrated from the perspectives of these different characters, My Mother-In-Law’s Son is a revealing story of a Singapore and her people struggling to find their feet in the aftermath of a war. It also shows how people going through difficult circumstances can be susceptible to revolutionary ideas. Through Swee Gek’s personal fight against her oppressors, this novel also explores the meaning of love: whether love can be unconditional or is it always accompanied by possessiveness.
About the Author
Josephine Chia is a Peranakan author and is published internationally in both fiction and non-fiction. She was born in Kampong Potong Pasir in colonial Singapore. Her first short stories were published in SINGA, a Singapore literary journal published in the 1980s and 1990s.
She immigrated to England in 1985. In 1992, she became one of twelve winners of the Ian St. James Awards for short fiction, the first Singaporean to win the award. Her story “Tropical Fever” was published together with the other authors in an anthology, Blood, Sweat And Tears, published by Fontana, an imprint of Harper Collins. Since then, she has also been published by other UK publishers as well as Malaysian and Singapore publishers and has won other awards and prizes. She has returned home to live since 2012.
Serambi Indonesia translated her first memoir, Frog Under a Coconut Shell into Bahasa Indonesia with the title, Katak Dalam Tempurung. Her second memoir about her village, Kampong Spirit, Gotong Royong: Life in Potong Pasir 1955 to 1965, won the Singapore Literature Prize for Non-Fiction in 2014. It has been scheduled for translation into Malay by Pustaka Nasional. Her most recent work is When a Flower Dies, also published by Ethos Books. This was written during her Writer-In-Residence stint at Gardens by the Bay in 2014.
Josephine has participated in several Literary Festivals and Book Fairs around the world. She is a member of UK’s Society of Authors UK’s Society of Women Writers and Journalists.
“History comes alive in this riveting novel by Josephine Chia. It is more than sweet nostalgia. Set in post-war Singapore, Singaporeans who had lived through that difficult era will laugh, cry, sigh and nod in agreement as Josephine takes them back to the years when Singapore was struggling to rebuild itself, with the communists trying to win the hearts and minds of a people disillusioned with their colonial masters. For younger Singaporeans born after independence and students of Singapore's political and social history, this is an entertaining but important history lesson not to be missed. Covering the lives, struggles, emotions and ambitions of people from all walks of life and racial groups during this tumultuous time of political and economic change, Josephine provides an insight into what life was like before Singapore became a stable and prosperous nation. It is a novel, but it is very real.”
− Julia d’Silva, Sub-Editor
“Josephine Chia has done it again; My Mother-in-Law’s son whisks you back to a crossroads in Singapore’s past when political identities were still being forged and a woman’s role was still to be wife and mother. Swee Gek is both gentle and fiercely loyal, and her intelligence cries out for more than tradition allows. But Singapore is changing...”
− Sharon Couteau, English Trainer and Interpreter, France
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Dimension: 130mm x 200mm