The Singapore I Recognise: Essays on home, community and hope

Available in paperback and e-book format. Purchase the paperback and get 50% off the e-book! 

Singapore is small, a complex country full of contradictions, inconsistencies and idiosyncrasies. Often held up as a model nation, we sometimes forget that Singapore is seen differently by different people. With a decade of activism and journalism experience, Kirsten Han reveals various aspects of her home country that don’t follow what many of us know as the conventional ‘Singapore Story’. The Singapore I Recognise is Kirsten’s reckoning with civil society’s experiences of Singapore, perspectives that are often unheard, or fall through the cracks. Through researched interviews and heartfelt reflections, Kirsten tells us how parts of Singapore are already moving towards communal care, solidarity, empowerment and hope. This is a resonant portrayal of home in the island city-state.

“If you live in Singapore, you know it is a place with more layers and complexities than meets the eye. Yet, it is not always possible to grasp what lies beneath the glossy stories of economic success, social harmony, and political stability. Kirsten Han’s book—part reflexive memoir, part incisive reporting—is an informative, nuanced, and deeply humane series of essays that helps us better understand and appreciate the contradictions, tensions, and power plays that are integral to the Singapore story. Read it to learn new things, read it to feel big emotions, read it to expand your thinking on the realities and possibilities of home.”
—Teo You Yenn, sociologist and author of This is What Inequality Looks Like

“When Kirsten Han sees something, she says something, especially when that something is an injustice that afflicts the weak in Singapore’s extremely privileged society. This book encapsulates the values she has fearlessly espoused for years, and for which she continues to pay a personal price. Unable to counter her arguments on the merits, the establishment has subjected her to smears and harassment. One day, her conscientious contributions will be lauded. Until then, Kirsten Han is the eye that too few in Singapore recognise. The country is blinder for it.”
—Cherian George, Author of Air-Conditioned Nation Revisited

This book contains descriptions of physical violence, mentions of incarceration and themes related to the death penalty, as well as references to arrests and interrogation. We recognise that the ways in which readers might respond to and deal with these issues may vary, as our relationships to these topics are unique. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, personally affected or unable to engage with this content at present, feel free to put this book down and talk to someone about how you feel, or consult the resources printed at the back.

Read sample pages here. 

Also available at the following bookstores:
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The Singapore I Recognise: Essays on home, community and hope

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“The space Kirsten Han occupies in Singapore can be a lonely one - there is little reward for the journalism and activism she has dedicated herself to. This honest, personal and well-articulated account of pivotal moments in Han’s journey as an activist, overlapping with Singapore’s history, brings us into Han’s world in a way that is illuminating, thought-provoking and sometimes frightening. It is testament to a different Singapore that exists beyond the government-sanctioned tropes. Few have experienced the Singapore Han has – from the trolls to the police investigations to the government pressure – because few have fought for a better Singapore like she has. Yet Han is filled with optimism, hopeful that there can be a better version of the country she loves. The Singapore I Recognise is essential reading for every Singaporean, and anyone who wants to better understand why activists continue to fight against all odds. —Shibani Mahtani, International Investigative Correspondent, The Washington Post

“Over the decades, Singapore’s increasingly liberal appearance as a glittering global city has been matched by ever more sophisticated modes of social and political control by the ruling party elite, whose legitimacy rests on widespread acceptance of its version of the national narrative. Activists, artists, and academics who have dared openly to imagine different Singapores have had to pay the price. One such person is Kirsten Han. In this important book, Kirsten provides an illuminating account of her own formation, struggles, and aspirations as an independent journalist, a human rights activist, and a political critic in a Singapore that she loves enough to put her own body on the line.” —Professor Kenneth Paul Tan Talent100 Professor of Politics, Film, and Cultural Studies, Hong Kong Baptist University; and author of Singapore: Identity, Brand, Power

“The Singapore I Recognise is the culmination of Kirsten Han's work in journalism and activism spaces, where she has been a much-needed voice. In challenging the dominant narrative, she stakes a strong claim for alternative views to exist, proposing a more expansive vision of what this country could be. A powerful compilation of historical and recent events which serves as a reminder that change is possible, but must be fought for.” —Jeremy Tiang, author of State of Emergency


Kirsten Han