Local publisher criticises the portrayal of Singapore in Crazy Rich Asians

News - International Thursday, 13 September 2018

Edmund Wee of Epigram says the movie gives a 'tourist brochure' Singapore to viewers: 'like thinking Notting Hill is representative of UK society as a whole'

Crazy Rich Asians, the Hollywood movie based on the book by Kevin Kwan (published by Corvus), ranked number one in the US billboard charts in its opening weekend and has since raked in $165m worldwide.

It has been heralded by some as a milestone for representation of Asian people on screen, the first Hollywood blockbuster to feature an all-Asian cast in 25 years, yet some critics have said the film does not reflect Singaporean society fairly and it ignores the 15% of those in Singapore who are Malay and the 6.6% who are Indian.

Ahead of its UK release tomorrow (14 September), Singaporean publisher and founder of Epigram Books UK, Edmund Wee shared his thoughts on the film and the representation of Singapore in literature.

Wee said: "Epigram Books was set up in Singapore in 2011 to champion Singaporean literature. Our aim in setting up the UK list (in 2017) was to bring Singaporean literature to the world stage; to champion Singaporean stories and identity and support local writers in their endeavours.

"Crazy Rich Asians is nothing more than an enjoyable rom com with an all Chinese-Asian cast; it is not representative of the Singapore I live and work in. It focuses on the super wealthy and portrays the 'tourist brochure' Singapore to viewers. Imagine watching a movie like Notting Hill and thinking that was representative of UK society in general.

"More Singaporeans are writing and have stories to tell: stories we should listen to; which should be given a chance to be heard through publication. Epigram publish fiction written by Singaporean authors about all aspects of Singaporean life. From the tumultuous days of leftist movements to a Punjabi Sikh family struggling to break from tradition; or a final lesson from a retiring teacher that brings an unexpected confession to an alternative 1947 and a dystopic 2047, there’s more to Singapore. As Crazy Rich Asians dominates the box office, why not read wider?"

Epigram UK's latest book is A Certain Exposure by Jolene Tan (6 September), a satirical and sympathetic, political and personal debut which traces the adolescences of twin brothers Andrew and Brian, culminating in the explosive events leading to Andrew’s tragic death. .

In November, Epigram UK will publish Altered Straits by Kevin Martens Wong, which was described by The Guardian as 'a compulsively readable melding of SF and fantasy, intelligent and entertaining, with a refreshingly different world view.'

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