A book of Singaporean short stories

I've just read a few pages of the book called “The Epigram Books collection of best new Singaporean short stories: Volume one”, edited by Jason Erik Lundberg.

I cannot help noticing that out of the twenty authors featured in this collection, seventeen have Chinese-sounding names. That leaves us with Vinita Ramani Mohan, Yu-Mei Balasingamchow and Alfian Sa'at as names that are not-so-Chinese.

Was it a deliberate choice by the editor to feature so many Chinese-sounding names? A minister in Singapore has recently acknowledged that landlords are racist in choosing their tenants, so it would be un-surprising to see the same happen in a collection of short stories. But then, I am happy to give the editor (Jason Erik Lundberg) the benefit of the doubt.

Even though Jason, the editor, writes that he chose these stories based on “exceptional writing, strong narrative voice, compelling plot, memorable characters, and the overall effect of moving me in some way as a reader” (according to Page x of the Introduction), I think much more can be done to introduce diversity in the racial profile of the authors.

As it is, while I am reading about unfaithful husbands (Amanda Lee Koe's story) and family conflicts (Ann Ang's story) in this collection, I am left wondering what is happening to people like Liyana Dhamirah, who wrote the book “Homeless: The Untold Story of a Mother’s Struggle in Crazy Rich Singapore”.

On another note – on the blurb, it is written: “Here are twenty unique and breathtaking literary insights into the Singaporean psyche, which examine what it means to live in this particular part of the world at this particular time.”

A corollary of this is that readers have to look for subsequent volumes of such collections, if they want insights into the “Singaporean psyche” at another point in time.

I contrast this never-ending portrait of the “Singaporean psyche” with Guy de Maupassant's short stories, which still provoke and disturb readers, a century after his death.

Can the voices in this collection of short stories ring far and wide, a hundred years after their authors pass on (as the authors inevitably must)? That's something I might not live to find out, but I'm managing my expectations to avoid feeling disappointed.