Mr Low Eng Teong, Deputy Chief Executive Officer, National Arts Council
Mr Chia Joo Ming
Thank you for joining us today for the launch of the latest One Story, Squat for Tradition, Sit for Modernity. We are very honoured to have with us today Mr Chia Joo Ming, Cultural Medallion recipient, and author of the original story written in Chinese, which is now translated into English, Malay, and Tamil.
The book we are launching today in partnership with the National Arts Council, is the third in the One Story series by NLB. The concept of One Story is a simple, but powerful one. It focuses on Singapore short stories that were originally written in Tamil, Malay and Chinese, and seeks to bring them to more people by making them available in English and the other mother-tongue languages. The previous two books, Dharma’s Chariot by Mr Sithuraj Ponraj, originally written in Tamil, and Razi, a Malay story by Dr Sa’eda Buang, were launched in the past four years, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Both titles have been very well-received. In a social media post, one of our patrons, Mr Derek Zhou, said he appreciated the focus on local writers, and making their works available via the NLB Mobile app for all to enjoy.
Dharma’s Chariot, the first One Story title, was listed among NLB’s weekly top ten eBook loans four times in 2020, and later clinched the top spot, with more than 250 loans in the week of 19 September.
Launched in November 2021, Razi, attracted many listeners when we hosted a podcast for the first time with the author Dr Sa’eda. The episode, The Power of Empathy: Why We Need It Now, More Than Ever was played over 15,000 times and had more than 11,000 unique listens.
We are therefore happy to be able to gather in person today to launch the third instalment in the One Story series. Squat for Tradition, Sit for Modernity, tells of the dilemma a couple faces as they move into a pre-war heritage conservation house, and realise they are not allowed to replace a traditional squatting toilet with a modern sitting toilet bowl. When the female protagonist moved into the traditional house and realised to her horror that she only has the squatting toilet to use, we can feel her pain, and yet have a chuckle too. The story’s exploration of a family’s struggle to reconcile tradition and modernity is a universal experience which transcends the community we are from, or the language we speak.
Like the previous two titles, this latest story has the potential to deepen the appreciation and understanding of our shared experience across different cultures and communities. This is part of NLB's LAB25 (or the Libraries and Archives Blueprint 2025), where NLB builds a "Learning Marketplace" together with our community partners, like NAC and translators, that enables everyone to read and learn with us. Through the One Story project, we also hope to spark conversations about tradition and modernity, and encourage more people to be Singapore Storytellers, and share stories about their heritage.
To bring this new One Story to more people, NLB will be organising a series of programmes over the next three months. These include meet-the-author sessions, book and panel discussions, writing workshops and poetry recitals. One event we are looking forward to in April is Love in Other Tongues. It will be a panel discussion featuring all three One Story authors on the common theme of love, which is in all their works. You may also be keen to attend a talk by Mr Jack Sim, founder of the World Toilet Organization, who is best known as Mr Toilet. He will be sharing on Singapore’s progress in sanitation from night soil collection to modern-day toilets. There will also be engaging discussions about the importance of conserving our built heritage and exciting social media contests on our National Reading Movement Facebook page.
We are encouraged by the warm response to the One Story series over the years. We believe this latest story by Mr Chia, will be similarly well-received by many given the universal concepts it holds. The book, along with Dharma’s Chariot and Razi are available at our libraries and through the NLB Mobile app. Do check them out for some good weekend reading, and join in the exciting programmes with your family and friends to explore and discover more about our Singapore story!
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