Rebecca Chua

Singapore Infopedia


Rebecca Chua (b. 1953, Singapore–) is a poet, writer and playwright whose short stories have been anthologised in a number of collections, published in newspapers and magazines and broadcast internationally.Chua was part of a quintet of women writers who made history in 1976. They were the first Singapore women writers here to have their short stories published in a single volume, The Sun in Her Eyes: Stories by Singapore Women. She later authored an award-winning collection of short stories, The Newspaper Editor and Other Stories, in 1981. 2

Early life and journalism career
Chua graduated from the University of Singapore (now National University of Singapore) with an honours degree in English in 1976.3 She became a magazine journalist.4 In 1978, Chua was one of two Singaporeans selected for the Rotary Foundation 1979/80 educational awards and a year later, she embarked on a one-year mass communication and journalism course in the United States. 5 Upon graduating with a master’s degree in mass communications from the University of South Carolina, Columbia, Chua resumed her career in journalism at The Straits Times, moved on to MPH Magazines to helm Female magazine and Living Annual as editor-in-chief before switching over to a consultancy career.6

Literary career
Five of Chua’s early stories were published in The Sun In Her Eyes: Stories by Singapore Women in 1976. Her two short stories “The Morning After” and “The Washerwoman’s Daughter” were broadcast over the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) World Service in January and October 1977 respectively.7 

The anthology Singapore Writing (1977) features several of Chua’s short stories, such as “The Picture” and “A Requiem For Love”, and poems, including “The Hermit” and “Labels”.8 Her works were also published in Singapore Short Stories I (1978), Singapore Short Stories II (1978),9 newspapers and magazines such as The Asia Magazine, The Commonwealth MagazineFemale and Her World.10

In 1981, Chua’s first collection, The Newspaper Editor and Other Stories, was published in Singapore by Heinemann Asia.11 The book received a commendation at the National Book Development Council of Singapore’s book awards in 1982.12 During the 1980s, The Straits Times also published articles by Chua reflecting on her thoughts as a writer.13 

In her later years, Chua’s fiction continued to be featured in collections such as Write Here: Stories of Singapore (1989), Singular Stories: Tales From Singapore (1993), and More Than Half The Sky: Creative Writings by Thirty Singaporean Women (1998).14

In July 1992, Chua’s short story “On Second Thoughts” was performed by local theatre company Act 3.15 Her play Between The Lines was staged at the New Ideas Festival in Toronto in 2001.16

Literary style
Most of Chua’s short stories often do not feature specific social milieus.17 Her stories tend to set up ironic contrasts between ideal situations and reality in a subtle manner, and contain in-depth descriptions of the characters’ psychology.18 Her stories unfold in quick cuts in a style reminiscent of film.19 

Nurturing budding writers
Apart from writing, Chua conducted creative writing workshops.20 In 1983, she joined eight other trainers – including well-known Singapore writers Catherine Lim and Jessie Wee and other publishing industry players – in a six-day writers’ workshop on the rigours of book publishing. The workshop was jointly organised by the Educational Publications Bureau and the National Book Development Council of Singapore.21


Alvin Chua and Joanna HS Tan

1. Florence Tan, “Rebecca Grabs Spot in Contest,” New Nation, 15 July 1975, 7. (From NewspaperSG); Rebecca Chua, “Compassionately Yours, Charlie Brown,” Straits Times, 14 November 1976, 16; Eileen Tan, “Variety Please,” New Nation, 22 September 1976, 12–13 (From NewspaperSG); Chuah G. E., “A Variety of Women’s Voices,” New Straits Times 30 September 1998 (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website); “S’pore Writer’s Story on BBC,” Straits Times, 27 December 1976, 9; “Local Writer's Short Story on BBC,” Straits Times, 6 August 1977, 7. (From NewspaperSG)

2. “Five Woman Authors Make History,” Straits Times, 27 August 1976, 10; Eileen Tan, “Stars With the Sun in Their Eyes,” New Nation, 22 September 1976, 12–13 (From NewspaperSG); Rebecca Chua, The Newspaper Editor and Other Stories (Singapore: Heinemann Asia, 1981). (Call no. RSING S823.01 CHU)
3. Robert Yeo, ed., Singapore Short Stories (Singapore: Heinemann Educational Books (Asia), 1978), 128 (Call no. RSING 828.995957 SIN); Tan, “Rebecca Grabs Spot in Contest.” 
4. Tan, “Variety Please.”
5. “Journalist Wins Rotary Study Award,” Straits Times, 14 November 1978, 24; “Our Role – By Award Winning Journalist,” Straits Times, 18 November 1978, 13; “People in Business,” Business Times, 4 April 1987, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
6. “Journalist Wins Rotary Study Award,” Straits Times, 14 November 1978, 24; “People in Business”; Rebecca Chua, “As She Lay Dying,” Straits Times, 5 December 1992, 18. (From NewspaperSG)
7. Geraldine Heng, ed., The Sun in Her Eyes: Stories by Singapore Women (Singapore: Woodrose Publications, 1976), 48–68. (Call no. RSING 828.995957 SUN); “S’pore Writer’s Story on BBC”; “Local Writer's Short Story on BBC.”
8. Chandran Nair, ed., Singapore Writing (Singapore: Woodrose Publications for the Society of Singapore Writers, 1977), 50–53, 141–52. (Call no. RSING 828.995957 SIN)
9. IIsa Sharp, “When a Story Is a Story Is a Story,” Business Times, 23 January 1978, 7; Nancy Koh, “Our Writers Are Maturing,” New Nation, 10 June 1978, 14. (From NewspaperSG)
10. Chua, Newspaper Editor and Other Stories, back cover; Rebecca Chua, “Watching Them,” New Nation, 10 August 1974, 10 (From NewspaperSG); Chua, “As She Lay Dying.”
11. Chua, Newspaper Editor and Other Stories.
12. “Teachers Bag Six of the Seven 1982 Book Prizes,” Straits Times, 4 September 1982, 8. (From NewspaperSG)
13. Rebecca Chua, “Fame I can Do Without,” Straits Times, 14 January 1984, 31; Rebecca Chua, “All I Wanted Was Some Sympathy,” Straits Times, 28 January 1984, 23. (From NewspaperSG)
14. Frank Brennan, comp., Write Here: Stories of Singapore (Singapore: Heinemann Southeast Asia, 1989), 72–88 (Call no. RSING 828.995957 WRI); Leong Liew Geok, ed., More Than Half the Sky: Creative Writings by Thirty Singaporean Women (Singapore: Times Books International, 1998), 125–52 (Call no. RSING S828.99597 MOR); Robert Yeo, ed., Singular Stories: Tales from Singapore (Singapore: Yang Publishers, 1993), 17–25. (Call no. RSING 823 SIN)
15. Mary Rose Gasmier, “Jitters Killers,” Straits Times, 22 June 1992, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
16. “Stage for Productions That Have Been Reviewed, Condensed Capsule,” The Toronto Star, 8 March 2001. (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website)
17. K.K. Seet, “Book Review: The Newspaper Editor and Other Stories,” Commentary 5, nos. 3 and 4 (August–September 1982): 94–95 (Call no. RSING 300.5 C); Martin King, Students’ Guide to Singapore Short Stories (Singapore: G. Brash, 1990), 159. (Call no. RSING S823.0109 KIN)
18. Seet, “Book Review: The Newspaper Editor and Other Stories,” 94; Shashi Tharoor, “Author’s Forte – Imagination,” Straits Times, 21 November 1981, 9. (From NewspaperSG)
19. Yeo, Singular Stories: Tales from Singapore, 3.
20. “Courses on writing,” New Nation, 26 May 1982, 6.; Giving Flesh and Blood to Characters,” Straits Times, 19 September 1987, 39. (From NewspaperSG)
21. Caroline Boey, “More Books Needed on Local Culture,” Singapore Monitor, 12 September 1983, 2; Rebecca Chua, “What Are Writers Made Of?” Straits Times, 24 September 1983, 1. (From NewspaperSG)

Further resources
Rebecca Chua, “Persistence, Patience and Practice,” Straits Times, 24 September 1983, 18. (From NewspaperSG)

Rebecca Chua, “What Are Writers Made Of?” Straits Times, 24 September 1983, 1. (From NewspaperSG)

Rebecca Chua, The Morning After, sound cassette (Singapore: Singapore Broadcasting Corporation, 1985). (Call no. RSING S823 CHU)

Rebecca Chua, The Washerman's Daughter, sound cassette (Singapore: Singapore Broadcasting Corporation, 1985). (Call no. RSING S823 CHU)

Rebecca Chua, “Coming Into Their Own,” Straits Times, 4 February 1985, 27. (From NewspaperSG)

Rebecca Chua, “Fugue in E Minor (A Duet),” Straits Times, 20 November 1993, (From NewspaperSG)

The information in this article is valid as of October 2023 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.


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