Suchen Christine Lim

Singapore Infopedia


Suchen Christine Lim (b. 1948, Malaysia–) is the first winner of the Singapore Literature Prize (Fiction) in 1992 for her novel, A Fistful of Colours. Lim has written short stories, children’s stories, students’ textbooks as well as a play. In 2000, she was the international writer-in-residence at the University of Iowa in the U.S.

Early life
Lim was born in 1948 in Malaysia, where she lived until she was 14 years old. A third-generation descendant of Chinese immigrants, her grandparents had come from Tangshan, China, before settling in Malaysia. She went to school at the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus (CHIJ) in Penang and Kedah. In 1963, her family moved to Singapore where she continued her education at CHIJ Katong.1

Lim first started writing fiction when she was attending a literature honours course at the National University of Singapore (NUS). Rice Bowl, her first novel, was published in 1984. It explored the complexity of living and loving in Singapore in the 1960s and 1970s.In 1986, Lim co-wrote a short play with Ophelia Ooi titled The Amah: A Portrait in Black and White, which earned them the Merit Prize in the NUS-SHELL Short Play Competition. She penned her second novel, Gift from the Gods, in 1990.3

Lim’s third novel, A Fistful of Colours, was the first novel to be awarded the inaugural S$10,000 Singapore Literature Prize (Fiction) in 1992. Her novel was described as outstanding by the panel of judges comprising poet and academic Edwin Thumboo, Filipino writer and publisher Francisco Sionil Jose, and Australian writer Geoffrey Dutton. A fictional work about a woman’s dream of becoming an artist, the novel incorporates and brings events in Singapore’s early history to life. Historical events depicted in the novel include the rickshaw riots of the 1900s, where politicised Chinese rickshaw pullers demonstrated against the Japanese invasion of China’s Shantung peninsula, and the last gala ball held at Raffles Hotel prior to the Japanese Occupation of Singapore.4

Lim’s literary works have been influenced by her personal ancestry. The history of Chinese immigrants, for instance Chinese tin miners in Malaysia, has interested her since her teenage years. This is reflected in her fourth novel, A Bit of Earth, which is about the relationship between Chinese immigrants and the Malays in colonial Malaya.5

Lim was awarded a Fulbright Foundation Award to attend the University of Iowa’s International Writing Programme in 1996 and became the university’s international writer-in-residence in the spring of 2000.6 She was also writer-in-residence at the University of Western Australia in Perth, the Moniack Mhor Writers’ Centre in Scotland, and Ateneo de Manila University in the Philippines.In 2012, Lim was awarded the SEA Write award for her contribution to literature.8

Lim was a teacher at Catholic Junior College in Singapore, and subsequently worked as a curriculum planner at the Ministry of Education, before becoming a full-time writer in 2003.9

Literary honours
International writer-in-residence, University of Iowa, U.S.

2003: Writer-in-residence, University of Western Australia / Writer-in-residence, NICA Centre, Yangon, Myanmar. 
2004–2005: Writer-in-residence, Moniack Mohr Writers’ Centre, Scotland, UK.
2006–2008: Honorary writer-in-residence, Good Shepherd Convent, Singapore-Malaysia Province.
2009: Writer-in-residence, Toji Cultural Centre, Wonju, South Korea.
2011: Visiting fellow in Creative Writing, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

Merit Prize, Valley of Golden Showers, Ministry of Education, Singapore.
1986: Merit Prize, The Amah: A Portrait in Black & White (with Ophelia Ooi), NUS-SHELL Short Play Competition.

1992: Winner, Fistful of Colours, Singapore Literature Prize.
1996: Fulbright Foundation Award to attend International Writing Programme, University of Iowa.
2012: SEA Write award.

1984: Rice Bowl
1990: Gift from the Gods
1993: Fistful of Colours
2001: A Bit of Earth

2007: The Lies that Build a Marriage: Stories of the Unsung, Unsaid and Uncelebrated in Singapore
2017: The Man Who Wore His Wife’s Sarong13

Short stories
1998: Bandong

2000: Two Brothers in Yamada/Clash of the Clans 
2002: Tragedy of My Third Eye
2003: Christmas at Singapore Casket/Retired Rebel/Ah Nah
2007: Gloria
2010: The Big Wall Newspaper14
2012: The Big Wall Newspaper in Monsoon Feast15

1986: The Amah: A Portrait in Black & White (with Ophelia Ooi)16

2005: Stories of the Overseas Chinese 

Nureza Ahmad

1. “Soulful Writer in Pursuit of Happiness,” Straits Times, 4 May 2008, 64 (From NewspaperSG); Neil Sonnekus, “Interview with Suchen Christine Lim,” Blog, 9 September 2010
2. Suchen Christine Lim, “About the Author,” in Fistful of Colours (Singapore: EPB Publishers, 1993) (Call no. RSING S823 LIM); Suchen Christine Lim, “Rice Bowl,” in A Bit of Earth (Singapore: Times Books International, 2001), unpaged. (Call no. RSING S823 LIM) 
3. Lim, “About the Author”; Suchen Christine Lim, “Works,” accessed 11 December 2016.
4. Koh Buck Song, “Lim’s Sweet Irony,” Straits Times, 9 September 1992, 6. (From NewspaperSG)
5. Suchen Christine Lim, A Bit of Earth (Singapore: Times Books International, 2001), 5. (Call no. RSING S823 LIM) 
6. Suchen Christine Lim, The Lies That Build a Marriage (Singapore: Monsoon Books, 2007) (Call no. RSING S823 LIM); “Singaporean Writer Returns as International Program’s Writer-in-Residence,” The University of Iowa, accessed 11 December 2016.
7. “Soulful Writer in Pursuit of Happiness.”
8. Suchen Christine Lim, “Residences and Awards,” accessed 20 August 2018.
9. Huang Lijie, “Suchen Christine Lim Wins Write Award,” Straits Times, 17 October 2012, 23. (From NewspaperSG)
10. Lim, “Residences and Awards.”
11. Lim, “Residences and Awards.”
12. Lim, “Works.”
13. Lim, “Works.”
14. “Suchen Christine Lim,” TributeSG, accessed 20 August 2018.
15. TributeSG, “Suchen Christine Lim.”
16. Suchen Christine Lim, Fistful of Colours (Singapore: EPB Publishers, 1993) (Call no. RSING S823 LIM)

Further resources
Amy Lai, “Lim, Suchen Christine,” The Literary Encyclopedia, 23 June 2003.

Christine Lim Book Launch,” Straits Times, 11 November 2000, 19. (From NewspaperSG)

Suchen Christine Lim, “National University of Singapore, University Scholars Programme,” accessed 22 December 2016.

The information in this article is valid as at August 2018 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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