Trivialities About Me and Myself

A review by T. F. Rhoden of Yeng Pway Ngon’s Trivialities About Me and Myself

Outsider views of Singapore suffer from numerous preconceptions and generalizations, many the result of sometimes humorous foreign venting in online forums about the city-state’s overweening legal apparatus and legal codes. Yet Singapore is affluent and materially developed by any measure.

Nor is Singapore widely known as a place of literature, but that is at least in part because much of the city’s life lies behind language barriers. This perception is exacerbated by a national campaign, promoted by the city to advertise its strength as a destination for foreign investment rather than a cultural hub.

The novel Trivialities About Me and Myself by Yeng Pway Ngon does two things splendidly to disabuse these notions. First, the novel is a much-needed corrective to the usual stereotypes. The author, a winner of the Singapore Literature Prize and the Southeast Asian Writers Award as well as a prolific poetic, utilizes his work to critique the technocratic veneer of the island nation.

Second, the book employs a theme of the human condition as it intersects with modernity. Big words often used to describe Singapore’s experience of modernity—industrialization, modernization, legalization, and now financialization—do not tell us much about the personal level. Rather, this novel is about one man’s struggle with a breakneck world of change. Though the color is local, the story is global.

The author’s interpretation of the Singaporean dilemma is funneled through the protagonist Ah-hui and his struggle with the ‘Self’. This Self is a voice in Ah-hui’s head that represents one aspect of his ego. Ah-hui speaks to the Self, as if the Self were a separate being. Ah-hui and the Self argue and disagree. Sometimes Ah-hui is the victor. In these instances, an ethic of material profit and consumption wins. Sometimes the Self is the champion. This is meant to represent traditional values. In Ah-hui’s case, the Self will often prefer the exegesis of classical Chinese literature or the righteousness found in the defense of those who have been left behind in Singapore’s expanding economy.

The confrontation between Ah-hui and the Self is reflected on two levels. In as much as the Singaporean city-state moves away from Confucianism, so too does Ah-hui… [click here to continue to read full text]

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*Originally published in Asian Review of Books by T. F. Rhoden; watercolor image credit for this re-post goes to Khor Seow Hooi at The Colours of Heritage. Unless otherwise stated, all posts on this website are under Creative Commons licence. 

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Review of Texaners by Jessica Gregory

Review

Reviewed by Jessica Gregory at Sabatoge Reviews for T. F. Rhoden’s Texaners: Eight Short Stories.

‘…those perfectly imperfect souls of expansive, yet common diversity.’
Texaners

What comes to mind when thinking of Texas? What stands out from the jumble of imagery that us non-Texans have subconsciously absorbed from various transmitters? Some montage of the following, I would say: the lonely ranches in the desert with their clanking windmills; the Rio Grande; cowboys silhouetted by the red setting sun; Country and Western music; the Dallas theme-tune; gun-toting, shooting, Second Amendment espousing Republicans; George W Bush; oil fields; all wrapped up in the sweltering Texan heat. And in light of this, this reviewer can readily understand Rhoden’s compulsion to attempt to debunk these stereotypes. As Rhoden himself says:

These stories are about new Texans—new Texaners. These children of the new Texas have no idea, no connection aside from locale, of that Texas of yesteryear.

Instead of cowboys Rhoden is exploring suburban, city, Texan life, particularly from the perspective of those that don’t find themselves apart of the Texan stereotype – the students, the immigrants, the multiracial, the liberal, the artists, among others. Rhoden has cited James Joyce’s Dubliners as a source of inspiration for this collection, and so he has set the bar high when attempting to emulate Joyce’s exploration of place-based identity.

Texaners consists of eight short stories. From the outset we are cast into a world far… [click here to continue to read full text]

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*Review originally published in Sabatoge Reviews by Jessica Gregory; image credit for this re-post via City-Data. Unless otherwise stated, all posts on this website are under Creative Commons licence. 

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Unequal Thailand

Book review published in New Mandala by T. F. Rhoden on Pasuk Phongpaichit and Chris Baker’s Unequal Thailand: Aspects of Income, Wealth and Power (Singapore: NUS Press, 2015.

Does Thailand have an oligarchy? If so, how do we define it? And most importantly for this collection of essays, what is the proof of its existence in contemporary Thailand?

These are some of the main questions that pervade Unequal Thailand: Aspects of Income, Wealth and Power, edited by Pasuk Phongpaichit and Chris Baker. Translated and reworked from a Thai-language edition, Su sangkom thai samoe na [Towards a More Equitable Thailand] published in 2014 by Matichon, this volume is a timely and useful review of some of the political economy issues facing Thailand today.

With nine chapters by Thai scholars and technocrats, the aim of the book is to provide up-to-date data and analysis on those material foundations that have fostered a growth in inequality and a strengthening of oligarchy in recent years. Some chapters do this better than others, but all provide insight into these issues.

In terms of raw empirical analysis, all of the research essays are a success, particularly the second chapter on… [click here to continue to read full text]

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*Originally published in New Mandala by T. F. Rhoden; photo credit for re-post from Matthijs van Oostrum via Atlantis. Unless otherwise stated, all posts on this website are under Creative Commons licence. 

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Karen Language Phrasebook: Basics of Sgaw Dialect

A new book for a new year!

Karen Language Phrasebook: Basics of the Sgaw Dialect can be purchased through normal book distributors, including Amazon or directly from White Lotus Press.

Description

Comprehensive guide to the basics of Sgaw dialect of Karen language. Learn key phrases and words to use with any Karen companion, whether they live in Myanmar, Thailand, or wherever in the world. Phrasebook is for more than just learning to survive in a Karen-speaking environment. The goal is also to help you make new friends!

Chapters include: Preface; Acknowledgements; 1) Intro; 2) Basics; 3) Saying Hello; 4) Personal Info; 5) Getting Around; 6) Tea Shop Dining; 7) Staying the Night; 8) Shopping; and 9) Health Bibliography.

Paperback: 126 pages
Publisher: White Lotus Press (2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 974849599X
ISBN-13: 978-9748495996
Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.3 x 8.5 inches
Shipping Weight: 7.7 ounces

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*Original book copyright held by T. F. Rhoden; photo credit to this blog post goes to Khin Maung Kyaw. Unless otherwise stated, all posts on this website are under Creative Commons licence. 

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Review of Texaners by Lisa Brown-Gilbert

A review by Lisa Brown-Gilbert from Pacific Book Review of T. F. Rhoden’s Texaners: Eight Short Stories, published by Étoile Solitaire Press (2015).

Engaging and insightful, Author T. F. Rhoden’s incisive collection of short stories, Texaners, leads fiction readers into the world of the multicultural, multiracial denizens of contemporary Texas. No stranger to the literary world, author Rhoden has authored other well-received works, however this is his first published collection of short stories, which bears influences from his personal experiences growing up as a citizen in multiracial, contemporary Texas.

Unapologetically stereotypical at times, this collection of eight stories is varied in perspective as the many cultural and ethnic backgrounds of each character are colorfully portrayed by the author. Each story portrays an emotionally intricate variation on life by exploring brief moments in the lives of ordinary Texans. And consequently, it is through the varied lives of author Rhoden’s characters that readers are shown the real Texas of today, the younger, multiethnic face of Texas, not the old dusty, cowboy infested world, but a brave new world where the boundaries set by stereotypes are either diminished or enslaving to the character’s psyche.

Each piece is generally likable, fortified by the use of vivid imagery, curious characters and emotional vagaries that play out fairly well. Every story is a glimpse into ordinary lives that are distinctly portrayed by bringing into perspective a moment of clarity in each protagonist’s life that essentially captures those rare ephinanic moments in a life when personal realization comes to consciousness.

The stories that I found particularly well written and compelling were “Chinese Spoons”, “Oils”, “The Bat Mitzvah”, and “West Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd”… [click here to continue to read full text]

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*Book review originally published in Pacific Book Review by Lisa Brown-Gilbert for Texaners: Eight Short Stories by T. F. Rhoden; photo credit for re-post via How to Feed a Loon. Unless otherwise stated, all posts on this website are under Creative Commons licence. 

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A Teacher’s Letters from the Thai-Burma Border

Thomas Rhoden has published a book of letters called Burmese Refugees: Letters from the Thai-Burma Border.

The American teacher spent a year in refugee camps in the Mae Sot area in one of ten camps dotted along the border. Thomas decided to give his students an assignment one afternoon but he was not prepared for what came back.

The result is a collection of stories that captures the lives of the refugees living on that border, where some 150,000 Burmese asylum seekers are waiting for a new home. Thomas says refugees there are closely monitoring news about Australia’s government’s refugee policies.

Presenter: Adelaine Ng

Speaker: Thomas Rhoden, editor of Burmese Refugees: Letters from the Thai-Burma Border.

*Original talk can be found on Radio Australia; photo credit via Virgina W. Mason, Maruesrite B. Hunsiker, and Maggie Smith at National Geographic Magazine. Unless otherwise stated, all posts on this website are under Creative Commons licence. 

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Chiang Mai and Northern Thailand

Coolest travel guide for the North of Thailand!

Other Places Publishing newest guidebook by T. F. Rhoden is entitled Chiang Mai and Northern Thailand. Find on the publisher’s website, through the normal book distributors, or online via Amazon.

Description

The North of Thailand is emerging as a standalone, off-the-beaten-path destination in the otherwise well-traversed Southeast Asia travel route. With the northern mountains covered in verdant jungle and sprinkled with age-old hill tribes, elephant camps, and ancient ruins, it is no wonder that the North is becoming an unforgettable experience for travelers. Laid back cities like Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai offer a burgeoning restaurant and nightlife scene that provides the perfect respite after experiencing the natural beauty of Northern Thailand.

T. F. Rhoden has spent seven years exploring this fascinating country. First as a graduate student, then as a Peace Corps volunteer, and finally as an aid worker on the Thai-Burma border. Through his unique experiences, Rhoden provides insight into the country that has become his second home. With a comprehensive background section covering the history, culture, and logistics of travel, and sixteen sections dedicated to each stop on his recommended travel route, this book will allow travelers to feel like locals while enjoying the indisputable beauty that the North has to offer.

Sights & Activities: From the elephant treks around Chiang Mai to the ancient ruins of Sukhothai Historical Park, we provide everything you will need to experience the beauty of the North.

Volunteering: There are a lot of opportunities to give back, and in so many different ways. Our guidebook will tell you where, why—and most importantly—how to get involved.

Nightlife: The North offers travelers a night out that many thought only Bangkok could offer. Find the best spots to steal a cocktail, spend a relaxing evening, or party with the best of Thailand.

Guesthouses & Resorts: Discover vibrant backpacker guesthouses and a world-class lineup of luxurious hotels and spas; all without breaking your budget.

Language: Thai is not an easy language to learn, so we provide the essential everyday phrases and a few more slangy ones just for fun!

Paperback: 216 pages
Publisher: Other Places Publishing (2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1935850032
ISBN-13: 978-1935850038
Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces

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*Original copyright for book is held by T. F. Rhoden; cover photo of book and image for this post are by T. F. Rhoden. Unless otherwise stated, all posts on this website are under Creative Commons licence. 

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