Sarong Party Girl by Cheryl Lu Lien Tan


It was not a book that I would normally read but the author was a visiting lecturer to my Master in Arts creative writing course last month, so I thought I should at least uncover what her writing style was. 

This book,  published in the US,  is narrated completely in Singlish.  I had problem getting use to it while at Chapter One, but after hearing it read  out loud by Cheryl during a public reading,  it became easier as I could hear her voice speaking as I read. 

The Singlish is peppered with hokkien vulgarities which I am not familiar with,  something I would expect army boys to use and not girls who had graduated from convent schools.  But then,  what do I know,  since the culture in my school is completely different,  being a Chinese school or what is now known as Special Assistant Plan (SAP) school.  I had to ask my husband to explain most of the words, like kani nah, which the narrator, Jazzy, often exclaims which I would interpret as what the hell.  (what is LC?) 

This story could be the Singapore style of Sex and the City,  where four girls (in this case in their late twenties but they consider themselves as old) frequent various high class clubs, usually at the expense of a rich local Chinese man, with the hope of hooking a western expatriate in marriage. Why?  My classmate,  a French,  asked me the same question,  since these girls are not exactly in dire straits like those in Philippines or Thailand. (My classmate is married to a local.) I told him,  for the Chanel baby, a status symbol – a term the Jazzy coined to describe babies of mixed origins between Asians and Caucasians. 

There isn’t really a plot in the book,  just a description on the lives of these Sarong Party Girls,  first described by Jim Aitchison in his book SPG  published in the nineties. I am actually surprised that they still exist,  because Singapore women have progressed since then, that if they marry ang mohs (red hair men, for Caucasians), it on their own terms. The book revolves around the clubs they visit and the angmohs they meet. 

The book is rather fun to read –  eye opening to me at first (I somehow skipped the clubbing experience in my youth and plus I m not into ang mohs.) reading about the prosmicuity of the women described. (or as in the Jazzy’s word, I am very toot!) 

But if you are  a non-Singaporean reading it,  you get a chance to experience Singapore without stepping ashore: where the bird uncles used to congregate in Tiong Bahru, the kopitiam culture, and HDB family life of plucking the roots off tow gay(beans sprouts). 

I like how the book has no footnotes to explain the local lingo and it’s up to the reader to google them. 

Want to learn a new culture,  then read the book. 

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About vickychong

Just an ordinary woman.
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3 Responses to Sarong Party Girl by Cheryl Lu Lien Tan

  1. Your entire description of this was fascinating to me. I had no idea there was such a thing as Singlish, nor have I heard of the term ang mohs. I am intrigued by the idea of the book and their culture. I’m always open to learning about how different parts of the world experience life!

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