Cover design by Scooter Design, IPL Image Group.
Cover design by Scooter Design, IPL Image Group.

The secret lives of Singaporean and Malaysian immigrants

Discussions of immigration, multiculturalism and identity in Australia focus overwhelmingly on ethnic culture and identity within the nation. Multiculturalism often foregrounds ethnicity but excludes other markers and shapers of identity.

Love and Vertigo and Behind the Moon are novels that explore Singaporean and Malaysian immigration to Australia and the impact on family life, knit the history of Asian wars into Australian suburban history, and interrogate Asian gay identity.

Written by Hsu-Ming Teo, a research fellow at our Department of Modern History, they explore:

  • the formation and breakdown of affective relationships resulting from the stress of immigration in the 1970s and 1980s
  • the discrimination that occurs within cultures and subcultures
  • the simultaneous processes of Australianisation and ethnicisation that all immigrants experience
  • how individuals choose to express or suppress particular markers of identity, challenging the essentialist notion of a stable ethnic culture or identity.

They investigate how a dense web of multiple cultures and subcultures – national, gender, sexual, generational, ethnic, migrant, refugee, class, cosmo-multicultural – inscribe Australian lives.

Love and Vertigo won The Australian/Vogel literary award in 1999 out of a record 225 entries. It was shortlisted for the Tasmania Pacific Region Prize, the Dobbie Award for Women’s Fiction, and the Colin Roderick Award for Australian literary studies in 2000. It was translated into German, Italian, Chinese and Thai.

Behind the Moon was shortlisted for the 2006 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards.

Both novels featured in literary festivals in Australia and Asia. They are studied in Australian, German, Swedish, American, Chinese and Singaporean universities. They featured in the following television or radio programs: CNBC Asia, CNN, BBC, ABC Radio National, and Optus Ovation.

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