CADY ABE WRITES – Real heroes do not come with supernatural powers, unlike the glossy heroes from grandeur cinema and literature. Instead, everyday vigilantes are clad with hard-earned perseverance, passion, and drive to improve the fragile state of the world. In the unsettling and despairing time of the COVID-19 pandemic, the anthology, We Are Singaporeans Vol. 1 (2021), written by Melanie Lee and illustrated by Lee Xin Li, shines a sliver of hope for a better future. As a collection of non-fiction interviews, We Are Singaporeans delves into the lives of real-life heroes.
Published in July 2021, the book is an anthology of small autobiographical entries from ten individuals who have significantly impacted Singaporeans and have received international recognition. These people are Anthony Chen, Eugenia Ong, Bjorn Low, Joanna Dong, Cai Yinzhou, Eunice Olsen, Kim Whye Kee, Siti Khalijah Zainal, Alan Phua, Verleen Goh, and Shabir Tabare Alam. From COVID-19 vaccine researchers to filmmakers, farmers, and artists, each person has very different careers, goals, and lifestyles. Yet, each person shares similarities in their passions and their push to improve society.
Cai Yinzhou, for example, uses his experiences growing up in Geylang, Singapore (which post-2013 is the only legalized red-light district in Singapore) to conduct tours around his hometown, highlighting social justice issues and initiatives.
Lee Xin Li’s book artwork is entertaining as the colors are vibrant yet soft. The marvelous art looks almost as though it was painted on the page with watercolors. Lee highlights the important moments and milestones in each hero’s life through his illustrations.
As a lecturer and writer from Singapore, Melanie Lee artfully compiled stories that can positively impact readers with all passions and interests. Lee shares in her preface, “I hope that their stories will lift your spirits just as they have lifted mine.” As readers learn more about people from humble beginnings, creating a name for themselves through their determination and passion, they are more inspired to chase their own dreams.
Therefore, We are Singaporeans leaves a positive impact on readers by conveying the importance of collective efforts. In America and other individualist nations, people often lose sight of the fact that communities which offer united support are essential. This idea is ever so prevalent as cases of COVID-19 are sharply increasing due to the Omicron variant. Getting vaccinated, boosted, and masking is not just to prevent yourself from getting the virus but also to protect others in the community that cannot help themselves. People must work together to help solve significant issues in this world. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, We Are Singaporeans shines a light on the idea of diverse collectivism endemic to Asia. People can offer different skills and passions yet still care about their own tribe. Tour guides, entrepreneurs, actresses, potters, and many more professionals can work together for a better world. Each of these remarkable humans in this book proves that people can break through and find hope even in the most adversarial times. We are Singaporeans is a wonderful read that forces optimism from its readers.
Cady Abe is a new AMI book reviewer, a senior Asian Pacific Studies major, and Chinese minor at Loyola Marymount University. She is deeply interested in Asian and Asian American culture and plans to attend law school.
Edited by book review editor-in-chief, Ella Kelleher.