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How much Local Literature Do You Read? #BuySingLit

#BuySingLit : A Singaporean Reading Initiative


Singapore Poetry on the Sidewalk_Credit Sing Lit Station

As a voracious reader and a hard-working writer, I dream of a world where reading is promoted and writers find support. In Singapore, the country I call home, it does not look like an improbable dream, with initiatives like #BuySingLit.


A Storyteller Reads_Credit Moonshadow Series

From Feb 24 to 26 2017, Singapore will host #BuySingLit, the first-ever industry-led, nationwide initiative to promote the reading and purchase of Singapore literature, affectionately known as SingLit. Organized by more than 30 partners from the Singapore book industry, including publishers, distributors, booksellers and non-profits, the #BuySingLit initiative hopes to encourage more Singaporeans and Singapore residents to ‘Buy Local, Read Our World’.


Street Theatre_Credit Avant Theatre

With more than 40 activities planned in all four official languages, from storytelling sessions and book fairs to guided tours, interactive shows, workshops and book treasure hunts—there’s something for everyone to look forward to: be it young or old, aspiring writers, avid fans of SingLit, or SingLit newbies.

Special commissions for #BuySingLit include:

  • A set of four Ticket Books which offer new stories, poems and illustrations

    The Whispering Wallpaper_Credit Paperplane

    alongside a NETS FlashPay card to use on public transport – featuring authors and illustrators such as Paatheral Elamaran, Balli Kaur Jaswal, Noridah Kamari, Xi Ni Er, Joshua Ip and Chempaka Aizim.

  • Three editorial center-spreads in The New Paper featuring poems and short stories by Singaporean writers; these will be distributed on Feb 20, 22, and 24.
  • Visit the #BuySingLit site for all the details of events and participating bookstores.

To help this along, I’m helping the National Book Development Council of Singapore (NBDCS) give away #BuySingLit vouchers to three Singapore-based commenters on this post, via a random selector: 100 Singapore Dollars each, which will be valid in all the participating bookshops in Singapore.

#BuySingLitI know that a lot of the friends of this blog are from beyond Singaporean borders. For them, I plan to give away (via post) the three books NBDCS sent me (written by Singapore-based authors) :

  1. As the Heart Bones Break by Audrey Chin (nominated for various SIngaporean Literary awards)
  2. 3 by the bestselling author Krishna Udayasankar, and
  3. Middle & First Stories by Simon Tay

My bookshelves carry a fair bit of Singaporean fiction. By sending these three books outside of Singapore, I hope to introduce my blog-friends to Singaporean writing, and add to the #BuySingLit initiative.

Are you a reader, a writer, or both?  If a writer, do you receive support for your writing writing from your government and the publishing industry? As a reader, do you think enough is done in your community to promote reading? Have you read books by Singaporean authors? If you are a Singaporean book-lover, what books would you recommend to those beyond the Singaporean borders?

Please drop a line in the comments to win #BuySingLit vouchers (100 SGD each for 3 winners) if you’re Singapore-based, or to win one of the three books mentioned above, if you live outside Singapore.

Here’s hoping reading and writing receives the support it deserves not just in Singapore, but the world over.

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Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her next literary crime thriller, The Blue Bar, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency, and was published by Thomas & Mercer on January 1, 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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  • When I travel, I always try to buy a book by a local author. I love visiting local bookstores. I’m from Los Angeles and I now live in Portland, OR- although I don’t intentionally seek out local authors near home, both cities have a ton of well known authors that I’ve read.

  • abhiray59 says:

    This is a nice and informative post. I think evolution of a society is measured how they value literature. While growing up in West Bengal I was surrounded by literature. I had the opportunity to read works of greats like Rabndranath, Sharat Chandra, Bibhutibhushan, Ashapoorna Devi, Sunil Gangopadhaya, and many others. I think vibrant literary culture still exists in Bengal but not in many other parts of India. In many Indian cities we have regular book fair and literary festivals. But those are for established authors. I think if Singapore model of supporting writers are adopted in India, it may do a world of good. May be such a system exist. But I do not know.

  • You know, I’ve read enough books that I can’t answer whether I’ve read one my an author of Singapore before. It wouldn’t surprise me either way. I would find it fascinating to read a local story, just to get a feel for cultural differences/nuances.

  • More radio on book reviews should be done

  • macjam47 says:

    This is a wonderful initiative, Damyanti! Books are promoted through library events, bookstores, and schools, but you need to frequent the library and bookstores to learn about them. Sometimes there are TV announcements promoting reading and learning. I think a lot more could be done though, to encourage people to do more reading. I love reading books where the stories are based in my hometown or areas I’ve visited.

  • Santi Yeo says:

    Humanity needs stories and songs. Singaporeans work and dream in our city state everyday. Local hawker food is nourishment for the body, SingLit is nourishment for the heart and soul. Writers, do stand up and speak up! We need writings that sing and narrates the Singaporean work and dreams in our city state. May dreams have wings and aspiration power the greater future for SingLit. We are looking forward to more Singapore poetry and stories.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Hi Santi, am pleased to tell you that your name came up in the number generator, and the Book Council will be in touch with you about your voucher.


  • Yes, I read local literature. Local to me, that is. I’ve yet to read local for you, Damy. But oh, I have to say this: I absolutely LOVE the photograph with the book case. Is that yours? It’s beautiful. Inside and out — hey, probably like you! It looks really cool in that photo, and I bet it is in real life too. Great stuff. Thanks for posting this one, I enjoyed it.

  • muneerahb says:

    Singaporean book-lover here and I read quite a fair bit of #SingLit in the form of anthologies. I count Alfian Sa’at’s Malay Sketches as one of my top favorites.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Hi Muneerah, am pleased to tell you that your name came up in the number generator, and the Book Council will be in touch with you about your voucher.


  • celiatais says:

    I like to think I read a lot, but not as much local literature which I was introduced to last year. A close friend gifted me Tania De Rozario’s Tender Delirium. I fell in love with the poems’ beauty immediately. I was also impressed after noticing homoerotic elements in some of them because Singapore is a conservative society. I remembered being heartened that our art scene seemed so much more accepting and bold. Moreover, this new perspective was refreshing as most poems seem to be rather heteronormative. It’s one book I definitely recommend to any reader, Singaporean or not.
    I don’t think Singapore does enough to promote local literature. The National Arts Council withdrew funding for The Art Of Charlie Chan Hock Chye because of that the council termed as “sensitive content” as it deviated from the government-backed political narrative. Clearly the government regarded art less of a mirror to society and more of a propaganda tool. I also did not notice this until local poet Joshua Ip pointed out that local Literature teachers often do not teach local lit. As a student of literature that’s quite true. I remember the only local piece I studied was The Coffin is Too Big for the Hole by Kuo Pao Kun, and even then we only studied it for 1 or 2 lessons. It interestingly doesn’t follow the usual conventions of plays and depicted the struggle between modernisation and tradition. I feel that local lit is surely as worthy of in-depth analysis as works by American or English writers. I do wish literature students get to do more Sing Lit!

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Hi Alice, am pleased to tell you that your name came up in the number generator, and the Book Council will be in touch with you about your voucher.


  • L.R.@TheRink says:

    Hey Damyanti!

    I guess I would fall under the same category as the other friends here! Reader and then a writer… Reading always inspires the writing, right? I have been in Singapore for 6 months (till date) as a University Student and I must tell that I haven’t read SingLit until now!! Thank you for bringing this to my attention! I really wish I can come this weekend but I have my submissions going on and you know about the Singapore Universities!! You feel joy when you take a moment out to breathe and live life!!!


  • No, no and barely.

    In America, where we have many truly wonderful libraries that hold events, story hours for kids, book sales, etc., our public school system does little to promote either literacy or love of literature in our lousy “teach to the test” system. The teachers simply don’t have time to truly educate anymore in our metrics obsessed society. And in my mind, if your populace doesn’t read, they aren’t truly educated.

    Sadly, things are likely to get even worse with the confirmation of DeVoss as Sec. of Education, who knows ZERO about public schools, has never been a supporter, and didn’t even bother to “cram” for her confirmation hearing – which didn’t seem to matter to anyone in charge. But then, that’s not the only thing likely to worsen over here.

    In my day, story hour was a high point until the 4th grade, when the joy of reading had been fully installed in our young minds – and we were taught HOW to take advantage of the libraries and taken there to check out books. Written book reports were assigned, and many read aloud as the books were actually discussed. I majored in theatre in college, so read and performed in plays from all over the world in that curriculum. My English minor kept me reading other things.

    I can’t imagine a world I’d want to live in where books and writing weren’t central. How wonderful that your country understands the import.
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
    ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
    “It takes a village to educate a world!”

  • Haley F says:

    I read quite a bit of local literature, and translated works from Malaysia as well. Over the years I’ve been here i think local writers have definitely become more celebrated, and I’m excited for the community to get bigger and add more genres. It seems the majority is non-fiction and kind of more serious general fiction. I want to read more sci/fi and romance and horror from Singaporean authors.

  • I spent ten very happy years in Singapore. What a wealth of talent in that country.

  • kim says:

    Singapore writer and reader here. Yes, I do read Singapore literature – of the Colin Cheong, Ovidia Yu, late Damien Sin and others to know the local writing works.

    I first participated in the first self-published anthology of the Singapore Writers Group.

    Wanted to highlight that there is dismal number of translations of local Chinese books to English for English readers to access these works. For one, I would like to read in English the works of Miss Chng Seok Tin , Chinese writer with visual disabilities who is also an artist. The 13 Chinese books of Singapore Cultural Medallion honouree(visual arts) are at and in photocopies as they are out of print.

    I am glad this campaign happens. I also see that there is a dearth of buyers/readers of locally published Chinese books in Singapore where English is the main language used.

    My two local cents’ worth.

  • Shreya says:

    I haven’t read much local literature, but I believe people here have the talent. I would love to see short stories based on food, since Singapore is a foodie’s paradise!

  • I’m not normally a graphic novel reader but I just loved “The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye” – such a great book with a real insight into Singapore history. highly recommended!

  • hilarymb says:

    Hi Damyanti – I’m sure they do something similar in London … but I do agree we should support our local writers … I do buy and read some South African authors … having lived there for a while … but reading first and eventually some six decades later I get to writing … I must say I’d love to read one of the books …

    Great inspirational idea … good luck to Singapore .. let’s get more people reading … cheers Hilary

  • pjlazos says:

    You are always involved in the best projects! Can I make a smaller contribution, Damyanti, and if so, how?

  • Rajlakshmi says:

    Since I love only specific genre, I haven’t read much of local literature. Probably I should try out different authors. This is a great initiative 🙂

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Hi Rajlakshmi, pleased to tell you that your name came up in the number generator, and I owe you a book! Will email you now to get your mailing address :).

  • thesuhardis says:

    I’m a Singaporean, yet this is my first time hearing about this initiative! Oops!!! I’ve recently started a family travel blog, so I guess that qualifies as a writer, an amateur one at that. One of my dreams is to write children books centering around family travel and I’ve been talking to a number of self-published authors to understand the different steps involved in self-publication. Hope I get to realise my dreams one day.

  • Sounds like an excellent initiative. In Australia there is a nationwide campaign every year to promote books called Better Reading, although it doesn’t specifically support Australian writers, which I think is a pity. There are other campaigns though, including a great community run campaign called Australian Women Writers Challenge, which promotes reading and reviewing of books by Australian female authors.It came about in response to a survey that showed while women made up 50% of authors, around 25% of their books were reviewed compared to men. Supporting your local writers is always important, no matter where you live.

  • What wonderful idea. It reminds me a little poetry put up all over the London Underground (started in 1986, and they run it every few years, I think). This introduced many people to new and old well-loved poetry from all over the world. I still the book Poems on the Underground and it remains one of my favourite anthologies.

  • Inderpreet says:

    Reader first and foremost. I just love it so much that it gets in the way of my writing! We are a family of book lovers, my parents always got us books 🙂
    This #SigLit is a good initiative, we have to always support such initiatives.

  • Hi Damyanti!
    I’m a reader first…writing came later.
    With regards to promoting reading in South Africa…literacy levels in my country are poor. I don’t want to go into details because there are various ways in which it’s defined and measured which becomes quite problematic, but let me give it to you from a different perspective… 83% of the population are ASSUMED to be literate. So we have a long way to go……. 🙂
    I feel like I’m one of the fortunate ones, as my mother ALWAYS made sure there were books in our home. She had a Reader’s Digest subscription (on a meagre income) and always bought the small monthly Reader’s Digest books as well as the Reader’s Digest Condensed books. We also had library cards and she took us to the public library at least once a week.

  • Sarbani Bhattacharya says:

    Love to read you always Damayanti! Its a very good initiative to raise awareness on local writers. Best wishes!

  • We in the United States do not have anything on the national level that I am aware of to promote regional or local authors. That is mainly left up to communities (of course, we are much larger in land area than Singapore is!) There was a local author who used to have a booth at our local farmers market but I don’t know how successful she was (I did buy an eBook from her as a gift to someone). Alas, our local independent bookstore where I work closed last month. I will post this on Facebook; one of my FB friends is a manager of a bookstore in New York State.)

  • jazzfeathers says:

    This is absolutely awesome. I wish my country would do something the like. We do have book fairs ( even a very important one) but nothing that really promotes the country literature.
    Fantastic initiative 🙂

  • Jia Ling says:

    I’m both a reader and a (minor) poet I guess. I was part of the LIVEpress pilot by Ethos Books and I’m really glad for the mentorship and the deadlines that pushed me to write. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ve written as well since then.. So yes! I feel that a lot is already being done in the community to promote reading, mostly by bringing local authors closer to Singaporeans (frequent events, readings, etc) but I think we can always do more for publicity. Yes!! I recently marathoned Sarong Party Girls and A Candle or the Sun. As a Singaporean there’s a certain feeling of ‘just-right’ that reading a Singaporean work brings. I would recommend both titles cited above! Sarong Party Girls by Cheryl Lu-lien Tan is written fluidly and authentically in singlish, which, bless. Finally. And Gopal Baratham’s A Candle or the Sun is so meaningful, and well-woven that I really want to analyse it as a lit text in the classroom. Both are already comparatively known overseas, as Tan is also a US-based reporter and A Candle or the Sun was originally banned in SG. I’d recommend Candle more, I guess. It paints the govt as really extremist but it might be easier to grasp than SPG to one foreign to Singlish.

  • A really encouraging initiative by the government indeed. Literature of a country is a powerful statement on the times and its culture. A healthy promotion that is bias-free can help the people and promote the well being of the nation as a whole. I have never read SingLit but would definitely love to know more about it.

  • Christine yamuna says:

    Hi.. ive been a bookworm my whole life and an aspiring writer. I feel books are amazing. I support local talents.. be it singing, art or literature. I feel all writers should be given a chance to publish at least one of their work. That will be a good start to really encourage writers.
    To encourage reading more reading review groups can be formed.

    Ive read books by our local authors since young.
    I like their style and imagination. I prefer those who write really with a singaporean flair. Where you can actually imagine the scenes from the stories.
    I like books by Catherine Lim: or else, the lightning god and other stories.
    For those who like horror stories lets not forget books by russell lee 🙂

    Recently ive started to read works by marc nair.
    I like his sense of humour. I love his poetry style.

    Let us all support our local talents on this common ground.


  • Annette says:

    Great initiative! Singaporean authors are underrated. I’ve enjoyed many singapore books! My favourite so far is “It Never Rains On National Day” by Jeremy Tiang. Having lived overseas, I can relate to the short stories in there.

    (Always game for free books haha)

    So I’m part of the Malaysian Writers Society which started as a facebook group back in 2015. We organised and registered as a society in Sept 2016. I guess you can say this is writer-led support?

    I’m mainly active in Penang, where we run weekly & monthly write-ins, including a monthly critique session (well sometimes not-so-monthly if people don’t have stuff for critique) and a monthly reading session. It’s a small group right now, but it’s fun 🙂

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Hi Anna, pleased to tell you that your name came up in the number generator, and I owe you a book! Will email you now to get your mailing address :). You guys are doing very well withe Malaysian Writers Society– would love to join in a write-in someday with you in Penang.

  • Racquel Kechagias says:

    Such an amazing article. Its awesome to see local authors being supported by their communities.

  • Adilah M. says:

    Wow, amazing initiative! Wish Malaysia has something like this too.

  • simonfalk28 says:

    Great concept. Singapore poetry on the sidewalk. Wow! How exciting!

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Hi Simon, pleased to tell you that your name came up in the number generator, and I owe you a book! Will email you now to get your mailing address :).

      • simonfalk28 says:

        No. I replied to your A to Z address on gmail ( ). As I’m not in Singapore you need not send me anything. I would be very happy for you to give a book to someone who you know would really appreciate it. 🙂

        • Damyanti Biswas says:

          Simon, the locals got 100SGD vouchers each, and the Singapore Book Council is notifying them. The books are for the blog’s readers who live outside of Singapore. These books were given to me by the Singapore Book Council, but I decided to pay postage and send them to any commenters from outside Singapore. So your name qualifies. Emailing you back.

  • Vanessa says:

    Yes to all this

  • Amos Chan says:

    I read a lot of Singapore literature. I find that it helps me with my writing!

  • Great idea! I’ve read many book by Singapore Authors … with local flavour twist. Love it!

  • Susan Scott says:

    I hit reply before answering more fully. I think there is some support for local writers in SA – not enough maybe especially if unknown –

  • Susan Scott says:

    What a great initiative!

  • cathum says:

    What an excellent idea. I wonder whether any of us really support local writers enough. Here in Britain it seems like there is still some resistance to regional writing, with many commentators saying they prefer outward looking texts. It would be lovely if some of our festivals had more of a local feel.

  • I’d love to read book from different countries. ??? I think it’s a good idea.

  • Cheryl says:

    May I have one book please? Cheryl

  • What a fabulous idea this is! Unfortunately, I think that where I live there is very little support for writers, and I have often thought that more could be done to promote local talent – even a boost to the translation business to make titles available to the English-speaking (and therefore much wider) market would be a good idea.

  • ericlahti says:

    What a cool concept! Good luck to the initiative!

  • Tom says:

    However an international reader/writer felt about a book, if it was by a Singapore author – what a conversation piece! I wish the initiative all the luck in the reading and writing world.

  • This is a great thing! If I ever read a book from a Singaporean author, I am unaware. Still, I love the idea of celebrating writing and reading locally.

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