Sugarbread (2016)

 

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Sugarbread

(2016)

BY BALLI KAUR JASWAL


Singapore Literature Prize 2018, SHORTLIST

The Straits Times Book Of The Month (August 2016)

Popular Readers' Choice Awards 2016 (English Adult Books category), SHORTLIST

Singapore Book Awards 2017 (Best Fiction Title), SHORTLIST

2015 Epigram Books Fiction Prize, FINALIST

Pin must not become like her mother, but nobody will tell her why. She seeks clues in Ma’s cooking when she’s not fighting other battles—being a bursary girl at an elite school and facing racial taunts from the bus uncle. Then her meddlesome grandmother moves in, installing a portrait of a watchful Sikh guru and a new set of house rules. Old secrets begin to surface but can Pin handle learning the truth?

This novel is sensitively written, and raises important issues subtly: racism and racialisation; religiosity and its relation to identity; patriarchal values; class; and the intersection of Christianity and capitalism in the wonderful speech about ‘spiritual bank accounts’. All the characters have depth and complexity and the two layers of the narrative (the experiences of Pin and of her mother Jini) are skilfully blended. There are some beautiful descriptive passages, and I like the way in which metaphors are used sparingly, but to good effect.
— Philip Holden
Pin is an earnest and enchanting child, through whose curious and clear-sighted eyes we see family life and complications and childhood cliques and racism. But this entertaining book also has touching insights into love, hope and wisdom, and characters that will stay with you long after you finish it.
— Ovidia Yu
This is the most glorious mic drop moment in Singaporean Literature. [This book] is such a tender and powerful response to the many celebrated voices in Singapore that represent minority experiences through tokenism or ignore them altogether. Balli Kaur Jaswal has made me feel like my ten-year-old self could be someone’s protagonist, like my skin belongs in the pages of books in my country. She’s turned the mirrors on Singapore and our conversations about identity in a spectacular fashion. Her prose is delicate, precise and aching. Her storytelling lingers with you for days. This novel is triumphant and absolutely essential reading for anyone who cares about living in this city.
— Pooja Nansi