Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Distribution Title: Asian Modernities

Asian Modernities: Chinese and Thai Art Compared, 1980 to 1999 by John Clark is a groundbreaking comparison of two contemporary Asian art cultures.

It is the first analysis that defines a space for Asian modernity without direct reference to Euramerica. Based on John Clark’s extensive primary research using vernacular written and interview materials in Chinese and Thai, Asian Modernities also develops theoretical perspectives on genealogies of modernity, and the twin phenomena of globalisation and transnational artistic identity.

This highly illustrated book combines institutional examination with a close attention to art works and to the way artists have positioned themselves through them at home and abroad.

John Clark is Professor of Asian Art History at the University of Sydney and a leading scholar on Asian art. He has given major keynote lectures in Beijing, Berlin, London, and Tokyo and organised several international conferences. His research focuses mainly on Japan, China, and Thailand, but he also has interests in modern Malaysian, Indonesian and Indian art. He writes frequently for scholarly and art world journals, and has authored and coedited five books, including Modern Asian Art (Craftsman House/University of Hawai’i Press, 1998) and Modernities of Chinese Art (Brill, 2010).

Monday, December 27, 2010

Books on Malaysian Politics

Here are five recent titles on Malaysian politics:
  • Between Umno and a Hard Place: The Najib Razak Era Begins edited by Ooi Kee Beng. These 40 articles by Penang-born writer and commentator Ooi Kee Beng were published since Jan 2009 the end of the Abdullah Badawi era. The author offers thoughtful perspectives and sharp but constructive commentary on a selection of the persistent problems and contradictions which face Prime Minister Najib and have for so long bedevilled Malaysia's progress and body-politic.
  • The Road to Reform: Pakatan Rakyat In Selangor edited by Tricia Yeoh. These 20 papers by specialists with experience in many areas of government and social issues assess the work of the Pakatan Rakyat government of the State of Selangor since it was elected in March 2008 on a reformist agenda. The authors look at the sometimes considerable changes and reforms already achieved as well as the enduring difficulties faced by the Pakatan Rakyat government in the fields of politics, economics, society and culture. A remarkable 2? years. Index.
  • Privatization in Malaysia: Regulation, Rent-Seeking and Policy Failure by Jeff Tan. In recent years, privatisation has fallen out of favour in many countries because the underlying political factors have not been well understood. This book examines Malaysia's privatisation programme, focusing on how political constraints resulted in the failure of four major privatisations: the national sewerage company (IWK), Kuala Lumpur Light Rail Transit (LRT), national airline (MAS), and national car company (Proton). It considers why developing countries such as Malaysia might want to embark on privatisation, the factors that lead to policy failure, and what is needed to make it work. It shows clearly that political motives driving privatisation often dominate purely economic considerations, and thus it is necessary to analyse privatisation within the specific country context. It argues that failure in the Malaysian case was due to political considerations that compromised institutional design and regulatory enforcement, leading to problems associated with corruption. It concludes that privatisation does not necessarily improve incentives for efficiency or enhance the finance available for capital investment, and that successful privatisation depends on the state's institutional and political capacity to design and manage an appropriate set of subsidies.
  • March 8: Time For Real Change by Kee Thuan Chye. This second 2010 edition of the 2008 collection of essays on consequences of Malaysia's March 2008 General Election results includes eleven additional papers. Forty-two Malaysians offer considered critical perspectives on problems and opportunities facing the government shaken by the Opposition's gains. The last ten papers explore "Where do we go from here?" and look ahead, with some hope and considerable gloom. Insets offer informal observations by members of the public.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Books on Indonesian Politics and Democracy

Here is a list of recent titles on Indonesian politics and democracy, following on from some of earlier lists.

Torn Between America and China: Elite Perceptions and Indonesian Foreign Policy by Daniel Novotny. Based on doctoral study, this is an investigation of the dynamics of foreign policy making in Indonesia in the post-Cold War era. The sections explore the foreign policy-making elite and its perceptions of Indonesia's national interest, of the USA, of China, of other Asian powers, and of the changing world balances. Possible future trends and trajectories are envisaged in the final chapter. With glossary, bibliography and index.

Islamism and Democracy in Indonesia: Piety and Pragmatism by Masdar Hilmy, Masdar. Most scholarly works conducted within the period of post-New Order Indonesia have underlined the fact that Indonesian Islamists reject the notion of democracy; no adequate explanation nonetheless has been attempted thus far as to how and to what extent democracy is being rejected. This book is dedicated to filling the gap by examining the complex reality behind the Islamists rejection of democracy. It focuses its analysis on two streams of Islamism: the two Islamist groups that seek extra-parliamentary means to achieve their goals, that is, MMI and HTI, and the PKS Islamists who choose the existing political party system as a means of their power struggle. As this book has demonstrated, there are times when the two streams of Islamism share a common platform of understanding and interpretation as well as an intersection where they are in conflict with one another. The interplay between contested meanings over particular theological matters on normative grounds and power contests among the Islamists proves to be critical in shaping this complexity.

Problems of Democratisation in Indonesia: Elections, Institutions and Society edited by Edward Aspinall, Edward; Marcus Mietzer. Alternately lauded as a democratic success story and decried as a flawed democracy, Indonesia deserves serious consideration by anyone concerned with the global state of democracy. Yet, more than ten years after the collapse of the authoritarian Suharto regime, we still know little about how the key institutions of Indonesian democracy actually function. This book, written by leading democracy experts and scholars of Indonesia, presents a sorely needed study of the inner workings of Indonesia's political system, and its interactions with society. Combining careful case studies with an eye to the big picture, it is an indispensable guide to democratic Indonesia, its achievements, shortcomings and continuing challenges.

Political Reform in Indonesia after Soeharto by Harold Crouch. A substantial study of political central and regional reform efforts in Indonesia after the 1998 fall of Soeharto. The focus is on: reforms in the Constitution and electoral system; regional autonomy issues; military reform and civilian control; politics, corruption and the Courts; violence in Maluku; separatism in Aceh; and the final chapter is on aspects of the unpromising contexts of much reform effort. Bibliography and index.

Understanding Islam In Indonesia: Politics And Diversity by Robert Pringle. This is a readable and comprehensive basic account of the development and nature of Islam in Indonesia. After a chapter on the background to the 13th century arrival of Islam, the next three chapters highlight aspects of the country's often-turbulent politico-Islamic history to the 1990s. The last four chapters explore the place in recent events and changes of very varied major Muslim institutions and movements including those related to terrorism and Islamic Extremism. The relevance of the country's national mythologies and the swing towards democracy are also addressed. With illustrations, directory of political parties, glossary, reading list and index.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Book Event: The Singapore Kid

The author of The Singapore Kid, Jessica Alejandro, was present at BookFest @ Singapore 2010 (held from December 10 to December 19, 2020 at Suntec) for two storytelling and book signing sessions. Many children also took the opportunity to have their photos taken with Jessica.

Here are several photos from the two sessions:


Friday, December 17, 2010

Books on Peranakan Culture and Society

This is a selection from our large collection of books on Peranakan culture, which includes books on Peranakan society, history, heritage, furniture, porcelain and more.

A Peranakan Legacy: The Heritage of the Straits Chinese by Peter Wee. Exquisite pieces, embroidered clothing, stunning gold and silver jewellery, pretty porcelain artefacts and unusual items of daily living chronicle the rich heritage of the Peranakans or Straits Chinese - a people whose unique culture is an amalgamation of Eastern and Western influences: Chinese, Malay, Indian, Indonesian, Portuguese, Dutch and British. This book captures through lavish, full-colour photographs the Peranakan's strong sense of customs and etiquette and introduces readers to their way of life.

Peranakan Chinese in a Globalizing Southeast Asia edited by Leo Suryadinata. These 12 papers are from the 2009 Singapore conference. They address varied issues as they relate to Peranakan Chinese in Indonesia, Malaysia and/or Singapore. These include: usages of the term "peranakan"; intermarriage and Chinese peranakan; socio-politico dimensions; impacts of the Colonial State; political leadership in Malaysia; the State in Indonesia; education in Singapore; Anglophone Straits Chinese and their literature; identity in Colonial society; curating Singapore's Baba House; and curating the Sun Yat Sen Penang Base. Index.

Phoenix Rising: Narratives in Nonya Beadwork from the Straits Settlements by Cheah Hwei-Fe'n. Over 200 illustrations in full colour complement this fine and comprehensive multi-disciplinary study of the distinctive beadwork done - and still being done - by nonya women of the Straits Settlements. The development and pattern of Peranakan society, the social roles and education of girls and women and the significance of nonya needlework and beadwork are the themes of Part One. Part Two looks at the history, traditions, designs and tensions of the beadwork craft and its practice. Part Three explores the place of nonya beadwork in contemporary culture, including in the ongoing revival of interest in all things Peranakan. With glossary, chronology, bibliography and index.

Peranakan Chinese Politics In Indonesia by Mary Somers. 2009 reissue of the 1964 Cornell study of Peranakan Chinese politics in Indonesia since the end of the Colonial government. After a background summary which identifies the totok ("pure") and peranakan (local-born or with "mixed" background), factors in the Chinese population, the post-1954 policies regarding citizenship issues are explored. The 1957 China-Indonesia Citizenship treaty and the implications of the ban against aliens trading are discussed. The influence of Baperki, the Consultative Body for Indonesian Citizenship, the 1960s exodus to China of "aliens" from many areas, and the background of the 1963, anti-Chinese riots are described. Ongoing (1964) tensions regarding assimilation and Indonesian views of the Chinese are discussed in the final section. Indexed on Google.

Classic Peranakan Cooking: Recipes from the Straits Chinese Kitchen. The Peranakans, or Straits Chinese, are a people whose culture is characterised by a blend of Chinese and Malay beliefs, customs and practices. Beginning with the same foundation several centuries ago, their cuisine grew and became refined with Indonesian, Thai, Indian and even colonial influences. This treasury of Peranakan recipes is compiled from MediaCorp TV12's popular cooking show, The Ways of the Matriarch. It includes quotes from the TV series, and handy cooking tips, offering an invaluable insight into the rich culinary heritage of the Peranakan community.

Peranakan Chinese Porcelain: Vibrant Festive Ware of the Straits Chinese by Kee Ming-Yuet. This extensively illustrated volume presents and discusses the colourful porcelain China export ware characteristic of Peranakan domestic culture. After an account of the 19th-century trade patterns, Peranakan history and culture are overviewed. Porcelain types and origins and the motifs, colours and symbols used are described followed by detailed accounts of the diverse products and their purposes in kitchens, bedrooms, religious rituals and social life. Changes in Peranakan culture and the regard in which the porcelain has been held are discussed. Other export wares used are also noted. With bibliography, index and many colourful photographs.

Straits Chinese Furniture: A Collector's Guide by Ho Wing Meng. One hundred colour photographs enrich this account of the fusion of Chinese Qing dynasty furniture with that of early 19th century British styles which together formed the ornate and highly usable furniture of the Straits Chinese, also known as the Peranakans. Includes pointers to dating, glossary and bibliography.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

New Children's Book Title: The Singapore Kid

Select Books has recently published another children’s book under its Autumn Wonders imprint: The Singapore Kid by Jessica Alejandro.


11-year-old Inn Kiat is a typical boy growing up in affluent Singapore. Like most kids, he is too witty for his age and has a short attention span. In just one month, his life becomes a rollercoaster ride of fun, quirks, intrigue, suspense, sadness and ultimate strangeness!

Pressure from school, tuition and demanding parents causes him to harbour many secrets. Some secrets help him pursue his dreams while others, he learns, are best not to keep.

About the Author
Jessica Alejandro is an English creative writing teacher, tutor and writer. She has been teaching publicly and privately for over 10 years. She has written six English Model Composition books (for Primary 1 to 6), which were published and reprinted by EPH.

Her constant exposure to kids has made her aware that “kids say the most candid stuff!” Jessica feels that children in Singapore need a voice and it will be waste if no one puts their thoughts, dreams and aspirations down into writing.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Book Event: Once a Zookeeper

The second event we had over the weekend was at the Singapore Zoo, where we had a talk and book signing session by the author of Once a Zookeeper on Sunday (5 December).

Francis shared with the audience his experiences as a zookeeper and the process of writing his book of poetry.


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Book Event: Salted Fish

We had two events over the weekend for books that we are distributing.

The first was at Kinokuniya on Saturday (4 December), where there was a story-telling and meet the author and illustrator session for Salted Fish, a children's book published by the National Art Gallery, Singapore.

Author Yeo Wei Wei spoke about the inspiration for the story – a famous painting by artist Cheong Soo Pieng. Illustrator Ye Shufang also spoke about how she conceived the initial sketches for the characters in the stories, and how the final illustrations evolved.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Books on North Korea

This is a selection of titles with a particular focus on North Korea:
  • Nothing to Envy: Real Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick. North Korea is Orwell's 1984 made reality: it is the only country in the world not connected to the internet; Gone with the Wind is a dangerous, banned book; during political rallies, spies study your expression to check your sincerity. After the death of the country's great leader Kim Il Sung in 1994, famine descended, and Nothing to Envy - winner of the 2010 BBC Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction - weaves together the stories of adversity and resilience of six residents of Chongin, North Korea's third-largest city. From extensive interviews and with tenacious investigative work, Barbara Demick has recreated the concerns, culture and lifestyles of North Korean citizens in a gripping narrative, and vividly reconstructed the inner workings of this extraordinary and secretive country.
  • The Korean War 1950-1953: The Full Story with First-Hand Accounts of the Forgotten War by Brian Catchpole. In June 1950, the North Koreans invaded South Korea. With the horrors of the Second World War still fresh in everyone's minds, US President Truman was reluctant to intervene, but within two weeks, American troops were in action as part of a UN task force. They were soon joined by military personnel from Britain, Canada, Australia, and a dozen other nations, facing 1.3 million Chinese soldiers who poured across the Manchurian border in support of North Korea. Thus began a three-year struggle that saw the world teeter on the brink of a Third World War. Now, sixty years on, Brian Catchpole provides a clear view of the conflict often referred to as "The Forgotten War".
  • North Korean Reform: Politics, Economics and Security (Adelphi Paper No. 382) by Robert Carlin and Joel S Wit. While foreign policy and security concerns have trumped past efforts to reform the North Korean economy, Pyongyang is implementing important economic reforms despite renewed tensions with the United States. This is in response to a leadership debate - between 'reformers' and 'conservatives' over whether Pyongyang's military industrial complex should be scaled back to help ensure the success of reforms - that is fundamentally transforming the country. The direction of these developments reflects strong pro-reform forces in the leadership and could have profound implications for the future of national security policy. But internal struggle over reform could lead to indecision on security and foreign policy issues, including at the nuclear talks. Whether Washington can influence the debate is unclear, but a US policy of engagement could enhance the chances of success for North Korean advocates of reform.
  • The Future of US-Korean Relations: The Imbalance Of Power edited by John Feffer. US relations with North and South Korea have been characterized by profound asymmetries of power and perception which in recent years have led to increased tensions among the three countries. Bringing together twelve prominent experts on US-Korean and US-Pacific relations, this book explores the many dimensions of current and future US foreign policy. Charting new developments in North and South Korea, the contributors examine US-Korean relations through such prisms as nationalism, the media, regional relations and human rights issues. In relating the downward spiral in US relations with the Korean peninsula, the book provides an analysis that runs counter to conventional interpretations, and offers clear and balanced policy recommendations for remedying the crises.
  • Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader: North Korea under the Kim Dynasty by Bradley K Martin. This book offers in-depth portraits of North Korea's ruthless and bizarrely Orwellian leaders, Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il. North Koreans have been indoctrinated from infancy to follow unquestioningly a father-son team of despots. Lifting Pyongyang's curtain of self-imposed isolation, this book takes readers inside a society that to an outsider may appear to be from another planet. This fascinating, comprehensive work of history and reportage takes advantage of source material that has only recently become available (some from archives in Moscow and Beijing) to bring the reader up to date on the tensions of today. More than a decade in the making, this book will for years to come, define a Spartan and stubbornly enigmatic society.