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Strangers on a Pier: Portrait of a Family

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'So wise and so well done. It made me wish it were much longer than it is’ Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie From the award-winning author of Five Star Billionaire and We, The Survivors comes a whirlwind personal history of modern Asia, as told through his Malaysian and Chinese heritage. If we are lucky we will find writing that grips us with its vitality, beauty and significance - S 'So wise and so well done. It made me wish it were much longer than it is’ Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie From the award-winning author of Five Star Billionaire and We, The Survivors comes a whirlwind personal history of modern Asia, as told through his Malaysian and Chinese heritage. If we are lucky we will find writing that grips us with its vitality, beauty and significance - Strangers on a Pier is like that’ Deborah Levy In Strangers on a Pier, acclaimed author Tash Aw explores the panoramic cultural vitality of modern Asia through his own complicated family story of migration and adaptation, which is reflected in his own face. From a taxi ride in present-day Bangkok, to eating Kentucky Fried Chicken in 1980s Kuala Lumpur, to his grandfathers' treacherous boat journeys to Malaysia from mainland China in the 1920s, Aw weaves together stories of insiders and outsiders, images from rural villages to megacity night clubs, and voices in a dizzying variety of languages, dialects, and slangs, to create an intricate and astoundingly vivid portrait of a place caught between the fast-approaching future and a past that won't let go.


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'So wise and so well done. It made me wish it were much longer than it is’ Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie From the award-winning author of Five Star Billionaire and We, The Survivors comes a whirlwind personal history of modern Asia, as told through his Malaysian and Chinese heritage. If we are lucky we will find writing that grips us with its vitality, beauty and significance - S 'So wise and so well done. It made me wish it were much longer than it is’ Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie From the award-winning author of Five Star Billionaire and We, The Survivors comes a whirlwind personal history of modern Asia, as told through his Malaysian and Chinese heritage. If we are lucky we will find writing that grips us with its vitality, beauty and significance - Strangers on a Pier is like that’ Deborah Levy In Strangers on a Pier, acclaimed author Tash Aw explores the panoramic cultural vitality of modern Asia through his own complicated family story of migration and adaptation, which is reflected in his own face. From a taxi ride in present-day Bangkok, to eating Kentucky Fried Chicken in 1980s Kuala Lumpur, to his grandfathers' treacherous boat journeys to Malaysia from mainland China in the 1920s, Aw weaves together stories of insiders and outsiders, images from rural villages to megacity night clubs, and voices in a dizzying variety of languages, dialects, and slangs, to create an intricate and astoundingly vivid portrait of a place caught between the fast-approaching future and a past that won't let go.

30 review for Strangers on a Pier: Portrait of a Family

  1. 4 out of 5

    Vivek Tejuja

    I will now read more of Tash Aw. There is something about reading another’s family, their lives, their experiences in a new country, of how it was, and maybe it is still the same for people who aspire to move, to find roots elsewhere. When you read about generations of a family and how they live, you relate. Families all over are just the same. Sure, we are different in our own way, but the intersections matter. Whether it is the Malaysian and Chinese heritage of Tash Aw or an Indian Pakistani h I will now read more of Tash Aw. There is something about reading another’s family, their lives, their experiences in a new country, of how it was, and maybe it is still the same for people who aspire to move, to find roots elsewhere. When you read about generations of a family and how they live, you relate. Families all over are just the same. Sure, we are different in our own way, but the intersections matter. Whether it is the Malaysian and Chinese heritage of Tash Aw or an Indian Pakistani heritage, somehow it all merges into one big identity. Strangers on a Pier manages to fit so much in its mere ninety-one pages. From birth to death, Tash Aw tackles it all. These are stories of a family that range from the villages to night clubs to cities and traverse various dialects, customs, and traditions that won’t let go. The writing is flawless. Every sentence, emotion, and every word are in place. When he speaks of rain, or of exams that have to be given, or explaining the differences between the East and the West, all you want to do is read and when the book ends so soon, you wish it were longer. Through other cultures, Tash Aw bares his culture. Through other ways of being, he speaks of his – dating back generations, and about futures that are so intertwined to the past.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kamila Kunda

    How much of who we are is determined by our ancestors? Tash Aw in “Strangers on a Pier”, a slim essay-like exploration of his identity, attempts to track his grandparents’ origins and untangle his family’s roots. With incredible elegance and open mind he unearths the foundation of who he himself is. The book is divided into two parts. In the first one, meandering between his father’s stories and his own childhood and adolescence, learning about class, wealth, education and linguistic diversity of How much of who we are is determined by our ancestors? Tash Aw in “Strangers on a Pier”, a slim essay-like exploration of his identity, attempts to track his grandparents’ origins and untangle his family’s roots. With incredible elegance and open mind he unearths the foundation of who he himself is. The book is divided into two parts. In the first one, meandering between his father’s stories and his own childhood and adolescence, learning about class, wealth, education and linguistic diversity of Malaysia and his family members, Aw strings memories as if they were beads needed for the creation of an identity necklace. The second part of the book is akin to a love letter of the author to his grandmother, a strong woman of rather unknown origin, humble, hardworking, family-oriented, whose stoicism and warmth reminded me very much of my own grandmother. “This is what it means to be modern in Asia today: you are required to detach yourself from the past and live only in the present, without considering the people who shaped you. To remember is to be nostalgic, or, even worse, colonised. To write about your heritage and all the elements that make you and the society you live in different - and complicated and sometimes painful - is to be weak”. Considering this, I can sense Aw’s dread as to the future of Malaysian society and his compatriots. Studying in the UK and observing how the Brits, the French and other Europeans interact as families, talking with friends and strangers, Aw sees his own history almost as shackles. But to free himself from them, he must learn about them, understand them, accept them. And then go his own way. There is no resignation in this fate, more of an embrace of his path. Beautiful, contemplative, inspiring, deeply intimate - this is a marvellous memoir.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Anne Fenn

    Such a fascinating book. It’s very short, structured to be part memoir of the author’s grandmother, and part personal history. The author is Chinese Malay, growing up in small town Malaysia of the 1980s, then in Singapore to complete his studies. There are facts, dates, events, filling in his four grandparents’ lives and cultural differences. What is so powerful in so few pages are the writer’s reflections on race, class, ethnicity. He gives a deep explanation of what it’s like to always be the Such a fascinating book. It’s very short, structured to be part memoir of the author’s grandmother, and part personal history. The author is Chinese Malay, growing up in small town Malaysia of the 1980s, then in Singapore to complete his studies. There are facts, dates, events, filling in his four grandparents’ lives and cultural differences. What is so powerful in so few pages are the writer’s reflections on race, class, ethnicity. He gives a deep explanation of what it’s like to always be the other. It’s an eye-opening read about ethnicity in particular, leading us from the perception of China/Chinese as a monolith to seeing many different groups within it. Brilliant.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sara Wong

    Just 20 pages in, Aw already had me thinking of my roots - who am I? Where do I belong? Will I always be an immigrant? Some examples hit close to home, being Malaysian but having spent a good number of years abroad. Only 92 pages, but such beautiful writing and packs an emotional punch. Highly highly recommended.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Sam

    A wonderful longform essay on belonging, on family, on home (what is home? where are we really “from” - the place some of our ancestors left or the place where we grew up?), and on the inter-generational lies we tell to keep moving forward, and the sacrifices we make for the future generations. If you have ever lived away from the place you grew up, this will resonate. A really beautiful piece of writing about what it is to exist in more than one place, to be broader than a label, to have depths A wonderful longform essay on belonging, on family, on home (what is home? where are we really “from” - the place some of our ancestors left or the place where we grew up?), and on the inter-generational lies we tell to keep moving forward, and the sacrifices we make for the future generations. If you have ever lived away from the place you grew up, this will resonate. A really beautiful piece of writing about what it is to exist in more than one place, to be broader than a label, to have depths beneath the shape of your face or the colour of your skin.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Armen

    You have to find happiness in the absence of happiness.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Bilbo Bryan

    OMG! So good. I utterly have no words. His grandmother.. So touching.. His prose seems more open, relaxed & quite modern. This book is my most favourite one from Tash Aw's ouvre so far! OMG! So good. I utterly have no words. His grandmother.. So touching.. His prose seems more open, relaxed & quite modern. This book is my most favourite one from Tash Aw's ouvre so far!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Plainqoma

    What a ride.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Marianela

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ruth Boyle

  11. 5 out of 5

    Evelyn Livermore

  12. 5 out of 5

    Corey Chan

  13. 5 out of 5

    Eric

  14. 4 out of 5

    Paul Van der lecq

  15. 4 out of 5

    L

  16. 4 out of 5

    mathu

  17. 5 out of 5

    Justin

  18. 4 out of 5

    Suet Wei Tiong

  19. 5 out of 5

    Bella Natanson

  20. 5 out of 5

    Risa Pieters

  21. 4 out of 5

    Halley501

  22. 5 out of 5

    Elaine Lau

  23. 4 out of 5

    Andrell

  24. 4 out of 5

    Hidayat Al Rahman

  25. 5 out of 5

    Alea

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kabul Tan

  27. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

  28. 5 out of 5

    Arlinda Hapsawardhani

  29. 4 out of 5

    Leonor Galão

  30. 5 out of 5

    keziah ♫

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